Madagascar Cycle Tour
Extraordinary Madagascar by bicycle
Explore the unique wildlife and mysteries of Madagascar as you bike from the central highlands to the white sandy beaches of the Mozambique Channel.
Madagascar, the fourth largest island in the world, broke away from Africa millions of years ago. With a coastline lined with coral beaches and lagoons the land rises sharply to a great central plateau that covers most of the island. From temperate highlands to tropical coasts the landscape and scenery is as rich and unique as it's wildlife. Madagascar's isolation has allowed many remarkable species to evolve, and there is not a single Madagascan mammal species which can be found in any other place in the world. Even the large rain forests of South America cannot compete with the enormous biodiversity of Madagascar’s flora and fauna.
To explore it all would take months, especially by bike so we have created our cycle tour to bring you up close to the essence of what makes Madagascar tick. Discover lemurs, chameleons and more wildlife not found anywhere else on earth. From the capital of Antananarivo you’ll bike the quiet backroads across the central highlands, through endemic dry forests, past ancient towering baobab trees and out to the tropical coast overlooking the Mozambique Channel in Morondava.
Add in a two day riverboat trip past towering gorges and sleeping crocodiles and hike through the incredible Tsingy limestone formations; And a mouthwatering mix of Malagasy and French cuisine, and join us on our exciting new cycle tour…
Some people choose to extend their holiday with some extra days on the beach or a trip to Andasibe National Park - either of which we can help you organise.
How about a Madagascar & Kenya & Tanzania Combo? Each year our June Madagascar cycle tour times in perfectly with our first Kenya & Tanzania cycle tour - making an awesome Two Trip Combo possible in one flight to Africa. Contact Mandy for more info.
"What a phenomenal time we had"
"I just wanted to send a quick note to let you know what a PHENOMENAL time we had in Madagascar on MAD 1 (and that is not something I expected to say being essentially a non-bike rider). Not knowing exactly what to expect, I was pleasantly surprised each and every day as we rode through interesting and diverse countryside, saw and met many local Malagasy people and were made to (almost) feel like rock stars each time we rode through a village greeted by shouts and cheers from happy children. At the end of each day’s ride we always had somewhere safe and comfortable to spend the night with the most amazing and delicious food.
I also wanted to comment on your guides. Leif was superb and a great comfort to me knowing he was there as tail-end-Charlie able to provide support and advice when needed (I got to know him quite well as I was consistently the last rider!). Dezy’s local knowledge and skilful driving was invaluable and could spot a chameleon a mile away. And Leigh...what can I say that hasn’t already been said before by anyone and everyone who comes across this remarkable, confident, capable and ever-smiling young woman. She is GOLD. Hang onto her!!! She made our trip"
Dianne Tretheway. Victoria, Australia
"Loving the personal challenge"
"Thanks again guys for all you do for those who like doing something different and you make it possible….you are very good at what you do. I admit at times I wondered why am I here biking in this sand but at the same time loving every minute of it and loving the personal challenge it brings."
Julie Hamilton. Oamaru, New Zealand
"Another Amazing bike tour"
"Mandy & John, once again thank you for another amazing bike tour in Madagascar. It was again epic, fun, challenging, eye-opening, sad, full-filling and incredible – all at the same time. The total experience was further enhanced by Escape Tour Leaders, Leigh & Ian, together with your local Team who were all so lovely and supportive."
Jan & Bill Peryer. Wellington, New Zealand
"You run a mighty fine outfit"
"I wanted to save some accolades and adjectives, firstly for those who designed the trip – I understand to be mostly John... It was so very imaginative, thoughtful, thorough, sensible and exciting. It must have taken a swag of work, a bit of luck and a bit of tenacity. The river trip will do as an example – the right length [48 hours roughly over three days], a strangely functional craft, resourceful running repairs, acceptably comfortable conditions compared to a pirogue, great food that arrived from somewhere, a beautiful waterfall for ablutions, Madagascar river life playing out during the day and two semi-organised concerts on the river banks by night. Just magic!
I also want to acknowledge the way in which Leigh and Ian gave us [or didn’t give us] information. Knowing what to expect really matters, and Leigh in particular would methodically parcel out information and advice in a timely and planned manner. But they both withheld information too, deliberately, and in my view they pretty well always got it right. We had loads of surprises, and we never really knew what the day would bring. That is a skill, and they both have it. Thank you guys. You run a mighty fine outfit!!
Pete Hodgson. Dunedin, New Zealand
"Biking is definitely the way..."
"Madagascar was fantastic and the Escape Adventures team did an outstanding job – as per usual. Leigh led us brilliantly and everything went superbly. I loved the whole trip and biking is definitely the way to interact with the local people in the best way – no glass in between the riders and the people, slow speeds (well, I was amazingly fast! but the rest of the group were pretty slow), easy to stop and ‘chat’ (the schoolboy French was useful), and they were such fun to be with."
Peter Worsp. Christchurch, New Zealand
"Our favourite so far"
"I think this has been our favourite Escape cycle tour of the 4 we've done. Challenging biking, lovely hot weather, variety of scenery and activities with the boat trip thrown in and a couple of nights camping on a sandbank to break up the hotel stays. Loved the villages and stopping for our 40c coffees with an audience of village folk. Gotta reccommend this trip to anyone who wants to see Madagascar up close and personal from the comfort of a bike."
Jude & Tony Anker. Kaikoura, New Zealand
“Lemurs, just like Mandy and John, are playful, delightful and loads of fun. You won’t find them (the lemurs) anywhere else in the world but Madagascar. You won’t find out until you go there so join the queue, get as fit as you can, learn a bit of French (so you can read the menus and converse with the folk who live in the hills and down at the coast among the baobabs) and be prepared for some unusual and unexpected experiences. It’s challenging but worth the effort – worth every penny of 100,000 ariarys (that’s about $3 USD and it’s actually worth a bit more than that).”
Chris & Carole Whitfeld. Dorset, UK
"My 5th memorable and life-changing journey with Escape Adventures. But Madagascar was something else!
Was I a rock-star or a comic? This lady on a mountain bike bought joy and much laughter to many isolated villagers in central Madagascar. I was on an intrepid journey. Madagascans gave me joy and inspiration. 90% live on less than US$2 per day. Their villages have no water reticulation, no electricity, use oxen or personal strength for transport of goods/water and they cultivate all land for rice and vegetables using a sharp spade. The communities living this humble lifestyle are healthy, happy, and seem stress free. Their philosophy (so I was told): “If you smile on the outside, you smile on the inside…and all is well”. A safe, loving and happy culture.
In Madagascar we stepped back in time, in a safe environment, supported by John and Mandy. We enjoyed the physical challenges and made special new friends within our biking group. I am so lucky to experience adventure tourism offered by Escape Adventures. It has added spice to my life."
Karen Savage, Canterbury, New Zealand
Group: You will join a fun bunch of 6-12 bikers from around the world. We strive to create a relaxed, fun and intimate group dynamic that feels like a group of friends on holiday.
Leaders: All of our tours are led by two of our New Zealand based Escape Adventures leaders. We pride ourselves on the calibre and resourcefulness of these great people who you will be spending your holiday with. Our leaders are passionate bikers, great foodies, bike fixer-uppers, trained for health support (PHEC), and they are focused on making sure that your cycle tour is a fun, safe adventure of a lifetime.
You will have the opportunity to ride 20-105km* per day; a total distance of up to 626km spread over 11 days of biking. (*The total riding distance on longer days is optional - ride as much as you like and then take a break in the support vehicle when you have had enough for the day!) The riding terrain is rolling and flat, with a few longer climbs of 2-3km in length. The riding surface is made up of 50% quiet paved roads and 50% dirt and 4x4 roads. These are mostly hard packed red dirt, although can be rough and sandy in places, so a mountain bike with front suspension and smooth rolling off-road tyres is the ideal bike. We have our own fleet of mountain bikes available for hire. Please contact us for more details. The trip is suited to riders with a good level of biking fitness and off-road biking experience is necessary for the enjoyment of your trip.
Support: Our trusty support vehicle carries all your luggage, has lunch, snacks and water at hand, and is there if you need a break from the saddle.
Group Size: 6-12 bikers. (Maximum 13 if the last spot booked is two people!)
We take a break from our bikes for a 2 day/2 night riverboat journey down the Tsiribihina River. Our chartered large flat bottomed riverboat has a shaded top deck and spacious seating with tables. All our meals are prepared in the onboard kitchen by our boat crew. We spend between 4-6 hrs per day on board gently cruising downstream and camping beside waterfalls on the riverbank at night.
We also have 2-3 short hiking opportunities during the tour in two stunning national parks: Tsingy Bemaraha and Kirindy Forest. One daytime hike takes 2-3 hrs and one is a night-time hike to make the most of the possible wildlife opportunities. The trails are generally unformed so good sturdy walking shoes are ideal. Open sandals are not recommended.
Your Escape tour leaders will take care of your meals and snacks throughout your journey with us which is often taking advantage of the delicious Malagasy and French fare in local cafes and restaurants. This excludes three lunches and one evening meal which are at your own cost to give you the opportunity to explore local cuisine of your own choosing. We are most definitely able to cater for vegetarians and special diets and if this includes you, it is essential to advise us of this before your tour begins, so that the support vehicle can be stocked with the necessary supplies.
Typical meals include:
- Breakfasts - French continental style, bread, omelettes, coffee & tea. (Supplemented with muesli).
- Lunches - Picnic style lunches, fresh salads, cold meats, cheese & bread.
- Evening Meals - Mostly taking advantage of the delicious local dishes in cafes and hotel restaurants. Generally including fish, chicken or beef and loads of vegetables.
NOTE: When we dine in cafe’s and restaurants we include main course only. Entrees and deserts are often available at your own cost.
All accommodation for the duration of your tour is included in your tour. 12 nights are in locally owned hotel bungalows and guesthouses on a twin share basis and 3 nights camping on a double or single basis. Guesthouses generally have an ‘Escape fluffy towel rating’ of 2-4. The camping is real camping in remote locations. Washing facilities & toilets are available every night except one night while on riverboat where we have no washing facilities. We supply spacious dome tents which we will show you how to erect, and foam mattresses. You will need to bring your own light sleeping bag and a small travel pillow.
Preparing for your cycle tour
It is not always ‘Just like riding a bike’! The Malagasy dirt roads can be rough and sandy, and are not maintained as roads may be in your country. So get out there and ride as many off-road surfaces you can find, and some hills too! Please do read about the daily riding distances and riding terrain in the itinerary below and prepare accordingly. The more prepared you are the more you will enjoy your holiday! Training for your cycle tour should involve gravel, dirt and off-road riding, with some hill riding. You should be comfortable riding 2-3 times a week with regular rides of 50-60 km in length. Please do contact us if you would like some help with a detailed training plan.
May through until early October is the cool-dry season in Madagascar. June and July are generally the coolest and greenest time of year - with day time temperatures ranging from 15-30 degrees C throughout most the trip route and up to high 30’s nearer the coast. Expect cool night time temperatures ranging from 5-15 degrees C in the highlands and up to 25 degrees in coastal areas.
Antananarivo to Morondava
DAY 1: Arrive Antananarivo, pre-departure meeting and first dinner together. Hotel
DAY 2: After visiting a lemur sanctuary, we get used to bikes on some quiet paved roads and rolling country. 46km. Local Hotel
DAY 3: We ride out into the central highlands through small villages. 34km. Hotel Bungalows
DAY 4: We begin the day on quiet paved roads. After lunch the road turns to dirt as we cross a 2000m plateau. 30km + optional 48kms. Hotel Bungalows
DAY 5: A free day to explore Antsirabe. Hotel Bungalows.
DAY 6: Our first big ride - all paved and dotted with rice paddies and villages. 108km. Camping
DAY 7: As we continue west the landscape get noticeably drier, descending into dessert country in the afternoon. 43km. Hotel
DAY 8: A morning ride brings us to the Tsiribihina River where we board our river boat for eh next couple of days. 30km. Riverside Camping
DAY 9: We continue our river boat cruise on the Tsiribihina River, spotting wildlife as we go. Riverside Camping
DAY 10: After breakfast, we continue down stream to a tropical river side town. Basic Hotel
DAY 11: A big days biking - up to 97km dirt road riding to Tsingy Bemaraha Nature Reserve sharing the roads with ox-carts. Up to 97km. Hotel
DAY 12: A day off the bikes allows us to explore the reserve by foot and canoe. Hotel
DAY 13: Another big days biking - up to 97km dirt road riding through wide open savannah. Up to 97km. Basic Hotel
DAY 14: A short morning ride brings us to a Kirindy Forest Nature Reserve - home of 7 species of lemur and the elusive fossa. 15km. Basic Bungalow
DAY 15: Our last ride of the tour takes us through the famous Avenue Du Baobab, and on to the seaside town of Morondava. 63km. Beachside Hotel
DAY 16: Final breakfast together. Stay on and relax / or onward travel via Morondava Airport.
US dollars $3,550 (Plus local payment* 300 Euro)
Bike Hire if required USD $300
Single Supplement if requested: USD $750
Our Madagascar cycle tour is priced in US Dollars as USD mostly accurately correspond to our off-shore expenses many of which are in USD.
Convert USD to your currency: www.xe.com
Prices include: accommodation 15-nights, meals as per detailed itinerary, two NZ based Escape Adventures leaders, local interpreter & drivers, 4x4 vehicle support, camping equipment - tents & mattresses, Park Entry Fees: Lemur Park, Tsingy Bemaraha Park, Kirindy Forest, 2 day Riverboat Cruise, Local entry fees, river & road tolls throughout your tour.
Prices do NOT include: airfares, visas, airport taxes, optional activities and excursions, vaccinations, personal equipment and a couple of meals as per the detailed itinerary.
*Local payment is a part of your trip cost and is payable at the beginning of your trip to your tour leader at the pre-departure meeting on your arrival in Antananarivo.
In Madagascar we have our own fleet of bikes available for hire. They are Avanti Montari 7.4 which are a quality New Zealand designed mountain bike with 29 inch wheels for medium, large and XL frame sizes and 27.5 inch wheels for small frame size. They have Rockshox 100mm front suspension, hydraulic disc brakes and shimano 2x10 gearing. We carry all our spare parts out to Africa and maintain them ourselves to make sure they are in optimal riding condition for your ride with us.
If you will be hiring a bike from us please let us know prior to your trip, and please feel free to bring your favourite saddle and clip in pedals (if you normally clip in).