riding on Ambila beach Madagascar
cantering across Madagascar
horse riding on Ambila coast Madagascar beaches
horse in the forest of Madagascar
riding in the sea Madagascar
riding to Ambila coast Madagascar on horseback
trail riding in Madagascar
group of horse riders in the Indian Ocean Madagascar
lemurs on a horse riding holiday in Madagascar
horse riding across the plains of Madagascar
horses crossing rivers in Madagascar
horse riding through villages in Madagascar
meeting locals on horse riding holiday in Madagascar
horses in the sea Madagascar
Madagascan culutre on horse riding holiday
view of Indian Ocean from Ambila horse riding holiday
Our adventurous horse riding holidays in Madagascar have been developed with the aid of Christina Dodwell, prominent explorer and philanthropist, and the routes have evolved over the past few years. This itinerary explores the coastal beaches and plains visiting small fishing villages. We are mounted on good quality local horses, descended from racehorses bred by the royal family, and immersed into the little known culture of Madagascar. This is a pioneering trip and many inhabitants of the villages en-route have rarely encountered non-Malagasy or horses.

En-route our accommodation is in small local hotels where available and includes nights under canvas where necessary. This holiday gives riders the chance to appreciate the rare and exotic lemurs only found in Madagascar, with a visit to the lemur park where they are conserved and protected. The trail also leads very far off the beaten track as riders will see parts of Madagascar unreachable by many other tourists. The riding terrain includes beaches, lush forests, hot springs and lagoons, as well as occasional traditional villages. There is no better way to get to know the gentle and welcoming Malagasy people.

There are no reviews for this holiday at the moment

Day 1
Depart home, bound for Antananarivo, Madagascar. To accommodate airport transfers it is best to try and connect with Air France departing from Paris at 11.35 am and landing in Ivato International airport at 11.05pm. You will be met at the airport and transferred the short ten minute drive to The Riviera Garden Hotel (or similar) where you will spend the first night and rest for the adventure ahead.

Day 2
After your first taste of Malagasy hospitality and a delicious breakfast, you will be met at the hotel at approximately 9am by your hosts. Before starting the journey you will have the opportunity to obtain some Malagasy Ariary, please note that it may not be possible to physically change money in Tana over the weekend, but ATM’s are widely available in the city. You will also have the opportunity to visit the supermarket if there are any last minute products you may need for the trail.
Leaving the hustle and bustle of Tana behind you will travel towards the coast. The road winds steadily through luscious green vegetation, the scenery changing from the dry volcanic mountain highlands to the lush rainforest. After stopping for lunch at Moramanga (famous for sapphire mining and you might purchase a few from a street vendor!) the journey continues arriving at Feony’ny Ala at the edge of the rainforest where you will spend the night.
In the afternoon you will travel to Vakona Lodge to visit the Lemur Reserve where you have the opportunity to engage in contact with the Lemurs, you may find yourself walking through the reserve with a little friend hitching a lift on your shoulder! Overnight at Feony’ny Ala hotel (or similar).

Day 3
We awaken completely disorientated to a friendly greeting from the lemur inhabitants of the reserve, before leaving to join the horses already prepared for us the day before in Brickaville. We travel along the national road n ° 2, winding and decscending the steep cliffs in stages towards the east coast (be aware for those prone to car sickness!). Free lunch (not included) in Brickaville, before meeting your new horses. Crossing the Canal Des Pangalanes is sure to get the adrenaline pumping, perched 20m above the water you will cross along the “pont-la voie”, a railway bridge offering unparalleled views of the Canal. With today’s adventures completed you have the opportunity to bathe in the waters of the Indian Ocean and feel the sand between your toes as the next three nights are spent camping on the beaches of Ambila. Camping at Ambila.

Day 4
Emerge from your tent to clear blue skies and the sounds of the Indian Ocean lapping at the sandy shore. The adventure continues as you ride along sandy tree-lined tracks sandwiched between the waves of the Indian Ocean and the calm waters of the Canal des Pangalanes. Be prepared to get your feet wet as you ride across the lagoon. The beautiful sandy tracks offer ample opportunity for endless unforgettable canters as you make your way to the estuary of Fleuve Rianala and the Indian Ocean, where you will reach Le bout du Monde…….the end of the world, the most easterly point of your ride!
After lunch in the village of Andovoranto at Les Cocotiers restaurant, you have the opportunity to ride to the end of the world and marvel at the wondrous sight of the mergence of the calm waters with the mighty waves of the sea. Returning to camp, if time permits you will have the opportunity to swim with your horse in the peaceful, calm lagoon waters of the Canal des Pangalanes where warm water springs from deep below the Earth’s surface, massaging and soothing tired legs and muscles! Camping at Ambila. Camp on the seashore.
 
Day 5
You will ride towards the north today on tracks ideal for long uninterrupted canters, enjoy the immense feeling of freedom beneath the warm caress of the Malagasy sun! The route today follows the edge of the forest, nestled between the sandy white beaches and the main Tana – East Coast railway. Be careful of branches as you and your horse travel at speed!
After a hot and fast ride enjoy refreshing coconut water straight from the fruit as you reach your destination of Vavony. Wander through this beautiful traditional fishing village situated on the shores of Lake Rasoabe, fishing nets and appareil decorating the trees, pirogues cutting seamlessly through the waters.
Return at a steady pace to camp for a delicious lunch and an afternoon to spend as you wish…..perhaps you would like to walk with your horse along the crashing waves of the shore, bathe in the Indian Ocean, laze on the golden sands or maybe even enjoy a trip on the Canal in a traditional pirogue. Camping at Ambila.

Day 6 
The last ride, a bittersweet day as you begin your return journey to Tana, but what an adventure you have had!! Once again you traverse the Canal des Pangalanes by the “pont-la voie”. After four days in the fresh sea air the horses are energized and ready to give you some final memorable canters as you leave the Coast and the Indian Ocean behind. On reaching the main road once again it is time to say goodbye to your four legged companion as they return to the peace and tranquillity of the Ambila Coast for a well-deserved rest. From the saddle to the car you make the return journey traversing the lush green hills and valleys to Tana stopping for lunch along the way. 6/7hours by car. Overnight at the Riviera Garden Hotel (or similar).

Day 7
Depart for home. Most flights depart late around midnight and the day is a free to explore Tana and marvel at some of Madagascar’s most famous products such as vanilla and rum or local art and silk. Rummage through the craft markets for some authentic souvenirs and enjoy the views of this bustling city before departing for the airport to commence the journey home, taking some very special memories with you.

Please follow this link for a map of the start point of this itinerary: Madagascar Trail

ABOUT THE TRIP
Madagascar is famous for the diversity of plant and animal species found there, 70% of which are found nowhere else. Gerald Durrell was one of the first to bring the world's attention to Madagascar. The diversity of its habitats are due to its total isolation as an island a fair way off the mainland of the already poor continent of Africa. No-one simply passes through Madagascar and precious few come specially to visit.

This geographical isolation also goes a long way to explaining the poverty and unchanged way of living of the people. The Malagasy people live life much as they have done for centuries and are guided by innumerable superstitions and beliefs which vary from one village to another. Once one steps 50 yards off a road (which is likely to be a remote dirt track), one could be back in medieval times. Oxen are commonly used for transport and ploughing fields. There are very few roads and even these are impassable for large parts of the year. The majority of this vast country is served only by tracks. There are some native horses in Madagascar mainly used for transport. This trail will allow us to see village life as we could in no other way.

FOLLOWING THE INAUGURAL RIDE
In May/June 2010 Wendy Hofstee, veterinary surgeon and founder of Unicorn Trails and Christina Dodwell, well known explorer, author, broadcaster and founder of the Dodwell Trust, both Fellows of the Royal Geographical Society and members of the Long Riders Guild, pioneered a horseback trail to the wild and remote centre of Madagascar. They were accompanied by a brave band of explorers who rode days of up to 10hrs and were rewarded by being the first westerners many villagers had ever seen. Riding through rainforests, volcanic regions with crater lakes, hot springs, waterfalls and traditional villages, the expedition pioneered (by the second round) a beautiful and sustainnable route which show cases some of the best scenery and remote villages of Madagascar.

While the trail has been set, improvements continue to be made. This is not yet the faultless smooth luxury that other African safaris offer and will continue to be for riders of an adventurous and flexible nature. These trails will help the develop sustainable ecotourism, create employment and improve the living standards of people and horses in the region. Tours will continue to support Dodwell trust projects.

ABOUT CHRISTINA DODWELL

Christina Dodwell
Born in Nigeria Christina became known as an explorer after her 3-year journey in Africa 1975 - 1978. This was followed by 2 years visiting remote tribes in Papua New Guinea and many other journeys spanning 20 years. She was awarded the Mungo Park Medal by the Royal Scottish Geographical Society in 1989.
Christina is listed in Debretts' People of Today and Who's Who. She has written 9 books which have been translated into 5 languages. She has made 3 television films and over 40 radio documentary programmes for BBC Radio 4 – several have received distinguished merit awards.
She has given lectures at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, the Explorers Club in New York, the Royal Geographical Society in London, and the Royal Scottish Geographical Society in Edinburgh.
For 15 years she worked as Senior Attaché for the Consulate of Madagascar in London, and 12 years ago she founded The Dodwell Trust, a charity dedicated to the country and people of Madagascar.

Unicorn Trails is a long standing advocate of responsible travel and is well known for supporting community and eco-tourism projects. Ms Hofstee uses her veterinary background to ensure tourism income benefits local communities and feeds through to improved condition of horses in tourism. We are very proud to be able to work with the Dodwell Trust to promote sustainable tourism in Madagascar. Please visit www.unicorntrails.com/More/ResponsibleTravel.html for more details.

Reading List
We're avid readers here at Unicorn Trails and have selected several books connected to this ride. If you're interested in reading more about the area before you travel, or want to get into the cultural background, here are some suggestions that may inspire you. Click on the links for more information

Madagascar (Bradt Travel Guide) - Hilary Bradt. A comprehensive coverage of all things Mada.
Madagascar Travels - Christina Dodwell

 

Please note: All itineraries are given for your guidance only and it may be altered on the ground and in accordance with the prevailing conditions by the organising team.

Horses & Riding

Thoroughbred and local crossbreeds are utilised. Horses in Madagascar have long been the playthings of royalty and primarily utilised for horse racing. The local horses have been improved with boerperd and thoroughbred stallions in recent years. They are in surprisingly good condition for such a poor country. All the horses are kind-natured, willing and used to the terrain and pace of riding. The tack is in very good condition and is English style. The horses are well looked after, groomed and fed, of an even temprement and pleased to accept treats. They are looked after by the grooms. Riders are welcome to assist with this if they wish.

Rider requirements

Riders should be able to walk, trot and canter confidently and be able to mount and dismount unaided. The riding includes swimming across a river and some faster riding. An adventurous nature and interest in nature and different cultures is essential. The riding days are long and towards the end of the season the weather can be warm, so fitness and familiarity with long hours in the saddle is essential. Some experience of camping is helpful.
This trip is not suitable for children and the minimum age is 18.

Please note that Madagascar is not a sophisticated tourist destination and an appetite for exploration and a flexible nature is required to ride here, the rewards are many!

Weight Limit

The weight limit for this ride is 13 st/187 lb/85 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.

The local hotels are simple and selected for quality of location, food and service. In Tana this equates to about 3 stars, in smaller towns more like 2 stars. All have en-suite or shared bathrooms and hot water is promised each night. For the camping portion the luggage is transported. The camp is set up by support staff and the chef prepares fresh meals for us using local produce. Dome tents are used and sleeping bag and mat

 are provided.

Vegetarian or other dietary requirements can be accommodated with advanced notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests.

Climate Summary

Rainy season begins around the end of November and lasts until April. Cyclones occur from mid-January to mid March and are particularly prevalent in February. Apart from February, Madagascar is a popular year round destination with peaks at Easter, Christmas and July/August. A particularly good time of year to visit Madagascar is May/June or September – November. This is just before the start of the rainy season and there aren't too many travellers about and it's not too hot.

Climate Chart

Health (ride specific)

Anti-malarial precautions must be taken at certain times of year, please seek medical advice.

Film and Camera Equipment

There will be an opportunity to recharge camera and other equipment on hotel nights. Other than that we recommend solar chargers and reusable batteries or bring spares.

Packing List

Please pack your luggage in a soft bag as this is more practical than a hard suitcase.
Your hand luggage should be the largest allowable and put in it the things you need for the first few days (in case of delayed baggage arrival).

Clothing: It is hot in the daytime and can be very cold at night so layers of lightweight warm clothing are best.
Cotton long sleeved shirt, short-sleeved shirts and T-shirts.
Baggy lightweight trousers
Jeans or trousers for riding
Lightweight sweaters, one warm
Fleece
Jacket

Footwear: trainers and comfortable riding shoes/boots
Socks - one warm pair for chilly nights

Riding hat
Bradt Guide book
Penknife, safety pins, tweezers, lipsalve, dental floss, sunglasses
Alarm clock
Spare pair of reading glasses if used
Sleeping bag and sleeping mat - provided as needed. The sleeping bags are light, so a thermo silk liner is a good idea.
Torch or head-torch, with batteries (batteries are expensive in Mada)
Camera and film.

Jungle formula mosquito repellent with 50% DEET recommended
Sun block
Basic First Aid kit
Bring any medication you may need to use.
A roll of insulating tape or gaffer tape is useful for repairs to things
Book to read
Money belt
Passport - make two photocopies of the identity pages, leave one copy at home, keep the other copy in your luggage.
Photocopy of your air ticket.
Travellers Cheques in £ sterling/US$ or Euros, with some small denominations if using
Credit card: VISA cards are usually accepted. Mastercard is not accepted except for a few banks in Tana.
Mobile phone: it is possible to buy a local SIM card, reception is available at some point on most days.

Please do not bring any valuables; leave your jewellery at home.

If you are flying with Air France they offer a free double baggage allowance. The Dodwell Trust always needs more donated items taken to Madagascar from the UK. If you are willing to take an extra suitcase on your free allowance (leaving room for souvenirs on the return journey), then let us know and we will arrange for an unlocked suitcase to be delivered to you before your departure date. A representative from the Dodwell trust will then meet you at the airport on arrival to collect the suitcase.

Programmes

This is a 7 day/6 night itinerary with 4 days riding on set dates throughout the year. Additional dates are available on request for groups of 4 or more.

Departure Dates

2017: 24 (FULL) Apr; 12, 26 Jun; 17 Jul; 10 (FULL) Aug; 11 (FULL), 23 Sept; 3 (FULL), 14 Oct; 4 Nov; 23, 30 Dec.
2018: 7, 28 Apr; 12, 26 May; 23 Jun; 21 Jul; 18 Aug; 8, 22 Sept; 6, 20, 27 Oct; 17 Nov; 8, 22, 29 Dec. Other dates available on request

Pricing
No single supplement payable if willing to share with someone of same sex. Should you wish to book a single room, please see supplement price below.


No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description £
20177d/6n4double pp1,065
20177d/6n4single supplement175
20187d/6n4double pp1,329
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description
20177d/6n4double pp1,179
20177d/6n4single supplement195
20187d/6n4double pp1,479
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description $
20177d/6n4double pp1,375
20177d/6n4single supplement225
20187d/6n4double pp1,719
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description SEK
20177d/6n4double pp11,495
20177d/6n4single supplement1,875
20187d/6n4double pp14,395
Wildlife

The main island, also called Madagascar, is the fourth-largest island in the world, and is home to thousands of the world's plant and animal species, of which more than 80% are endemic to Madagascar. They include the lemur infraorder of primates, the carnivorous fossa, three hundred bird families and six baobab tree species.
Madagascar's long isolation from the neighbouring continents has resulted in a unique mix of plants and animals, many found nowhere else in the world; some ecologists refer to Madagascar as the "eighth continent". Of the 10,000 plants native to Madagascar, 90% are found nowhere else in the world. Madagascar's varied fauna and flora are endangered by human activity, as a third of its native vegetation has disappeared since the 1970s, and only 18% remains intact. The eastern, or windward side of the island is home to tropical rainforests, while the western and southern sides, which lie in the rain shadow of the central highlands, are home to tropical dry forests, thorn forests, and deserts and xeric shrublands. Madagascar's dry deciduous rain forest has been preserved generally better than the eastern rainforests or the high central plateau, presumably due to historically low population densities.
Extensive deforestation has taken place in parts of the country. Slash-and-burn activity, locally called tavy, has occurred in the eastern and western dry forests as well as on the central high plateau, reducing certain forest habitat and applying pressure to some endangered species. Slash-and-burn is a method sometimes used by shifting cultivators to create short-term yields from marginal soils. When practiced repeatedly without intervening fallow periods, the nutrient-poor soils may be exhausted or eroded to an unproductive state. The resulting increased surface runoff from burned lands has caused significant erosion and resulting high sedimentation to western rivers.
The Dodwell Trust run conservation programmes in Madagascar, and encourage visitors to visit the islands of rescued lemurs.

Other Activities

Nosey Be – excellent diving – a separate island
Tsingy de Bemaraha – amazing natural limestone platforms in a National Park - West
A Baobab tree / countryside safari
Specific park for the Ring Tail lemur - South
Isle St Marie – lots to do – diving, snorkelling, kayaking. Very unspoilt, old Pirate holdup area - North Coast

Other Information

ABOUT THE TRIP
In May/June 2010 Wendy Hofstee, veterinary surgeon and founder of Unicorn Trails and Christina Dodwell, well known explorer, author, broadcaster and founder of the Dodwell Trust, both Fellows of the Royal Geographical Society and members of the Long Riders Guild, pioneered a horseback trail to the wild and remote centre of Madagascar. They were accompanied by a brave band of explorers who rode days of up to 10hrs and were rewarded by being the first westerners many villagers had ever seen. Riding through rainforests, volcanic regions with crater lakes, hot springs, waterfalls and traditional villages, the expedition pioneered (by the second round) a beautiful and sustainnable route which show cases some of the best scenery and remote villages of Madagascar.

While the trail has been set, improvements continue to be made. Christina Dodwell will continue her guidance, which as anyone who knows Christina will realise, means an adventure! This is not yet the faultless smooth luxury that other African safaris offer and will continue to be for riders of an adventurous and flexible nature. These trails will help the develop sustainable ecotourism, create employment and improve the living standards of people and horses in the region. Tours will continue to support Dodwell trust projects.

Madagascar is famous for the diversity of plant and animal species found there, 70% of which are found nowhere else. Gerald Durrell was one of the first to bring the world's attention to Madagascar. The diverstiy of its habitats are due to its total isolation as an island a fair way off the mainland of the already poor continent of Africa. No-one simply passes through Madagascar and precious few come specially to visit.

This geographical islolation also goes a long way to explaining the poverty and unchanged way of living of the people. The Malagasy people live life much as they have done for centuries and are guided by innumerable superstitions and beliefs which vary from one village to another. Once one steps 50 yards off a road (which is likely to be a remote dirt track), one could be back in medieval times. Oxen are commonly used for transport and ploughing fields. There are very few roads and even these are impassible for large parts of the year. The majority of this vast country is served only by tracks. There are some native horses in Madagascar mainly used for transport. This trail will allow us to see village life as we could in no other way.

Christina Dodwell
Born in Nigeria Christina became known as an explorer after her 3-year journey in Africa 1975 - 1978. This was followed by 2 years visiting remote tribes in Papua New Guinea and many other journeys spanning 20 years. She was awarded the Mungo Park Medal by the Royal Scottish Geographical Society in 1989.
Christina is listed in Debretts' People of Today and Who's Who. She has written 9 books which have been translated into 5 languages. She has made 3 television films and over 40 radio documentary programmes for BBC Radio 4 – several have received distinguished merit awards.
She has given lectures at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, the Explorers Club in New York, the Royal Geographical Society in London, and the Royal Scottish Geographical Society in Edinburgh.
For 15 years she worked as Senior Attaché for the Consulate of Madagascar in London, and 12 years ago she founded The Dodwell Trust, a charity dedicated to the country and people of Madagascar.

Other Country Information

The time zone for Madagascar is UAT (+3), ie 3 hrs ahead of the UK. The dialling code is + 261

Travel Summary

Meeting-point (getting there):
Ivato airport (TNR)
Transfer:
2017: Included from meeting point (Air France flights only). Other transfers can be arranged for £30 each way. Transfer time approx 20 minutes.
Flight Guide:
London - Tana return from £683
Riders who booked this ride also considered
Horse riding in Abysinnia Ethiopia
Ethiopia, Abyssinian Explorer
Highlights of Ethiopia including Lalibella and riding on the...Read more >
from $3,499
Gallop in Moon Valley Oct 2011
Chile, Atacama Desert Trail
Fantastic riding adventure in the driest desert in the world...Read more >
from $3,929
USA Montana Working Ranch
USA, Montana Working Ranch
Experience an truly authentic working ranch on the borders o...Read more >
from $1,645