Madagascar trekking holidays, wildlife walks & heritage hikes

Nov 22, 2017 BY Luke Rees

Madagascar trekking holidays are an extraordinary experience. Many of the plants and animals are completely unique to this 90 million-year-old island, which boasts a magnificently varied and wild landscape that makes Madagascar so special.

Madagascar trekking holidays in Andringitra Flickr CC image by Effervescing Elephant

Introducing trekking in Madagascar

The scenery varies from radiant rainforests to deserted deserts, beautiful beaches to marvelous mountains and rampaging rivers to colourful cities. There are also many wildlife reserves and heritage sites to visit including three UNESCO sites.

Then there is Madagascar’s unique flora and it’s amazing cast of animals, such as lemurs, chameleons, birdlife, amphibians and migrating whales. Add it all together and Madagascar should be one the world’s premier trekking destinations.

There is also a lot of variety in difficulty – meaning there are trails for everyone. Whether you want easy wildlife walks, challenging heritage hikes or hardcore trekking in Madagascar, there are rewarding routes that will suit your fitness and experience.

rafting in Madagascar image courtesy of Remote River Expeditions

One of the best ways to get around Madagascar is to use the country’s river network. Rafting or kayaking takes you places it’s impossible to get to either by car or on foot, allowing you to get more out of trekking in Madagascar.

We recommend you check out Remote River Expeditions. They use expert local guides and can organise treks, rafting, bird watching, safari, diving, sailing and much more. With over 30 years experience of Madagascan adventures they are known to offer a high-quality service at a reasonable cost.

Madagascar: Geography

You will probably fly into the capital Antananarivo, a colourful city that is well worth a visit. Located pretty much in the centre of the island it also makes a good base for day trips to some of the country’s premier tourist attractions.

Madagascar trekking holidays in Baobab Trees Flickr Image by Frank Vassen

The north of the island is the most sparsely populated. It’s characterised by the extraordinary beauty of the Ankarana and Marojejy national parks. There is a mix of ethnic groups in the region, providing a rich mix of culture and heritage to explore while trekking in Madagascar.

Home to the welcoming Betsimisaraka, one of the largest ethnic groups on the island, the east coast is dotted with pristine beaches and verdant rainforests. Sainte Marie island and the Masoala National Park are not to be missed.

The dry deserts of the south are populated by the Antandroy people, whose name means ‘People of the Thorns’. This should give you some idea as to the harshness of the conditions in which they live. Vast swathes of beach line the coast and the climate is sweltering, with little rainfall.

Madagascar trekking holidays Wildlife walks heritage hikes Flickr CC image by FrontierOfficial

Madagascar trekking holidays

A spine of highlands runs through Madagascar, forming peaks and mountains that are begging to be trekked. If you like your hiking hilly then it’s worth checking out Mount Marojejy at 2132m, the Ankarana massif, the highlands south from Tana, and the Isalo mountains.

If you like to bag the biggest peak then 2876m Mount Maromokotro in the north of the island is for you. It is a tough and remote 14 day trek through difficult terrain with hard conditions.

The most popular mountain trek is a three day trail that takes in Andringitra National Park and Madagascar’s second highest point Peak Boby. Watching the sun come up from the top of Peak Boby at 2658 meters is a highlight of most Madagascar trekking holidays.

Madagascar trekking holidays in Peak Boby Flickr CC image by Effervescing Elephant

But highlands and mountains are not the only trekking on offer. Most of the national parks have maintained trails offering exceptional trekking in Madagascar.

The incredible Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park is well worth exploring for it’s unique rock formations. As are the canyons of the Isalo National Park. Andringitra, Antoetra and Andasibe National Parks should also be included in Madagascar trekking holidays.

If you’d like to do some coastal trekking then the Masoala Peninsula is a good option. It takes around eight days to hike around the cape. This beautiful tropical paradise hosts ten species of Lemur, stunning beaches and magnificent forests.

Madagascar Safari Holidays Labords Chameleon Flickr Image by Frank Vassen

Madagascar’s flora and fauna

Some naturalists call Madagascar the ‘eighth continent’ because of its truly unique history and development. Having split from a super-continent known as Gondwana, it separated from the main Indian landmass around 90 million years ago.

This separation meant that the plants and animals were free to evolve in a unique way in the absence of large predators. As a result around 80% of Madagascar’s animals and plants are found nowhere else on the planet.

The 30 species and subspecies of lemur are the most famous inhabitants of the island. With numerous species to spot, including the bamboo, black and white ruffed, ring tailed and indri lemurs, these charismatic animals enliven Madagascar trekking holidays.

Madagascar Safari Holidays Black and White Ruffed Lemur Flickr Image by Frank Vassen

As well as the lemurs, the bird life on the island is equally as impressive. There are huge variations of species, again many of which are endemic, making bird watching very popular. The Madagascan pochard, teal, pygmy kingfisher, fish eagle and pratincole are some of the favourites.

Madagascar is also famous for it’s chameleons of all sizes and colours – sorry couldn’t resist – and around 150 endemic species of frog . You can also spot migrating whales off the Indian Ocean coast, whilst beneath the waves there is spectacular scuba diving.

The plant life is just as stunning and unique. From the spiny forests of the south to the tropical rainforest of the north there are new species being found on Madagascar all the time.

Madagascan adventures: Overlanding holidays in Madagascar Pygmy kingfisher Flickr Image by Frank Vassen

Adventures in Madagascar

At more than 1500km long, Madagascar is a huge island offering masses of variety. With so many unique experiences to enjoy, the main problem is knowing where to start and what not to miss during Madagascar trekking holidays.

At the very least hike a peak and explore the national parks of Madagascar on foot. Camping in the wild, particularly in the highlands is a magical experience. With little light pollution the Milky Way is almost as bright as some of the wildlife you’ll see.

We also recommend you raft down the rivers of Madagascar. Not only is this a lot of fun but you’ll reach trails that cannot be accessed in any other way, reaching parts of Madagascar many people do not see.

Madagascar trekking holidays in Andringitra Flickr CC image by wallygrom

While trekking in Madagascar also make sure you incorporate some wildlife walks and heritage hikes. This will help you fully appreciate the incredible wildlife, unique plant life and friendly people of this magnificent island.

Fancy a visit? Be sure to check out our other Madagascar articles and discounts for more information and huge savings.


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