Visiting National Parks in Madagascar on a Budget
The word unmissable is used too much when it comes to travel advice but many of the best national parks in Madagascar live up this this billing. There are even national parks within relatively easy reach of Antananarivo which would be possible to visit on only a short visit to Madagascar. The other national parks are on various parts of the island with certain ones very close to the main routes while others are so far flung that either three days on a camion brousse or a flight is needed to get there. Below, I’ll talk you through visiting national parks in Madagascar on a budget.
From a cost point of view public transport will at least take you close to many of the national parks where it may be necessary to take a taxi or transfer to the park of your choice. The exception here is Tsingy de Bemaraha in the west where it is necessary to rent a vehicle to reach the park.
Visiting national parks such as Andasibe, Isalo, and Ranomafana is relatively easy, they are all on main routes and can be reached by taxi brousse from the capital. Other reserves like Berenty in the southwest can be reached by camion brousse from the southeast city of Tulear which runs to Fort Dauphin. For Berenty it is even possible to get off the camion brousse in the town of Amboasary and take a taxi up to the entrance. If you do this make sure to ring Berenty before leaving in the taxi as they can be sticklers when it comes to letting in cars that aren’t on their list.
Which ever national park you plan on visiting it is just a matter of finding out which transport gets you closest and then organising things from there. This has the potential to save a lot of money as, when it comes to visiting national parks in Madagascar on a budget, the need to book through an agency, rent a vehicle or buy a costly flight may be avoided. Ranomafana and Andasibe can be reached from Antananarivo in a day while some like Isalo can take longer at around 20 hours by taxi brousse. The trip to Isalo could be broken up by stopping in the highland city of Fianarantsao for a night.
National parks in Madagascar require you to have an official guide and this is not optional. In Makay national park I ended up with two guides. The first one, Hery, organised the trip and spoke French and a guide from the local Bara tribe, Narinda, had to accompany us within the park. Narinda didn’t speak much French but knew this vast park very well so we did’t get lost too often! Guides will sometimes approach you in hotels or as you get off the bus but if you book this way be sure to check they are official. They should have an ID badge stating they are affiliated to a particular park. As of 2019 Guide fees can be up to 20 euro for a full day or less than that if its only part of a day or evening.
There is also also a daily entrance fee to be paid at the park entrance for each day required. This varies from park to park but generally is in the region of 10-20 euro per day.
Costs may add up if you visit national parks but expense can be kept down by not using an agency and using public transport. It is worth keeping in mind these parks contain some of the most unique animals and landscape I have ever seen and are cheap in comparison to the entrance fees of parks in other African countries so when you are there it is worth spending time in these wonderful places. This a brief rundown of the methods of visiting national parks in Madagascar on a budget, but for more involved information such as how to visit the Makay Massif Madagascar feel free to contact me.