4x4 bush camp adventure into the Makay

Makay 4x4 bush camp adventure

If you like 4x4 driving, hiking and wilderness, then this bush camping trip is for you. There are few places on earth which are still as untouched as the Makay Massif in Madagascar. The first part of the roadtrip, up to Isalo National Park, can still be done as as self-drive trip, before our driver-guide joins from there, and guides you though the maze of canyons across this vast area. Your adventure ends at the beach of Tulear - a great place to unwind. 

 

Check the day to day itinerary

Day 1 of 13

Start: Antananarivo
Destination: Antsirabe
Drive: 180 km | 4.5 hours

Your start on the famed RN7! Expect asphalt, windy roads passing rice paddies and small highland villages. You can have a good lunch stop at Coin de Foie Gras in Behenjy, or try a real authentic paella (we're not kidding), at El Torro in Ambutulampy.

Roadtrip Madagascar's favourite places to stay in Antsirabe: 

Budget: Camping allowed at Green Park and Madalief (out of town) 

Mid-range: Trianon (pictured) - €26/night, Madalief - €26/night

Deluxe: Couleur Café - €37/night

Restaurants: Chez Jenny and Zandina (best pizza), Trianon (classic French), Vatolahy (classic French) and Conterno (pastries and baguettes). 

Day 2 of 13

Enjoy: Antsirabe

Explore Antsirabe town and surroundings. Take a pousse pousse (the Malagasy version of the Asian rickshaw) tour to the craft workshops which are otherwise hard to find on your own. Hike or mountain bike around Lake Tritriva, an emerald green crater lake.

Antsirabe is considered the pousse pousse capital of the country. There are three major ''species''. The basic model is a cart pulled by a man. It may feel uncomfortable to be towed around by someone in this fashion, who may even be barefoot. But this is the driver's living, so your pay is most welcome. The cyclo-pousse, in which the cab is attached to a bicycle, is a step up, at least as far as the driver is concerned. And on top of the food chain is the kinga, the motorised pousse-pousse. 

Day 3 of 13

Start: Antsirabe
Destination: Ranamofana National Park
Drive: 227 km | 6 hours

Drive to Ranamofana National Park. It's another lovely windy road, passing highland villages, rice paddies and rainforest covered hills. Ambositra makes a good coffee stop. For those interested in community tourism and highland culture, this is an interesting region to linger around for longer. 

Our favourite picks: 

Budget: Camping allowed at park entrance, Ihary bungalows - €15/night

Mid-range: Setam Lodge - €30-50/night

Restaurant: Manja

Day 4 of 13

Enjoy: Ranamofana 

Ranamofana is a small but lively tropical town with a stunning riverside setting surrounded by rainforest-covered hills and the lovely scent of flowers in the air. It's the place to search for the golden bamboo lemur, only discovered in 1986. Park entrance costs €16 pp plus €31 per guide for a group up to four. Half of the proceeds go to the guide. A tip is still appreciated.

We were lucky on our hike, as we spotted a greater bamboo lemur, of which there are only two in the park. We also saw the golden bamboo lemur, red fronted brown lemur, Sifaka Eduardo, leaf tailed gecko, brookesia chamelon, paradise bird, queen fisher, a snake and leeches... 

 

Day 5 of 13

Start: Ranamofana National Park
Destination: Andringitra National Park
Drive: 153 km | 5.5 hours 

Drive to Andringitra National Park. Perhaps the most scenic drive thus far, especially beyond Ambalavao when the highland plateau gives way to deserted grassland with big sandstone massifs and distant horizons. Ambalavao is an interesting village to stop in and a base from which several community tourism initiatives are offered. 

The exit to Camp Catta and Tsara Tented Camp is 20 km after Ambalavao. Then it's 1 hour of off-road driving towards the park, with some rough parts. 

 

Our favourite picks: 

Budget: Camping allowed at Camp Catta 

Mid-range: Camp Catta, which has a natural pool (€27-€55/night), Tsara Tented Camp (€40/night), Varangue Betsileo, which has a swimming pool (€40/night). 

Day 6 of 13

Enjoy: Andringitra

If you like hiking, this is a breath taking area. Several hikes can be organised from the camps in this area, ranging from a few hours to multiple days. We did the real Andringitra, a tough full day walk up to the peak. Bring plenty of water, sunscreen and a hat, as the sun is remorseless. Consider factoring some extra days to complete the Imarivolanitra trekking (2-3 days).

Day 7 of 13

Start: Andringitra National Park
Destination: Isalo National Park
Drive: 212 km| 4 hours 

In case you were on a self-drive trip thus far, today you will meet your driver-guide at Ranohira. You're bush camping adventure starts! Say goodbye to asphalt, showers, toilets and restaurants... You will camp at the foothills of Isalo National Park.  

 

Day 8 of 13

Start: Isalo foothills
Destination: Beroroha
Drive: 6 hours 

Today we drive to Beroroha, a village at the Mangoky river deep in Isalo National Park. The scenery consists mainly of grassland area with rock formations. You'll camp at the outskirts of the village or close to the river bedding. 

 

Day 9 of 13

Today's destination is Berororo, a settlement deep inside the Makay. Its a full day of driving. The scenery is dominated by rock formations, canyons and river beddings. 

This is where we will set up our camp for the next few days. 

 

Day 10 of 13

Day hike into the wild Makay.  

Day 11 of 13

Day hike into the wild Makay. 

Day 12 of 13

We take a local ferry to Fanjakana, at the other side of Isalo. From here it's a day drive to Sakahara, dominated by beautiful panomaras, swamps and primary dry forest. Again, a beautiful road. 

Day 13 of 13

Start: Isalo National Park
Destination: Tulear
Drive: 237 km | 4 hours 

The wilderness experience has come to an end! It's a smooth 2 hour drive to Tulear. Enjoy the beach and the comfort of a clean shower and nice bed; you probably have a lot to digest and talk about.

You will hand over your rental car to your driver-guide and fly back to Antananarivo. Or, if you have the time, continue your journey and do the Grand Circuit. 

Our favourite places to stay in Tulear:

If you want to spoil yourself, there is no better place to do this than at Bakuba Concept (pictured), with swimming pool - €115-175/night 

Mid-range: Famata Lodge, with pool (€35/night), Residence Eden Lodge in Sarodrano fishing village (€35/night)

 

 

 

What to expect on this 4x4 bush camping adventure

Travel time and road conditions

A minimum of 13 days car rental is recommended for this trip to arrive at Tulear. If time is not on your side, you can speed up the first part from Tana to Isalo, and cover this in three days, stopping in Antsirabe and and Ambalavo. 

The Makay section (6 nights) cannot be shortened, but we can extend it to include more hiking days if you wish. And we imagine you might want to add a day or two at the beach in Tulear, before flying back to Tana... 

The RN7 is a smooth asphalt road; the dirt tracks in the Makay are bumpy and challenging with many shallow river crossings and rocky surfaces. 

 

Go to Travel time and road conditions

When to go & what to know

It is possible to do this trip between May and November. 

This is not a fully catered trip. Our guides are very helpful with setting up camp and helping out with cooking, but you're a team and do it together.  It's your own responsibly to stock up supplies and cater for your meals. We will brief you thoroughly on what to buy and where. 

Included in this trip is the car rental from Antananarivo to Tulear and the costs to bring back the car from Tulear to Tana, rooftop tent with a full set of camp gear, an experienced driver-guide for the Makay part and local guides and porters for the hikes into the Makay. There are no other companies that organise such wilderness experiences for couples/pairs only, and at this price. 

Go to When to go & what to know

Prices

Rest of year | May, June, October, November  

Price in Euros per vehicle. The Nissan Double Cab fits up to 4 adults, including driver. 

Price includes 13 days car rental, airport pick up, one-way drop off fee, 7 days driver-guide, local guide and porters in the Makay, rooftop tent with camping gear. 

Want to do the entire trip with driver-guide? Add €125.

  Nissan Double 
per car  3,775 

 

Peak season | July - September 

Price in Euros per vehicle. The Nissan Double Cab fits up to 4 adults, including driver. 

Price includes 13 day car rental, airport pick up, one-way drop off fee, 7 days driver-guide, local guide and porters in the Makay, rooftop tent with camp gear. 

Want to do the entire trip with driver-guide? Add €125.

  Nissan Double 
per car  3,925 

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Included on this road trip

Included

  • Camping gear
  • Mobile phone with local SIM
  • Roadmap and Bradt Travel Guide
  • Airport transfers
  • Comprehensive car insurance
  • Electrical fridge
  • Driver-Guide

Optional

  • Bed & Breakfast