On the motor bike: Tana - Mahanoro - Nosy Varika - Mananjary

Tour Description


Quick overview

  1. Antananarivo (Tana)
  2. Mahanoro (Taomasina)
  3. Mahanoro
  4. Nosy Varika
  5. Mananjary
  6. Fianarantsoa
  7. Ambositra
  8. Antananarivo

1.2 From Tana to Taomasina

Manfred guided us out of town to find road nr. 2. Tana is large and crowded and they don't have signs on every corner to show you the way. So you will appreciate his help. We, together with Anke and Joachim from Germany, had our stop at Hotel Feon 'ny Ala near the parc National d' Andasibe Mantadia. The national park is worth a visit. If you want a good guide, check him or her out before you enter the park.

From Taomasina you can arrange a boat trip on Canal des Pangalanes to Akanin 'ny Nofy, where you will find nice bungalows on the shore of the lake (Bush house, Hotel Pangalanes and a new upscale hotel). You have to put your motorbike on a separate transport boat. This boat needs about 6 hours to get there and you will be brought there in about 2 hours.

You can also go by motorbike to Akanin 'ny Nofy. In a small village, about 33 km from Brickaville you will find a sign (on the right site of the road) to Akanin 'ny Nofy. This new road was still under construction at the time, we went there, but will be finished in December 2004. It is about 27,5 km long and the quality of the road is good (except two nasty bridges, which we had to cross, but wood was already there to build a new one). It is impossible to do this road after rain fall. The clay will fill up the profile of your tire. This makes driving like running up a soap hill. So you have to wait until the road is completely dry and no pools on the road are left (or take a boat). Be aware of the fact that rain on the east coast is not unusual the whole year long.

This road ends when you reach the beach. On the right site you will see the new upscale hotel nearby. After this hotel you will find Bush-house. We went to Hotel Pangalanes, on the left site. This looks better than Bush-house and is less expensive. Le Palmarium is a small private but very attractive reserve nearby.

2.3 From Taomasina to Mahanoro

If you skip Akanin 'ny Nofy, you can drive it in one day. From Taomasina to Brickaville the road is not always good, so you have to watch out for holes in the pavement. After Brickaville the road is very good.

The best place to stay in Mahanoro is "Le Tropicana". It has bungalows near the beach and a restaurant along the main street. To find the restaurant, just follow the (only) paved street in town. When it is closed, keep following this road. Take, after a S-curve a sandy road to the left. At the end of this road you will find the bungalows. José and Viviane are the owners of "Le Tropicana". They did a good job in finding a boat to Nosy Varika: Address: Mahanord 510, Tel/Fax.: 00261205390133

3.4 From Mahanoro to Nosy Varika

Arranging a boat is crucial for this round trip. You can wait for a transport boat that goes to Nosy Varika. This will cost you about 100.000 to 150.000 Fmg/person and maybe some extra for your motorbike. The boat from Nosy Varika to Mananjary can easily be arranged when you are in Nosy Varika. Between Masomelota and Nosy Varika, the river is not very deep. For that reason transport between these two villages is limited. In our case, after two days it was still not clear when the next boat would leave to Nosy Varika. (There are two "harbours" in Mahanoro where you can ask.) We decided to arrange a special transport. José brought us in contact with people, who own one ore more boats. We paid 1.800.000 Fmg for this trip, based on 150 liter of petrol needed for this trip. In fact they only need a maximum of 75 liter petrol to go to Nosy Varika (including the return trip). So we think that a reasonable price shout be somewhere between 1.4 and 1.5 Mio Fmg.

If you can get a good arrangement, you can go to Masomeloka by motorbike. This is possible according the locals, but check the road before you decide to go! It takes about 4,5 hours to get to Masomeloka. Transport to Nosy Varika should be discussed with the major of Masomeloka. It is a bit unlikely that you can negotiate a better price and you will miss the most beautiful part of the boat trip. In Masomeloka you can find a "Hotely", but not a Hotel. We got 4 people on board, 2 boatmen, a French speaking guide and the spoiled son of the boat owner. The guide and especially the son expected us to pay for their cigarettes, cola, lunch, dinner and so on. Because we paid enough for this trip, we decided that they had to pay everything by themselves. It is better to make an agreement on this when you negotiate the boat price.

Do not worry about getting the motorbike on and off board. People are used to carry goods and you can always find some extra help. You have to arrange extra help before you start to carry the motorbike because you have to pay them as well.
The trip takes about 12 hours (short lunch and quick stops included). So it is good to leave early so you will arrive with day light.
We had to pay the son on arrival. He discussed the price and he did not know about our advanced payment for the petrol. We had a signed contract with his father so we could easily end this discussion!
In Nosy Varika you will find a good hotel very near the harbour.

4.5 From Nosy Varika to Mananjary

Finding a boat to Mananjary is not a big problem. You can also go by motorbike as we did. The road is good according to the locals. Again, for you it is only good when the road is completely dry! It takes about a day to get there by motorbike.

5.6 From Mananjary to Fianarantsoa

This road was under construction so it will be well paved once you are there. The route is nice and you can have a stop in Ranomafana to visit the park in the evening and/or morning. We liked it. but in Park d’ Andasibe, Mantadia, we have seen more.

6.7 From Fianarantsoa to Ambositra

Before we went to Ambositra, we went a bit south to visit the Sahambavy Tea Estate. The route to Ambositra is nice and good. Ambositra is a tourist town due to the wood work, you can buy there.

7.8 From Ambositra to Tana

The road to Antsirabe is the most interesting part of this route.


We met a group of three motorbike drivers. One had to push his motorbike to get his engine started. And other motorbike had a rear tyre without any profile! Our motor was maybe a bit old, but well maintained (for example, we had a new rear tire).

After the motorbike tour we did a organised tour that we can recommend as well. In this tour you will decent the Tsiribihinia river by pirogue (traditional wooden boat) for three days. Visit a waterfall and go over land by Zebru car and a 4x4. You will visit the Tsingy de Bemaraka and see the baobabs. This tour starts in Antsirabe and ends in Morondava. It takes 7 days in total. Have a look at their web site. Theo, the organiser of this tour looks very well after his customers. The food is prepared according to our western standards. We met also people who arranged their own tour. They paid more for less comfort! You can find this agency in Antsirabe next to the hotel "Ville d’eau".

Do not buy the Madagascar map of "International travel maps" because of the poor quality.

VISA is the more accepted credit card compared to Mastercard! The information in the Lonely Planet is wrong at that point. We didn’t find a ATM for a Mastercard but some banks (BFV-SG and the bank of Africa) do accept it. They have to validate the card with a fax procedure (this can take a day).

The BFV-SG and the BTM bank accepts cash payments against Travel Cheques although the BFV-SG did not accept $100 and the €500 cheques at the time we where in Madagascar. The BTM bank is not so common as the BFV-SG bank.

Buy your souvenirs where you can find them. For example you will find plenty of vanilla on the market in Toamasina but not in other places, we have seen.

Total stay in Madagascar: 9th of October until 6th of November
Period of motor tour: 9th of October until 24th of October 2004
Motor bike: Transalp with two aluminium side boxes
Group: Sylvia Brinkman and Hugo van der Sluys on one bike
Nationality: Dutch
Amount of kilometres: 1850
Exchange rate: 1€ = 12.500 Fmg = 2.500 Ariary
Price gasoline: 1 liter = 9.000 Fmg
Weather: 2 days of rain (on the east coast)