Madagascar - Roadtrip to the West Coast

The arrival in Madagascar marked the beginning of a 5-day road trip. The Antananarivo airport is surprisingly modern and spacious. The smooth arrival process included a 15-day visa for 10 Euros, obtained efficiently at the well-air-conditioned Visa counter, where friendly staff promptly affixed the necessary sticker to enter the country.

I arrived from Mauritius on a 2-hour flight. 

Navigating through the initial steps of getting a SIM card and finding a taxi proved surprisingly hassle-free. They are definitely prepared for tourists!

Madagascar is different than other countries in Africa

I've been to many countries in Africa, but Madagascar has something unique. Despite being one of the poorest countries in the world and even among the poorest in Africa, it is relatively well-developed for tourism. And there are many tour operators who know how to communicate with visitors. 

It's affordable, and it has generally good infrastructure for tourists. In this country, there is so much to see, and the landscapes are completely different depending on the direction. This makes the country so interesting to visit as a tourist. 

The police are good people, friendly, and unlike other African countries, I was not asked for corruption money even once. It's very likely that I will visit the country again. I've seen the East, but there's still the South, West, and the North where it's possible to go scuba diving.

Arrival on the island country - it's cold!

A 15 Euro taxi ride to the city center, coupled with currency exchange on the streets, unfolded smoothly despite the closure of most establishments by 4 PM on that Saturday afternoon. 

It was a pleasant surprise to encounter a cooler climate in Antananarivo, perched at an elevation of over 1300 meters. And they have beef steaks. Huge beef and pork steaks, sizzling on charcoal grills at every corner, which is totally unexpected to see in Africa and especially in island countries.

And they have good rum.

Day 2 - The scenic ride towards the east begins

At 7 a.m., the car rental service showed up at the hotel. The owner along with a driver and a Nissan Patrol 4WD. The car had leather seats, which made the journey reasonably comfortable.

The cost was 300 euros for 5 days of driving (excluding fuel), which included the driver. It's a well-established concept in Madagascar, where the car is almost always delivered with a driver. Although, the drivers are completely independent and provide for themselves during the trip. So almost every hotel in Madagascar provides free meals and accommodation for the drivers who bring tourists. 

The driver, eager to hit the road early, says the first leg is over 8 hours.

Only a brief stop was planned for lunch break.

The journey through the outskirts of Antananarivo revealed the charm of the rural villages. The local life, with its markets and communities, showcased the resilience of the Malagasy people.

It was evident that the villages were the hubs of activity, each playing a crucial role in the larger socioeconomic fabric of the region.

The landscapes were impressive, and somewhat reminiscent of Australia and New Zealand.

There was one single main road, where much of life in Madagascar unfolded. Many people engaged in various activities along the road, despite the numerous potholes and poorly maintained sections.

I was glad not to be driving myself, as handling over 8 hours of focused driving while trying to take photos would have been exhausting.

I eventually arrived in Antsirabe. Half time, after 4 hours of driving. There wasn't much happening here, just a couple of restaurants and hotels.

The town's quiet, unlike the action-packed scenes on the way.

Fantastic scenic landscape!

The journey continued, and after another 5 hours, we reached Miandrivazo. The town appeared quiet, with only a couple of restaurants and hotels. The limited facilities suggested that Miandrivazo was not necessarily a large tourist hotspot.

The strains of the long drive were noticeable, and the calm atmosphere of Miandrivazo provided a welcome opportunity to relax.

After checking into one of the few hotels and having a simple dinner at one of the restaurants, I began to contemplate what further impressions awaited me in the coming days.

Day 3 - Further east, to Morondava and the Baobab Trees

Off to Morondava. The journey was expected to take 4 hours, and we set off at 7:30am. The roads, some were okay, some were a disaster. In the rainy season, they're a mess, all filled with water in the potholes.

The landscape unfolded in a spectacular and unique way.

5 more hours of driving until Morondava

Morondava is on the east coast of Madagascar.

Arrived in Morondova around noon, at this time it was packed with people heading for lunch everywhere. So it was time for lunch for me too.

Visit around the beach area where the locals do trades and ship stuff on their boats to a small island.

Now - to the famous Baobab Alley

Then headed towards Kirindy National Park through Baobab Alley via sandy roads.

The stretch with the many trees is a few hundred meters.

Driving here with a 2WD would be very risky and practically impossible during the rainy season. The journey to the accommodation bungalows took 2 more hours.


The Nighwalk in the Kirindy Forest

Nightwalk from 18:00, with a 2-hour walk through the forest. The forest is invested with Lemurs, but still they are difficult to spot, especially at night.

All visitors were provided with a Lemur spotter who tracked the animals and illuminated them with lanterns. Once sighted, the lamp was directed from various angles to enable a comprehensive observation. 

The forest is rich in animals, especially Lemurs. Over 100 species in Madagascar. Snakes, chameleons, you name it. For researchers staying overnight, it's a true paradise, and they even have their own accommodations.

The forest is a lemur-infested area

During the Nightwalk itself, it becomes clear how lively the forest is in the evening. Lemurs become active, utilizing the darkness for foraging and interacting with each other. The work of the Lemur spotters is invaluable in providing visitors with the most intense encounters with these fascinating primates.

The island's isolated location has led to the development of many endemic species that are found nowhere else in the world. The various Lemur species are probably the most well-known inhabitants of the island.

Day 4 - Watching Lemurs during the day

On the next morning, I started early with a Daywalk in Kirindy National Park. It was 7:00 AM, and it was fascinating to explore the same path as the evening before, now illuminated by the daylight. The morning sun unveiled the surroundings in a completely different light, and the sounds of the jungle took on a different quality.

Kirindy National Park is home not only to lemurs but also to a variety of other fascinating creatures. During the walk, I encountered different bird species unique to Madagascar.

During the Daywalk, I had the opportunity to observe the impressive large lemurs, who couldn't hide as effectively in the daylight.  

And there's something special about these white lemurs. Very special, very rare. They don't come down to the ground much.

It was interesting to see them move through the trees and explore their surroundings from a safe height.

The other lemur species were easily lured down with water in shells.

The rustling of water made them come down. Lemurs everywhere. Observing the animals up close is nice. It was a unique experience to watch the lemurs drink, skillfully using the shells.

Unfortunately, during the Daywalk, I didn't catch sight of a Fossa. No Fossa. This Fossa, it's like a mix of a dog and a cat, and it climbs trees. Didn't see it, but that's okay. Nevertheless, the diversity of animals in the park made the excursion a worthwhile experience.

Back to Morondava downtown

After the impressive Daywalk in Kirindy National Park, we hit the road again to return to Morondava. The return journey provided another opportunity to enjoy the landscape of Madagascar. Villages, forests, open landscapes. Madagascar's got it all,

Beach at Morondava

The afternoon was spent at the Morondava Beach. The waves, the sand. It's like a postcard. A couple 1000 kilometers from here is the mainland of Africa with Mozambique and South Africa.

Day 5 - Another long day of driving 

Early in the morning, we set off towards Antsirabe. The drive was supposed to be 8 hours, but ended up being much, much longer.

Even if I am not driving myself, for some reason, it can be very tiring. I've respect for those drivers, navigating this route without even breaking a sweat. 

So many obstacles, huge obstacles, like oncoming traffic, pedestrians, and animals - everyone's out to get you.

Hills everywhere, and drought prevailed in these months. But they tell me, in the winter, this whole place turns green again and be irrigated again. 

All these little villages, they're like stepping back a hundred years. No kidding, a hundred years. With the difference that there is now mobile reception, and people wear different clothes than back then.

The roads have also improved, although the numerous challenges of the route remained present.

It took longer than expected. In between, we offered assistance to another tourist jeep that had come to a halt in the middle of nowhere.

It was reassuring to see that drivers and locals support each other in such situations, even if the mechanics sometimes refuse to cooperate.

Long way back to Antsirabe

There are no restaurants or supermarkets for tourists along the way. None. It's all about doing it their way, their rules. Nobody from the outside telling them what to do. 

Coffee is available on the streets, but its served with water right from the river.

The journey to Antsirabe took about 11 hours. We departed at 7:00 in the morning, took a short 30-minute lunch break, and finally arrived in Antsirabe at 18:00.

Day 6 - And back to Antananarivo

Today's plan was to return to the capital Antananarivo around noon, traversing through numerous landscapes and hills riddled with potholes. The landscapes were again something else – fantastic views.

We hit through all these villages again, very interesting villages, lots of things happening.

And rice and other fields fields, each possessing its own distinctive character and rendering a spectacular view. People say, "Wow, these fields, they're something else." And they're right, they really are.

Finally arriving back in Antananarivo

The arrival in Antananarivo was a sight to behold. Seeing it from far away, hills packed with houses, a dense city with houses sprawled across its entirety. 

Tana Viewpoint

The city of Antananarivo is commonly known as Tana. The driver drops me off at this Viewpoint. The Viewpoint - nice place.

Seeing the whole city with houses stacked is a visual spectacle.

From there, I go down to the train station, navigating through the winding and labyrinthine streets of Tana. 

Despite their twists and turns, the streets were well-maintained, clean, and appeared secure. The presence of all the shops added up to a good impression of Antananarivo.

One noteworthy aspect was the antique taxis. I mean, old taxis, classic stuff you only see in Antananarivo. A nostalgic reminder of the city's past.

It's fascinating to witness how these remnants from another era coexist.

Day 7 - Time to fly home

That was it. Nothing much was done on the last day, just drank several cups of Madagascar coffee.

In the afternoon, the departure was on time to head back home.


  1. It is all the way to the west from Antananarivo to Kirindy Mitea National Park, not east lol

    1. Haha, yesss, right, huge misspelling!!! Thank you!