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Cycling Madagascar in April 2017!

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Cycling Madagascar in April 2017!

Hey fellow bikepackers!

I will be cycling around Madagascar this April and am looking for some cool travel buddies to join me on an adventure of a lifetime.

I fly into Antananarivo on the 2nd of April and will head west first and then switch down south along RN7 before I leave on the 28th from Toliara.

Highlights of the trip will include:
- Sunset at Allee des Baobabs
- Searching for amazing wildlife in Tsingy National Park and Ranomafana National Park
- Hiking the canyons of Isalo National Park
- Paragliding in Andringitra National Park
- Scuba diving on the Great Reef

I will be staying in guesthouses along the way but also camping in the national parks. Food will be picked up from street stalls while passing towns so there is no need for cooking stoves.

Anyway, please don't hesitate to get in touch if you want to come explore one of the best countries on the planet for nature and outdoor lovers.

Cheers,

Peter

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Peter, I'd strongly encourage

Peter, I'd strongly encourage you not to get your hopes up so much about seeing incredible nature, at least not anywhere you will go on the bike. My wife and I cycled across Madagascar three years ago, and we were aghast at how little nature there was left. Deforestation has reduced so much of the island to a treeless wasteland, and wherever we saw remaining forest we also saw loggers hard at work. Even in the national parks there is occasionally illegal logging going on in plain sight (lots of political corruption there, the authorities often look the only way as the trees are shipped off to China in exchange for kickbacks). Madagascar was nothing like the idyllic place we expected from guidebooks published in the preceding years.

We were also happy to have our own stove and be able to cook our own meals, because in the small towns often the only food available is plain white rice with a scrawny bit of chicken on it.

You won't always be allowed to camp in the national parks. Though we would have liked to pitch our tents, we were directed several times to paid lodging (which was still affordable).

Another piece of advice: buy some Nivea suncream from a Shoprite supermarket (one of the big posh ones for the local upper classes and expats) before you set out from Antananarivo, because it is very difficult to find elsewhere in the country. There are some locally produced sun creams for Malagasy people, but they are not strong enough to prevent white people from burning severely, and with very little shade in most parts you're going to be in the sun a lot.

Also, make sure you are using the latest Bradt guide. The economic crisis that hit Madagascar five or so years ago resulted in the closing of a lot of guesthouses that appeared in earlier editions.

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Hi Chris,

Hi Chris,

Thanks for your message. I've had a few other bikepackers reach out to me and most have had only positive things to say about Madagascar. but it's good to keep expectations low due to the rampant deforestation and habitat loss.

So did you do any camping at all there? Is it worth bringing my tent? What were your thoughts on security/theft along the way?

Cheers,

Peter

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You should bring a tent. In

You should bring a tent. In some of the villages we stopped in, we were shown to a room for the night for 2–3 euro. However, the mattress was filthy (possibly bedbug-ridden) and there was no mosquito net, so we very much preferred to just pitch the inner layer of our MSR Hubba Hubba 2 tent on the floor.

We didn’t feel any concerns about security. Malagasy society outside of Antananarivo struck us as remarkably peaceful, a fact underlined by all the longtime NGO workers we met in the country. (The exception was some traditional cattle rustling in the south that foreigners once got caught up in, but that’s very rare.) In Antananarivo, you should watch out for pickpockets in the city center – they aren’t subtle at all about trying to get into your pockets – but outside the capital is a completely different world and you don’t have to be so worried.

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Ok that's great to hear

Ok that's great to hear security is okay!

How did you go about getting from the airport in Tana with your bike? Did you take a taxi or just ride into the city? Also, were bike boxes available for sale at Tana airport for your return flight or did you manage to find one in Tana?

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We assembled our bikes at the

We assembled our bikes at the airport and cycled into Tana. The road was pretty straightforward on my GPS and the landscape very flat. Not so many cars in the country, either. The only downside is Tana’s immense air pollution.

Don’t expect to find any bike boxes in Madagascar. We actually spent several weeks in Tana before we flew out and were able to search far and wide for them, but no luck. Instead, we went to the market and bought one of those gigantic Chinese woven-plastic bags and a large amount of foam that we could wrap around the disassembled bike. Air Madagascar took the result without a complaint.

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Route suggestions

Hi there,

I'm thinking of spending July and August 2018 cycling in Madagascar. For the first leg of the trip, I am wondering how feasible it is to ride the North Eastern section, that is from Toamasina to Maroantsetra, then to Antahala, and up to Iharana. All this subject to weather conditions, river crossings, etc. I read that guides need to be contracted to move around national parks, like in Masoala. Does it also mean that to go there by bicycle a guide is needed, or you can just go on your own?

Thank you.