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Antsirabe to Morondava

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Tsiribihina river  |  Miandrivazo  |  Belo-sur-Tsiribihina  |  Manambolo river  |  Tsingy Bemaraha  |  Morondava

Descending the Tsiribihina river

This excursion has become one of the most popular adventures in Madagascar, offering travellers the chance of getting a close approach to some of Madagascar's fluvial inhabitants: crocodiles! It is in fact so popular, that local agents will likely offer it to you at your arrival at the airport. 

The departure point to descend the Tsiribihina River is a dusty place called Miandrivazo. It is here where travellers embark on pirogues or motorboats to descent the 160 km through the wild landscapes of the far Malagasy West, leaving behind small Sakalava villages of untouched authenticity, white-sanded river banks lined by trees where lemurs spring playfully from one branch to another and chameleons wait patiently for an insect lay down nearby. 

Tsiribihina river
The cruise passes by some dense vegetation along the riverbanks, towering cliffs and baobab forests. The “highlight” of the trip is the Gorge of Bemaraha with its steep rocks and at Anosin' Ampela, a wonderful waterfall, where intrepid travellers can refresh themselves.

Before sunset, tents are pichted on some sanded beach under the curious sights of laughing children. When organizing this trip, be careful with the guide you choose. Cheap means mostly a cheap service too!

There are two means to join this adventure. Either in a pirogue or aboard a landing craft.

If you opt for the first and more budget option, the best would certainly be to negotiate the price directly with the boatmen on the spot. This way you will save the commissions added by intermediaries and you will be also able to choose your travel companions. In Miandrizavo reputed guides are Rakoto, Ruffin, Jean-Baptiste and Daniel. Tariffs are of course not set in advance, but expect to pay around Ar 250,000 (depending on the number of passengers) including meals, pirogue and guide's salary. You can opt for 3 or 4 nights on route. Generally, the descent of the river finishes in Antanambo, where you will need to take a zebu chart to get to Tsiraraka, where Masoandro hotel offers a place to stay overnight. From here you can continue with a taxi (about Ar 4000) to a place called Tsimafana, where you can cross the Tsiribihina river with the "ferry" to Belo. Once arrived at Belo, you can either head south for Morondava (Ar 8,000 in taxi-brousse, about 8 hours) or north to Bekopaka (there is a truck-brousse service once a week from April until November, it costs about Ar 7,000). Anyway, the usual thing is that most travellers have their arrangements already done by a travel agency before embarking. Attention! Paddling in the river will turn more difficult during the dry season, especially from the beginning of August, due to the lower level of the water.

If you prefer to have your canoe trip on the Tsiribihina already arranged, you can always contact to a bigger tour operator, like Remote River Expeditions in Morondava www.remoterivers.com, Espace Mada in Tana www.madagascar-circuits.com
Rija Tours www.rijatours.mg or Road House in Antsirabe www.roadhouse-voyages.com

More demanding travellers can take a "chaland" a motored landing craft which were originally used to transport tobacco and have been now completed readapted to tourism. They are equipped with a kitchenette and several important amenities like an awning, which is really useful as a protection from the intense austral sun. Departures are not exactly from Miandrivazo, but from Masiakampy, some 90 min with a 4x4. These vessels recall somehow the Mississipi boats of the 19th century and are, therefore a both pleasant and charming way to cruise on the Tsibirihina.

If you are interested, you can request more information at the reputable tour operator Espace Mada in Tana, which operates twelve "chalands".

Depending on the number of passengers a 3 days/2 night trip will cost between 340 € or 140 € per person. Transfers are not included but can be arranged additionally. A further pro thing if this company are their fixed departure dates. Check on its internet site for further information!

Tsibirihina river
Beautiful sunset at Tsiribihina river  © Madagascar Travel Guide


The middle-sized town of Miandrivazo is the departing point for all excursions on the Tsiribihina river. It is located some 220 km west from Antsirabe and it has nothing much to offer. You can reach the place either on taxi-brousse or with your own vehicle. Taxi-brousses leave Antsriabe for Miandrizavo the whole day through. Fares cost around Ar 10,000 one way.

There are several establishments where you can sleep overnight. The Hotel de Bemaraha offers some cheap rooms at Ar 10,000. La Pirogue has several motel rooms and a good restaurant. Le Coin d'Or at the centre of the town offers double rooms with shared facilities for Ar 14,000. These two addresses offer a rather basic standard!

For some more comfort you can go to some of these addresses:
(Hotels in alphabetical order, prices from 2013) 

Phone: + 261 (0)32 51 828 45
New hotel next to Gite de la Tsiribihina offering 20 rooms with private and shared facilties from 20,000 to 35,000 Ar

Gite de la Tsirihibina
This hotel is run by a local NGO which is in charge of supplying medicines and medical care to the villages spread over the banks along the river. It has seven rooms with shared facilities at Ar 18,000. The restaurant is not out of this world but a good place to meet other travellers who might want to join you in a boat expedition through the river. Camping is also allowed at fee of Ar 5,000. Note that it might be difficult to make a reservation for this hotel in advance as it has neither telephone nor e-mail.

Hotel Horizon
Small hotel with 6 simle but comfortable bungalows with private toilet for 28,000 Ar

Mobile: + 261 (0) 32 07 508
This new hotel offers bungalows and rooms from 20,000 to 32,000 Ar depending on the facilities.  It seems to offer a nice quality-price ratio.

La Reine Rasalimo
Villa Denemont, Andraharo
Tel: + 261 20 23 617 29
This hotel, with nice views over thr river, is very popular among bigger tourist groups and therefore a preferred address for most travel agencies. Obligatory half board.
Single bungalows for 14 €, double for 20 € and triple bungalows for 29 €


Another day begins in Belo  © Madagascar Travel Guide

100 km north from Morondava, this town has an extraordinary significance for the Sakalava kings. The famous fitampoha rite "the bathing of the royal relics" takes place in Belo-sur-Tsiribihina every ten years between the months of August and September. The last ceremony was celebrated in 2004, so visitors have to be a little patient to enjoy this amazing rite. Taxi-brousses go for Morondava  for some Ar 7,000. But due to the miserable conditions of the tracks it would be much more sensible to hire a 4x4! There are a couple of hotels to stay overnight:

Hotel Suzanna
Mobile: + 261 32 04 344 64
This basic hostel offers double rooms for Ar 10,000. It lacks charm but all in all offers a good quality-price ratio.

Hotel du Menabe
Mobile: + 261 (0) 32 42 635 35
Mail: brunoaimej@free.fr
Web: http://hoteldumenabe.free.fr

This hotel is at an old big house that has twenty rooms of basic standard (bit with private facilities and warm water) from 10,000 to 20,000 Ar. The hotel has an own restaurant which prepares excellent Malagasy and French food.

Restaurant Mad Zebu
Mobile: + 261 (0) 32 40 387 15
Maybe the best restaurant in town. Just two steps from the previous address. It serves very good meals for Ar 12,000, which makes this a good stop on the way. Recommended!


Descending the Manambolo river

For those who might think that the descent of the Tsibirihina river has become a little too popular and long for solitary and real wild nature experience, the Manambolo river might offer a good (but more expensive) alternative. Trips on the Manambolo are possible from May to November and are currently offered by Remote River Expeditions in Morondava www.remoterivers.com and Mad Cameleon www.madcameleon.com.  The traditional pirogues are substituted by modern Western canoes.

This trip leads to a remote area of Madagascar with untouched flora and fauna, and unique sceneries. There are no rapids, just a mere water float, so no previous experience is required. During the trip, several isolated hamlets and small villages are passed, where the local Malagasy cultivate rice, cassava, and bananas and keep cattle. Tents are pitched in huge sandbanks. As night falls campers are usually besieged by thousands on appetizing insects that fall onto the meal. Be careful with scorpions too, which abund in this place and hide in the morning in strategic places like shoes.
Manambolo river
Credits by Remote River Expeditions

The trip is usually divided in 6 days according to following description:

  • Day 1: Drive from Tana to Tsiroanomandidy.

  • Day 2: Transfer to the airstrip and short, 25 min flight over the Bongolava mountain range from Tsiroanomandidy to Akavandra. On arrival begin of the trip on the Manambolo River on an isolated area, which is only accessible by canoe or by foot.

  • Day 3: On the river 4 m canoes are used for paddling from camp to camp. The river presents some big cliffs which are striated with layers of white, red, and green clays.

  • Day 4: You chances of encountering crocodiles increase as you paddle away from the civilization. The Manambolo was once full of crocodiles but due to hunting for their skins they are now considered a threatened species in Madagascar. Here crocodiles are however still abundant. Some Sakalava tombs, constructed with neatly piled rock, will be passed by. Today you will see in the distance a sacred mountain. From this point it becomes fady or taboo to point with your finger. 

  • Day 5: Today you will reach the Manambolo canyon, a spectacular cliff with deciduous forests. This is really a fascinating place and we enjoy bathing and exploration the tropical deciduous forest harboring a great variety of wildlife. You will have time to hike to the Oly Canyon creek, which runs over white limestone rock, through channels and shoots, and over small waterfalls into crystal clear ponds. A 20 foot waterfall pouring into a blue pool invites to swimming.

  • Day 6: After breakfast you continue downstream through the imposing gorge, between limestone walls and overhangs on which we can see peculiar vegetation, much birdlife, and the shrill cries of black parrots resound against the cliffs. At midday, Bekopaka is reached with the subsequent visit of the Tsingy of Bemaraha.

Tsingy of Bemahara national park

See under Tsingy of Bemaraha National Park


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