The Tropical Extension
The East is the most tropical part of Madagascar. Home to coffee, lychee and precious vanilla plantations. You will see green rolling hills, thousand of palm trees, rivers and colourful little fruit stalls. The regions is famous for the Canal the Pangalanes. Created by the French in the colonial times as the water highway of the east coast, it now boasts some wonderful lake resorts. You could end your roadtrip at Mahambo, a laid-back village with excellent beaches overhung by coconut palms and consistent surf spots. From here you could take the ferry to Ile Sainte Marie. The bounty island is the best place in Madagascar for whale-watching, from June till September.
- If you do a one-way rental, a min of 6 days is recommended plus 2 car bring back days
- Take the ferry to Ile Saint Marie and top off your roadtrip with a stay at this picture perfect island.
- Travel time from April to December.
Your roadtrip starts on the RN2 to Andasibe. It is a smooth asphalt road. You bypass down town Tana completely via the ring road. The RN2 is the most important road of the country, connecting the capital with the port of Tamatave, so it can be busy with slow trucks. Be aware of dangerous overtaking on the windy roads. The exit to Manambato, the gateway to the Canal de Pangalanes, is a rought dirt track. From Tamatave up north, you will tackle a part of the notorious RN5 - featured in such series as BBC's the World's Most Dangerous Roads and the Landrover Camel Trophey. But not to worry, up to Mahambo, it is still asphalt, only with many putholes.
If you want to go more up north, send us an email. We organize 4x4 challenges in convoy.
1| 2 Andasibe
180 km | 3,5 hours
Roadtrip Madagascar's favourite picks in Andasibe:
Budget: Feon' Ny Ala| €12-23.
Mid-range: Grace Lodge| € 28
Restaurants: Feon' Ny Ala, especially their Chinese dishes
Andasibe is the prime location to search for the Indri Indri. With it's surprised teddy-bear face it looks more like a gone-wrong panda than a lemur. If you don't see them ( 99% chance you will), you will for sure hear them. They make an eerie, wailing sound that carries for kilometres. Each Indri Indri only cries up to three times a day as it cost them so much energy. It is really mind blowing to be a witness of this ritual.
You can do between 2 - 4 hour walks in Andasibe to search for the lemurs. It is not strenuous. Mantadia National Park is 20km up north, much bigger and more for the hiking enthusiast. Park entrance cost € 14 pp plus € 15 for the guide for a group up to four. All proceeds go to the guide, but a tip is expected. On our hike with guide Hermann, whom we had to pick because of his Dutch name :) we saw the following animals and birds: Indri indri, Diadeem Sifaka, Brown lemur, Pandanus frog, Elephant ear chameleon, Green day ghecko, Paradise fly cather, Red fronted cova.
3 | 4 Canal de Pangalanes
You continue on the RN2. The landscape becomes even more tropical, dominated by traveller palms and coco plantations. Manambato is a small fishing village on the white sandy shores of Lake Rasoabe and the gateway to the Pangalanes canal. The last 7 km to Manambato village is a rough 4x4 dirt road, that takes 45 minutes. Explore the lakes and the Pangalanes canal. Get your Lemur ''fix'' at Palmarium and visit the Aye Aye island.
135 km | 3,5 hours
Our favourite picks:
Budget: Acacia Bungalows in Manambato | € 21
Mid-range: Palmarium € 50, Bush House € 50. Add € 75 for the boat ride, one way, taking up to 4 people and € 15 for every extra person. If you take the boat to Palmarium or Bush House, park your car at Orania lodge in Manambato. Its a 45 min boat ride to both lodges. Call the lodges in advance to arrange the transport.
Palmarium lodge is situated on an peninsula where they have a small forest reserve with a wide variety of palms and 9 different species of tame lemurs. You can feed and touch them. Yes, it is touristy, some will love it, some will not. Yet, to be so close with these very gentle and funny creatures is indeed special. Just make sure you don't start with this experience, before you have done lemur trekking in the wild....We thought the Aye Aye visit was disappointing.
5 | 6 Mahambo
Did you know?
- La Piroque is the most populair setting for the local music industry. Many Malagasy artists shoot their video clips here.
The drive to Mahambo takes 4,5 hours. Factor in an additional hour for the boat ride if you stayed at Palmarium or Bush House. Up to Tamatave (2 hours), the road is good. After Tamatave, the RN2 becomes the notorious RN5..But not to worry, up to Mahambo it is still asphalt, only with many putholes. Make sure to have lunch in Tamatave at La Terrasse. This lively spanish bar - restaurant does terrific lunch and dinner, for bargain prices. Menu is classic French and Spanish.
138 km | 4,5 hours
Our favourite picks in Mahambo:
Budget: Hibiscus € 15
Mid-range: La Piroque € 30
Drop off your car and take the ferry to the postcard perfect island of Ile Sainte Marie and fly back.Or spend some more time enjoying the good surf and palm fringed beaches of Mahambo and drive back to Tana. The ferry departs walking distance from la Piroque and you can reserve your tickets at the lodge. The crossing takes about 2 hours. The wheather is unpreditable at the East coast and the sea can be rough. Therefore, its not a guarantee that the ferry goes every day, and the crossing can be cancelled at last minute notice. However, it is no punishment to than enjoy yourself at the lovely beach of Mahambo and give it a try the next day.
Our favourite picks in Ile Sainte Marie
Mid-range:Crique | Libertalia
Deluxe: Princess Bora