Day 1: Depart London, Arrive Antananarivo (Tana)
We arrive at the island’s capital and transfer to our hotel.
Day 2: Tana – Ranomafana National Park
We drive south through the highlands of Madagascar, a beautiful introduction to the island. It’s a long drive, but there’s plenty to see as we pass small towns and villages, cultivated fields and beautiful hills and forests. We arrive at Ranomafana, an area of tropical rainforest which is home to many species of lemurs and other endemic wildlife. Once we’ve checked in and freshened up, we embark on a fascinating night walk. Look out for tree-frogs, nocturnal lemurs and, if we’re very lucky, fossas – the only endemic carnivorous species on Madagascar.
Day 3: Ranomafana – Fianarantsoa
Early morning is the best time to see wildlife, so we set off on another rainforest walk and keep our eyes peeled; it’s also a great warm-up for the days to come. The vegetation itself is wonderful and a great contrast to the rocky mountain landscapes we’ll head into over the next few days. After lunch we drive to Fianarantsoa, a university town and centre of wine industry, set in picturesque rolling green hills.
After an early breakfast we will meet our porters and make our final preparations for the challenge ahead. The first section is a steady climb through Miombo woodland then opening out to grassland and more open country. We will have great views of the imposing Lichenya face off to the east as we climb. Eventually we reach a saddle where the path flattens out and then there is a slow and gentle downhill walk to the hut. There is a great place for swimming about 15 mins from the hut.
Day 4: Fianarantsoa – Namoly – Imaitso
A morning drive takes us to Ambalavao, where we load into 4WD vehicles for the beautiful but bumpy ride over red-earth track to Andringitra National Park, with its remarkable domed granite peaks and sheer cliffs, many eroded into fluted towers by wind and water. We start our trek at Namoly, the northern gateway to the Park, with great views of the mountains ahead. We walk past Betsileo villages and photogenic rice-terraces carved into the mountain slopes, heading up into the forests of Imaitso. Many of the plants have medicinal qualities. We camp on the edge of the forest.
Initially we retrace our steps to the saddle. From here there is some challenging walking – it is seldom flat with a couple of steep ascents and descents before the imposing Chambe Peak comes into view and we descend slowly to the hut.
Day 5: Imaitso – Andriampotsy
Our trek continues through the forests of Imaitso, the beginning of a vast forest corridor that connects to Ranomafana National Park. The diversity of flora and fauna is impressive at these lower elevations, and this area of lush primary rainforest is a wonderful place to trek. Several different types of lemur live here – Andringitra provides a habitat for 15 species in total – so keep your eyes and ears open! The forest is also home to many colourful birds and plants. After a fairly easy start, we climb up onto a high mountain plateau, an open prairie where many wildflowers and orchids grow; the views over the mountains and back down over Namoly Valley are wonderful. Our trail criss-crosses over the plateau, still ascending; we gain over 1000m in elevation today. Our camp lies at the foot of Pic Boby; we can relax and enjoy a well-earned river swim at the end of the day.
Day 6: Andriampotsy – Pic Boby – Iataranomby
Today is a long day and the focus of our challenge! Pic Boby, or Imarivolanitra as it is known in Malagasy (meaning ‘close to the sky’), is the second-highest peak on the island; its French name originated in the 1920s, when an explorer apparently discovered the path to the summit when looking for his dog (Boby). We set off very early, planning to reach the summit before cloud and mist cover it, as often happens during the day. Our trail to the summit is steep and rocky, much of it made up of large flat slabs of granite, with some boulders to clamber over. After 2-3 hours we reach the summit of Pic Boby (2658m). From the top there are far-reaching and impressive views over the Andringitra Mountains, and for miles around if it’s clear. After some time to soak up the vistas, we start our descent to the foot of the mountain, and continue down through a rocky, barren landscape strewn with boulders. This is the so-called ‘alien track’, a surreal moon-scape surrounded by mountain panoramas. As we drop lower we come into a forest of endemic palms, passing granite outcrops on a well-made path of steps that takes us steeply downhill. We camp by a river, another great spot for a refreshing dip.
Day 7: Iataranomby – Tsaranoro Valley
The hardest part of our challenge is behind us, and we continue downhill through the foothills into the beautiful Tsaranoro Valley. We pass several Barabory villages, where the ethnic cultures of Betsileo rice-growers and Bara cattle-herders mix; these villages provide a great insight into the way of life here. There is more vegetation now we are lower, including the pachypodium, which is like a small baobab tree, and the views are incredible! Our wonderful camp lies between Tsaranoro Mountain and the giant mountain chains of Andringitra National Park on the other – the views are incredible, as is our sense of achievement! Night camp (900m).
Day 8: Tsaranoro Valley – Antsirabe
We load into 4WD vehicles for the first 10km over red dirt roads through forest, then drive north, bidding farewell to the mountains and returning to the beautiful central highlands. We break our journey in Ambositra, a small town known for its woodcarvings and fine wooden houses. We continue on to Antsirabe, a beautiful city with many buildings reflecting French colonial rule, as well as its wide tree-lined boulevards. It is known for its pulled rickshaws, known as ‘pousse pousse’, which are seen as a symbol of the city. Here we check into our hotel and have some time to explore the city until we meet again for an evening of celebrations to mark our achievements over the past week. (Dinner not included)
Day 9: Antsirabe – Tana; flight departs
We will visit a WaterAid project in the morning before continuing our journey back to Tana and the airport, where we take our international flight home.
(Lunch not included)
Day 10: Arrive UK
Note: Discover Adventure reserves the right to change the route or itinerary for safety reasons should local conditions dictate.