In several guidebooks we read about this cool tour combining a river trip, and some of the many sights Madagascar is famous for:  lemurs, the stone forrest and the majestic baobab trees.

We were approached by different guides in Antsirabe and decided to take a chance with Desiré, whom we only knew from the phone, just because we had a good gut feeling with him…and because he spoke very good English.  😀

Day 1

Desiré picked us up in the morning together with another tour group that would join us on our first day travelling to Miandrivazo in a bright yellow bus. The other tour consisted of 4 french people and a belgian girl. Typically french, the french people ignored us and we had a bit of a chat with Laurence, the belgian girl. The 6-hour drive was quite uneventful apart from the fantastic countryside outside the windows.





When we arrived in Miandrivazo, we separated from the other group and were brought to our little hotel…to find out there was no running water at the moment….actually,  there hadn’t been any in some weeks. BUT they were going to bring us some buckets of water and we could take a bucket shower. Well…that’s Africa…you just go with the flow…


Miandrivazo was an appreciated change to Antsirabe: much more relaxed people and a friendly vibe.





Day 2

The next morning the rest of our tour came to meet up with us. All we knew was that we were expecting 4 french people to join us. When we saw our comrades for the next 6 days, we were quite surprised.  It was a couple and two ladies, all travelling together….the youngest about 65, her husband 77… 😯

We all drove a few kilometers to a small boat landing in a cute village. Not the kind of landing you know for big boats. This one was purely for the local canoes, made from a hollowed tree trunk, the “pirogue” or in madagascan “lakana”.



Our pirogue was charged with everything we would need during the next six days and in we got. Two tourists per boat, plus two boatmen each and Desiré in ours. In one boat we had Élisabeth and her husband Jeano, Andrée and Agnès in the other and we three in the last…plus the 3 live chickens of course that were meant as our dinner on one of the upcoming evenings.



And then we started down the Tsiribihina river with our three pirogues.
Our first stop was made for lunch. We called at a tiny village with lots of kids that were very keen on being photographed “Photo vazaha, photo!” they shouted over and over again. A “vazaha” is what the Madagasy people call a foreigner…most times white….but they called me so also…apart from the one guy that thought I was Indian….but that is another story….




Anyway, Desiré and his boatmen prepared our lunch at the beach and we enjoyed ourselves with the kids and got to know a bit about the french retirees that were exploring Madagascar for almost 3 months.



After lunch we travelled on until sunset when we landed at a pretty beach. Our tents were set up and our boatmen and guide cooked another fabulous meal for us. The moon was so bright,  we almost didn’t need flashlights.



Day 3

At five thirty our night was over. As there was no shade on the river and the boatmen had to work hard, Desiré wanted to leave as early as possible before the worst sun hit us.



We continued on the quiet river, enjoyed the changing scenery and were able to glimpse some madagascan fauna: brown lemurs and kingfishers. (Unfortunately too far away for good pictures)

And then when the heat became the most unbearable (Thankfully we had umbrellas to shade us at least a tiny bit), we took a break at a nice little waterfall. We cooled off, had the chance to clean-up and were served another fantastic lunch, prepared by the guys.





Unfortunately the sun had gotten to Agnes and a heat stroke made her feed the fish once we continued our journey on the river. As little entertainment, our boatmen and Desiré gave a nice performance of madagascan folklore.



Shortly before sunset we got to our “campsite”, a beach without any proper toilet bush close by…not really ideal if you are suffering from runny stomach…Let’s just say, I know what I am talking about!
And again, our tents were set up, we were fed a delicious dinner and got into our sleeping bags knowing the morning would start early. On a side note: people that know me, know I am not easily impressed by someone’s cooking..but you can tell by the colorful adjectives I am using for Desiré’s cooking….I REALLY liked it!




Day 4

After another hour in the pirogue we changed into a motor boat and bade farewell to our boatmen. The motor boat was….well…different. One part was packed with people, in the other part the engine was and the “pilots”…and we were in between, seated on bags of grains and rice. That engine was LOUD! Desiré announced we would have to take the boat for about five hours, which made the entire tour group groan….these turned into excruciating seven hours. A real suprise in the day was when Desiré suddenly undid a knot of a plastic bag and presented us with a lukewarm pasta salad that he had prepared in the morning. Served with canned sardines it was superb! And to top it off, after we had eaten, Desiré started dishing out the leftovers from the plastic bag to the boat pilots and the other passengers. Our gut feeling had been right. He was a good guy!

Abschied Bootsmänner







When the boat arrived at Belo-sur-Tsiribihina at last, we were met by carts drawn by Zebu, a madagascan kind of cow with a lump on its back. I must admit the first moments were fun, until I realized how tortured those poor animals were. And again, who knows me, knows I am not an animal lover, but even I felt bad for the beasts.


That night we slept at a small hotel in Belo.

Day 5

We spent most of the day being shaken around in a 4×4 on our way to the Tsingy Nationalpark. The roads (if one can actually call them so) were incredible. We needed six hours for 90 km…
When we arrived, we set up camp at a proper campsite this time, close to the small Tsingy. Before bedtime, we made a small night walk around the camp looking for chameleons.





Day 6

We met our guide for the day at 7 o’clock and drove another hour to the big Tsingy, again on awful roads! We started our hike first through green forest and then continued climbing in the spikey stone forest, accompanied by a guide that rubbed his poor tummy regularly and apologized for going into bushes every 20 minutes. Despite this, the hike was awesome and the big Tsingy is not comparable to anything else. We encountered the tiny night lemur – the mouse lemur – and saw brown and white lemurs – the sifaka – also. We had to grab into the stones at some points and our fear of hights was challenged a few times. It was a tiring climb, especially considering the heat and Andrée this time had to share her breakfast with the birds. But the five hour climb was great fun all in all.







After the hike we headed back to our campsite, had lunch, a short siesta and up we went for the second hike of the day in the small Tsingy. This stone forest is smaller as the name already says,  but not any less spectacular. We climbed through a stone labyrinth and saw all kinds animals, such as mongoose, centipedes and a beautiful red kingfisher. Only Agnes joined us on this tour, as the rest of the group was beat. We had an early night and slept like babies in our tents.





Day 7

Again we got up really early, packed up, had breakfast and got on a car ferry. After another whole day of driving, we got to the sacred baobab, the lovers baobab and shortly before sunset to the Avenue of the Baobabs. It was a grand moment to be there infront of these majestic trees. The begging kids were awfully annoying here and I was short of becoming violent. What also needs to be said is that all tour groups end here shortly before sunset…therefore one must not think that it’s a quiet little place to enjoy a view. It’s a wonderful sight, no question. But…there are a few “buts”.





After sunset we were driven to Morandava, where our tour ended and where we said goodbye to our french comrades and Desiré.


Normally this would be the end of this tale, but it wasn’t really the end of our little adventure.
To recuperate from the seven days roughing it, we had decided to pamper ourselves with a nice, spacious bungalow, surrounded by plants and with a pool. Well, we ended up taking turns playing nurse for one another,  as we both caught a severe case of Montezuma’s revenge…or in this case Madagascar’s revenge. One of us with quite a fever, the other close to dehydration. Maybe we should not have accepted our guide’s helping hand when climbing over rocks in the Tsingy…





Und des Beste an der ganzen G’schicht: Bayern is imma dabei!