The tropical extension

The Tropical extension

The East is the most tropical part of Madagascar. Famous for the Canal the Pangalanes. Created by the French in the colonial times as the water highway of the east coast, it now boasts some fine lake resorts. Mahambo is a laid-back village with excellent beaches overhung by coconut palms and consistent surf spots. From here you can take the ferry to Ile Sainte Marie. From June to September, this bounty island is the best place in Madagascar for whale-watching

Scroll down below to see the day-to- day route with tips on places to stay, so that you can book the accommodation yourself. 

Check the day to day itinerary

Day 1 of 6

Your roadtrip starts on the RN2 to Andasibe, a smooth asphalt road. It is a lovely drive, through rainforest covered hills.You bypass down town Tana completely via the ring road. The RN2 is the most important road of the country, connecting Tana with the port of Tamatave, so it can be busy with slow trucks. Be aware of dangerous overtaking on the windy roads.  Coq d'Or in Moramanga is a good coffee stop ( try their eclairs! ) or lunch break. 

180 km | 3,5 hours

Roadtrip Madagascar's favourite lodges in Andasibe:

Budget: Feon' Ny Ala, €12-23. 

Mid-range: Grace Lodge, € 28

Restaurants: Feon' Ny Ala, especially their Chinese dishes

Day 2 of 6

Andasibe is the prime location to search for the Indri Indri. With it's surprised teddy-bear face it looks more like a gone-wrong panda than a lemur. If you don't see them ( 99% chance you will), you will for sure hear them. They make an eerie, wailing sound that carries for kilometres. Each Indri Indri only cries up to three times a day as it cost them so much energy. It is really mind blowing to be a witness of this ritual. 

You can do between 2 - 4 hour walks in Andasibe to search for the lemurs. It is not strenuous. Mantadia National Park is 20km up north, much bigger and more for the hiking enthusiast. 

Day 3 of 6

You continue on the RN2. The landscape becomes even more tropical, dominated by traveller palms and coco plantations. Manambato is a small fishing village on the white sandy shores of Lake Rasoabe and the gateway to the Pangalanes canal. The last 7 km to Manambato village is a very rough 4x4 dirt road, that takes 45 minutes.

Park your car at Orania lodge if you take the boat to Palmarium or Bush House. Its a 45 min boat ride to both lodges, inform them in advance. 

135 km | 3,5 hours 

Roadtrip Madagascar's favourite stays along the Pangalanes canal: 

Budget: Acacia Bungalows in Manambato village, € 21

Mid-range: Palmarium € 50, Bush House € 50. The boat ride costs € 75 one way, taking up to 4 people. € 15 is added for every extra person. 

 

 

Day 4 of 6

Explore the lakes and the Pangalanes canal. Get your Lemur ''fix'' at Palmarium and visit the Aye Aye island. 

Palmarium lodge is situated on an peninsula where they have a small forest reserve with a wide variety of palms and 9 different species of tame lemurs. You can feed and touch them. Yes, it is touristy, some will love it, some will not. Yet, to be so close with these very gentle and funny creatures is indeed special. Just make sure you don't start with this experience, before you have done lemur trekking in the wild....We thought the Aye Aye visit was disappointing.

Day 5 of 6

The drive to Mahambo  takes 4,5 hours. Factor in an additional hour for the boat ride if you stayed at Palmarium or Bush House. Up to Tamatave (2 hours), the road is good. After Tamatave, the RN2 becomes the notorious  RN5...But not to worry, up to Mahambo it is still asphalt, only with many putholes. Make sure to have lunch in Tamatave at La Terrasse. This lively Spanish bar - restaurant does terrific lunch and dinner, for bargain prices. Menu is classic French and Spanish. 

138 km  | 4,5 hours 

Our favourite picks in Mahambo: 

Budget: Hibiscus € 15 

Mid-range: La Piroque € 30 ( see picture) 

Day 6 of 6

Drop off your car and take the ferry to the postcard perfect island of Ile Sainte Marie and fly back.Or spend some more time enjoying the good surf and palm fringed beaches of Mahambo and drive back to Tana.

The ferry departs walking distance from la Piroque and you can reserve your tickets at the lodge. The crossing takes about 2 hours. The weather is unpredictable at the East coast and the sea can be rough. Therefore, its not a guarantee that the ferry goes every day, and the crossing can be cancelled at last minute notice. However, it is no punishment to than enjoy yourself at the lovely beach of Mahambo and give it a try the next day. 

Our favourite picks in Ile Sainte Marie 

Mid-range: Crique | Libertalia 

Deluxe: Princess Bora 

What to expect on this self drive adventure?

Travel time and road conditions

When done as a one way rental, 6 days is recommended. We collect your roadtrip rental car from Mahambo, from where the ferry departs to the picture perfect island of Ile Sainte Marie. The crossing takes 2 hours. The weather is unpredictable at the East coast and the sea can be rough. Therefore, its not a guarantee that the ferry goes every day. 

The costs to collect and bring back the car to Tana are forwarded to the hirer. This is € 165 (3 day driver fee, bus ticket, fuel) + 1 rental day. 

The RN2 is a windy asphalt road all the way to Tamatave and in pretty good condition. The exit to Manambato, the gateway to the Canal de Pangalanes, is a rough dirt track. From Tamatave up north, you will tackle a part of the notorious RN5, featured in such series as BBC's the World's Most Dangerous Roads and the Landrover Camel Trophey. But not to worry, up to Mahambo, it is still asphalt, only with many potholes.

Go to Travel time and road conditions

When to see the whales in Madagascar?

The tropical Extension is possible to travel from April to December.

Weather is unpredictable at the east coast. Days of rains and wind can be interspersed with calm, sunny weather throughout the year.It is always warm though. The most stable months tend to be June, and August till December. 

July - September is the best time to see humpback whales at Ile Sainte Marie, but you could also be lucky in June and October. 

 

Go to When to see the whales in Madagascar?

Prices

Rest of year | April - June, Oct- Dec) 

Price per vehicle, in euro's. The Nissan X-Trail and Double Cab fits up to 4 adults. 

Price includes 6 day car rental, airport pick up, one-way drop-off fee. 

Want to do the Tropical Extension with the company of a driver - guide? Add € 150

  Nissan X-trail  Nissan Double Cab 
Per car  € 648 € 858

Peak season | July - September

Price per vehicle, in euro's. The Nissan X-Trail and Double Cab fits up to 4 adults. 

Price includes 6 day car rental, airport pick up, one-way drop-off fee. 

Want to do the Tropical Extension with the company of a driver - guide? Add € 150

  Nissan X-trail  Nissan Double Cab 
Per car  € 718 € 928

Create & Book

Make this road trip yours. Hire a 4x4 and Drive Your Own Adventure.

Secure your vehicle

Included

  • Roadmap and Bradt Travel Guide

Optional

  • Driver-Guide
  • Electrical fridge