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 encompasses the Volcanic Central Highlands , the Rainforest and the Coastal beaches and plains, a wonderful combination of three very different parts of Madagascar. The Volcanic Highlands are lesser known, the heart of Madagascar with beautiful scenery. We ride across the savannah to the remote geographical centre of the country. 
Then we head by vehicle to the rainforest where we see many different lemur species. Continuing on we head to the coastal plains and ride along the beaches, visiting small fishing villages.
We are mounted on good quality local horses, descended from racehorses bred by the royal family, we are 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 abundance of 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, riders will see parts of Madagascar unreachable by many other tourists. The riding terrain includes volcanic regions with crater lakes, hot springs and waterfalls, as well as occasional traditional villages. There is no better way to get to know the gentle and welcoming Malagasy people.

Please Note: The opinions expressed in these reviews are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Unicorn Trails Ltd. These reviews are "directly from the horses mouth" and unedited. Unicorn Trails may make additional comments for clarification clearly identified in red.

Review received from AK of Taunton on 08/05/2017

Ride Summary

What was your overall impression of the holiday
excellent ride, one of my best!
Unicorn Trails sales staff
Professionalism     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Friendliness     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Speed of response     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Efficiency     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Knowledge     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Other(please specify)     (   ) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Riding tour leader
Professionalism     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Horsemanship     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Pacing of Ride     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Concern for Safety     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Leadership     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Friendliness/availability     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Knowledge of local Culture     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Knowledge of local Flora/Fauna     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Concern with Environment     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Language skills     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Additional Comments Andre is an excellent tour leader – friendly, with good sense of humour, trying (succesfully) to accomodate every one's needs - sometimes very unusual! He and his staff were also very helpful when our luggage was lost.
Horses and Tack
Condition of Horses     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Condition of Tack     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Performance of Horses     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Additional Comments The tack: it's extremely hard to buy any tack in Madagascar. Considering this, I think the host did excellent job to buy (import) all the tack. The tack is perfectly safe, all horses have new numnahs and pads; reins and bridles are in very good condition – the only concern may be treeless saddles – you have to adjust them quite often as they tend to move on horses' back, no matter how tight the girth is. But they are quite comfortable (soft) for riders. Riders must watch if the saddle doesn't twist and adjust it when needed.
Meals
Meal Quantity     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
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Meal Punctuality     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Accommodation
Camping Equipment     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Hotels/Lodges/Inns     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Hygiene standards     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Miscellaneous
Transfer arrangements     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Other office staff     (   ) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (X) N/A
Other ride staff     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Weather     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Was this trip accurately described to you beforehand?     (   ) NO     (X) YES
Please give more details to explain your response Transfer arrangements were excellent though travelling by car in Madagascar can be an adventure – take motion sickness pills with you. Also, be prepare to spend hours in heavy traffic in Tana – but there is nothing the organisers could do about it. But our cars/bus were always on time waiting for us.
Ride staff: very friendly and helpful. They don't speak any western language, but Andre (the host) is with the group almost all the time.
Was there anything you should have known and were not told?     (X) NO     (   ) YES
Please give more details to explain your response
What could we do to improve this ride? There isn't much to improve.
How would you rate the difficulty of this ride out of 10 where 1 is very easy and 10 is very advanced? 7
Please explain why you scored it as you did The horses are ex racing horses so they demand some skills. We were the first ride after rainy season, so they were fresh. All in our group were very good riders, so no problems - but it isn't a ride for beginners. I gave 7 in comparison to other rides. They are not crazy horses - just require some riding experience and skills (most of them). The ride is led in a safe way - no crazy gallops when the horses could start racing and become dangerous. Lot of canters and fast trots though, sometimes for long periods of time.
Would you recommend Unicorn Trails to your friends?     (   ) NO     (X) YES
Please give more details to explain your response a vast offer - a lot to choose from, good contact.
May we use you as a reference for other people wishing to go on this ride?     (   ) NO     (X) YES
Any other comments This was a very special ride. There is very few horses in Madagascar, so travelling on horseback is unusual there. People , especially children, were following us – since the horse is not a common sight there. People are welcoming, smiling, very friendly. I really felt like we were able to see the unknown side of Madagascar - far from "touristy" places. Though, a "must-see" lemurs were in abundance (we visited 2 lemur reserves, with opportunities of taking countless pictures).
Unicorn comments Thanks very much for the super comments! Glad you had a great ride and experience :)

Part 1 : MADAGASCAR’S VOLCANIC MID-WEST

Day 1
Fly from home country to Antananarivo. To accommodate airport transfers it is best to try to 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 West 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. Heading westwards leaving the bustling city of Tana behind you will then visit the Lemur Park and have the opportunity to meet and learn about Madagascar’s most famous residents! Located 25 km from the centre of Antananarivo you will discover 9 species of lemurs in this 5-hectare botanical park. As observation of these amazing mammals in the wild is becoming increasingly scarce because of deforestation, the LemursPark was created as a valuable conservation measure for these gentle mammals.
After visiting the Lemurs you will have lunch in a traditional Malagasy restaurant, an opportunity to sample some of the delicious local foods and dishes, and perhaps some of Madagascar’s infamous Three Horses Beer (THB)!
Continuing Westwards snaking through many local villages we head to the ranch where you can meet the horses.  Delicious Malagasy food and a roaring camp fire beneath the Southern Hemispheres numerous stars bring the long dusty day of travelling to a close. Overnight at the ranch.

Day 3 
Today we start riding. After a sunny poolside breakfast you will make your way to the stables to meet your companion for the days ahead! You have the opportunity to ride in the arena to ensure you feel comfortable on your horse before leaving the arena and traversing the ranch, first riding Northbound and then Southbound. This will give you the time to familiarise yourself with your horse and to the type of terrain you will meet. Above all, you have started your journey into the land that time forgot and an amazing adventure is about to unfold. Dinner and Overnight at the ranch.

Day 4
Ranch - Antambahoaka along the River Lily 5/6 hrs riding
After breakfast, your equestrian hike traversing the Malagasy Highlands commences. We cross Sakay’s plain and also the river of the same name. Riding along red dirt roads, surrounded by a sea of smiling faces and singing voices you will arrive at Babet City for lunch. Babet City is a remnant from the 50’s when there was a mass immigration of families from nearby Reunion Island. After lunch you will continue your ride our campsire which is based downstream of the Lily River. Allow your senses to be assaulted by the sounds of the nearby river and the kaleidoscope of colours from the setting sun. Dinner will be served around the campfire beneath a blanket of twinkling stars. Overnight in tents. Camping.

Day 5
River Lily – Soavinandriana 5/6 hrs riding
After a restful first night in your “5 million star” canvas hotel on the shore of the Lily River, the day starts by crossing this same river. You will then ride along rocky paths and black volcanic dust meeting farmers with zebu and zebu carts and the occasional hum of a motorcycle to reach the Kasigie volcanic cone. Circling a clear blue crater lake you will stop for lunch at Mananasy Lake. The lake is a hive of activity with children playing, and herding zebu, women busy doing chores and dotting the landscape with brightly coloured clothes drying in the midday sun.
Riding onwards to Soavinandriana the path becomes steep and rocky, horses and
riders picking their way carefully. On reaching Soavinandriana you will be met with many smiling faces and friendly waves, an assortment of wares on display for market day. Crossing the city and the market the horses reach their home for the night and a well-deserved rest!
You will be driven by car towards the city of Ampefy, staying along the shores of Lake Itasy at Chaumière d’Itasy Hotel in Manu (or similar). The view of the lake is truly a feast for the eyes. Overnight in hotel.

Day 6 
Soavinandriana – Manazary/Amparihikely Lake 5/6 hrs riding
Waking up to the beautiful view of Lake Itasy after a restful night’s sleep, you return to the horses to commence another action packed day! Farmers busy at work in vivid green rice fields are your backdrop as you ride this morning, climbing steeply and steadily through the crops. Once you have reached the peak you are instantly rewarded with an amazing 360° view of the Ankaratra mountain range and Lake Itasy. The horses enjoy a splash in the river as you ride for 1km before reaching what is left of the former national road at the East side Lake Itasy. The afternoon is a true sense of immersion as the horses have fun following the meanderings of the road, flanked by smiling waving children singing and chanting, eyes wide in wonder, the true wealth of Madagascar.
Once again you get to experience Madagascar’s “five million star” campsite hotel with a second camp along the lake of Amparihikely. Aperitif: enjoy an ice cold THB beer after a long day in the saddle whilst looking out at the fishermen busy at work in their traditional canoes on the lake beneath the setting sun. Overnight in tents. 

Day 7 
Manazary - Ampefy 6 / 7hrs riding
Leaving Lake Amparihikely behind you will  reach Lake Itasy after a beautiful ride along tree lined tracks circumventing the North shore of the lake. We stop for a quick lunch after 4 hours of fast paced riding at Butterfly and Hanta. In the afternoon, you have time to visit the many art galleries and small shops along the lake and around the village of Ampefy. The night is spent once again at La Chaumiere d’Itasy Hotel (or similar), another opportunity to marvel at the wonderful view of Lake Itasy. Hotel overnight

Day 8
Ampefy - Chute de la Lily - Geysers 5/6 hrs riding
Today you will truly find yourself in the land that time forgot, riding through volcanic mountains and following the Lily River, the breath-taking scenery is truly a sight to behold. After about 5km you arrive at Lilly Falls, where you leave your horses briefly to walk the short distance to marvel at the 25 meter high waterfall. Smiling children welcome you to the village and here you will have the opportunity to purchase some small souvenirs, made from the volcanic pumice stone. Rejoining your horses you traverse the hills once again, snake along dusty red roads, meander through local villages to arrive at the famous geysers where we camp for the next two nights. This afternoon offers you the opportunity to enjoy the rich warm waters of the geysers, have your sore muscles massaged with the mineral rich clay and indulge in a mini spa break in the wilds of Madagascar! The horses too enjoy a nice bath in the river!
Perched high above the geysers dinner consists of a traditional Malagasy meal. Overnight in tents. 

Day 9
Geysers – Lake Andranomena – Geysers 5/6 hrs riding
After another peaceful night camping, the morning ride will soon blow the cobwebs away!! Meandering along red dust tracks you will discover the astonishing lake of Andranomenabe where wild ducks swim peacefully. Here you have the opportunity to enjoy an exciting and exhilarating gallop around the lake. Catching your breath you ride towards the end point of today’s ride to admire the velvety green rice farming plain of Ifanja and its 3,000 hectares of rice fields before riding back to the geyser camp. As yesterday the afternoon is free to enjoy the luxuries of the geysers or a swim in the river. Overnight in tents. 

Day 10
Geysers - La Marmite du Diable- Ampefy-Tana. 3 hrs riding
Leaving the peace and tranquility of the geysers behind you return slowly to civilization, the local children and villagers waving a friendly goodbye. Along the way you visit the Devil’s Pot in the river Mazy, a rare and unique sight where the river bed has cut a route into the black volcanic rocks. It is then time to say farewell to your horses as they return to the ranch for a well-deserved rest and you board the cars to travel back to Tana, approximately a 3hr drive. Overnight at the Riviera Garden Hotel (or similar).


Part 2 : AMBILA COAST

Day 11
Leaving the hustle and bustle of Tana behind once more you travel East 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 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 12
Andasibe – Brickaville – Canal des Pangalanes Canal- Ambila
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 (own account) 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. 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 13
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 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 14
Ambila – Vavony fishing village 4hrs riding
You 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 15 
Ambila - Brickaville - Antananarivo. 3h horse
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 16
Antananarivo – London travelling
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 utulized. Horses in Madagascar have long been the playthings of royalty and primarily utilized for horse racing. The local horses have been improved with boerperd and thoroughbred stallions in recent years. They are in a 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 wished.

Rider requirements

Riders should be able to walk, trot and canter confidently and be able to mount and dismount unaided. The riding includes things like 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 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 star, in smaller towns more like 2 star. All have en-suite or shared bathrooms and hot water is promised each night. For the camping portion our luggage is transported. The camp set up is done by support staff and the chef prepares fresh meals for us. 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

We strongly advise you to consult with your General Practitioner before travelling. The best medical advice regarding suitable immunisations and prophylaxis to enable you to travel safely requires knowledge of your medical history and therefore cannot be covered in this advice sheet. Recommendations are also subject to change and it is important to obtain the most up to date information available.

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 recherge 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 daytime and can be very cold at night. Layers of lightweight warm things are best.
Cotton long sleeved shirt, short-sleeved, 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.
Ref passport, make two photocopies of the identity pages, leave one copy at home, keep 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 card is 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 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 fo the Dodwell trust will then meet you at the airport on arrival to collect the suitcase.

For the visit to the Ampefy school on the last Monday donations are also appreciated, anything such as: children’s books in elementary English with pictures, old musical instruments eg tambourines, recorders; glove puppets; art materials but not felt tips as they can go dry. Next year the school plan to open an arts and crafts room but has no resources for it. Materials to help the students take exams include blue biros, wooden pencils and crayons, school childrens’ plastic set square, protactor and compass (the type you put a pencil in to draw circles), glue, eg little Prit Sticks (not liquid) little rulers.

When you are packing for the trip, mix any clothes and school things together in a muddle so it doesn’t look like a donation (they can charge tax on donations!) If asked by Customs at airport what items you have to declare, tell them you are a Tourist (same word in French) and your luggage is personal things. It’s not a worry, they welcome visitors, just smile and say Tourist.

The school is also in need of some sweaters for the school children. There's 35 children in total aged 12 - 16 both male and female.

Programmes

Please enquire for tailor made dates for groups of 3 or more in the May to October season.

Departure Dates

2017: 15 (FULL) April; 3, 17 June; 8 July; 1 (FULL) August; 2 (FULL), 23 September

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 £
201716d/15n12double pp2,325
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description
201716d/15n12double pp2,589
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description $
201716d/15n12double pp3,025
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description SEK
201716d/15n12double pp26,459
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 neighboring 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:
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 £755
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