Madagascar's most popular overland journey
With good reason, the RN7 has long been Madagascar's most popular overland holiday.
The RN7 has long been Madagascar's most popular overland journey and ideally, should be savoured just as we have laid out this sample itinerary, over two weeks. This will give you the chance to take in an astonishing diversity of landscapes, get to know many of the resident tribes, explore ecotypes from humid rainforest to dry sandstone mountains and the otherworldly spiny bush, at the sub-desert south-west coast. For wildlife enthusiasts, we've added on a stay in Andsibe-Mantadia NP which can be slotted in at the start as we've presented it here, or, at the end of the trip.
Pics © Craig Kaufman (CK) unless otherwise indicated
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Day 1: Fly to Antananarivo.
Fly Air France to Antananarivo. On arrival this evening you are met at the airport and transferred to Relais des Plateaux to stay overnight, breakfast included.
Day 2: Magical Andasibe-Mantadia - the Malagasy rainforest experience
The three nights you spend in Antananarivo can be done now, or at the end of your itinerary - this can be tailored to suit you.
After a lie-in, your professional guide and driver meet you. Travel about 3hrs,30min to Andasibe-Mantadia National Park for 3 nights in either Andasibe Hotel or Vakona Forest Lodge, half board.
Enjoy an introductory rainforest walk.
Day 3: Meeting the rainforest denizens of Andasibe-Mantadia
Explore Andasibe during the dawn chorus. Lunch at the lodge. You can take a mid afternoon walk as well as a night stroll after dinner - the latter may be done in either VOIMMA's small protected rainforest, or at that administered by Association Mitsinjo - either way, funds go directly to the permanently resident communities and you'll enjoy learning about conservation in this region.
Day 4: Mantadia National Park
Time to see more of the exquisite mid altitude rainforests in this part of the Mantadia-Vohidrazana rainforest block, where rare wildlife abounds. The lodges have swimming pools and horse riding can also be arranged.
Day 5: Driving to Antsirabe - Highlands Life
Depart after breakfast on a longish but very interesting drive along good roads from Andasibe-Mantadia NP through the scenic Central Highlands to Antsirabe, a former spa town, to stay overnight in Couleur Cafe, half board.
Day 6: Drive to Ranomafana National Park
Visit Antsirabe, appreciated for its temperate climate and craft workshops. A half-day's drive southwards via Highlands towns like Ambositra, takes you to Ranomafana, a beautiful and wildlife-rich upland rainforest national park. Stay 3 nights at Thermal Hotel, half board.
Days 7 - 8: Ranomafana National Park
Two days in which to explore this super park. There is a well mapped system of trails, though please do be aware that most traverse fairly long slopes so a reasonable level of fitness is needed. Among its wildlife are 12 lemur species; many endemic rainforest-dependent birds, reptiles and frogs and the scenery created in part by the whitewater Namorona River which bisects the park, is glorious.
Day 9: Meandering southwards to Ambalavao
Drive southwards through the last stretch of the Highlands to Ambalavao, where you'll notice dramatic changes in the landscape: the massive granite domes here signify the start of the Andringitra mountain chain. Overnight in the simple Varangue de Betsileo, half board.
Day 10: Anja Parc for a Lemur fix and Isalo
After breakfast, stop by at the community-managed Anja Parc, about 10 minutes from town. Here you can see and photograph abundant Ringtail lemurs in splendid surrounds. Drive west across the desolate badlands of the central-southern interior (Bara country) to Isalo National Park where you stay 2 nights in the comfortable Relais la Reine Isalo or its sister hotel Jardin du Roy, half board.
Day 11: Isalo: canyons, cliffs and valleys
Spend the day exploring along one of the trails in Madagascar's most visited, state-run protected area. The sandstone massif is popular for its hiking trails and appealing scenery. There are a number of natural pools where you can cool off and at the right time of year, visitors can see some wildlife. The hotels have stables so horse riding can also be arranged.
Day 12: Head to the coast
An hours drive after Isalo, nature enthusiasts enjoy a stop at Zombitse-Vohibasia National Park, which is on all birding itineraries. Aside from rich avifauna including the locally endemic Appert's greenbul (tetraka), you may see the locally endemic Hubbard's sportive lemur and Standing's day gecko - among many other interesting species. Zombitse is a transition forest so has a curious mix of baobabs and bamboo.
Continue past Sakaraha and the sapphire town Ilakaka to the arid south-west coastal town of Tulear, just near the Tropic of Capricorn. This dusty outback town is culturally fascinating - resident people include Antandroy, Mahafaly, Veso-Sakalava and Masikoro.
Drive 20 minutes north along a recently tarred road to Ifaty-Mangily, to stay 2 nights in Le Paradisier, half board.
Day 13: Ifaty Beach and Spiny Bush
In the early morning, visit the remarkable Spiny bush about 10 minutes from the hotels. Two small, privately protected parcels attract visitors from all over, who come to seek rare birds in an extraordinary habitat created by a crazy mix of bloated and/or spiky, drought-resistant plants and trees. (Collectively its called Euphorbia-Didieraceae scrub). You'll be back at the hotel for a late breakfast, so can enjoy the balance of the day relaxing by the seaside. Or ask the lodge about snorkelling if you're up to it.
Day 14: Fly back to Antananarivo
You'll be trransferred to Tulear airport to check in 2 hours before your Air Madagascar flight departs to the capital, where you have a day/evening room if flying out on Air France after midnight.
Time allowing, your guide and driver can take you souvenir shopping. Late evening transfer to Ivato airport to check in for the flight home.
Day 15: Fly back home
Depart in the early hours on the Air France flight to Paris, arriving in CDG in mid morning. Take the lunch time flight to London Heathrow or selected other UK airports. (If choosing Air France for your international flights).
Duration: 14 nights
Location: Madagascar, Africa
Price per person sharing in twin or double room accommodation is based on two adults travelling together and includes return economy class international Air France flights from London Heathrow or selected other UK airports via Paris CDG to Antananarivo; domestic Air Madagascar flight, air taxes, transfers and private 4WD transportation, services of dedicated, professional, English-speaking Malagasy guide and of dedicated driver throughout; excursions and activities as outlined; all park permits and park guide fees; accommodation with meals as indicated.
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