Descending one of these two big rivers on a three- to five-day trip is a popular option for travellers with plenty of time. River trips are normally feasible between May and September, but as water levels drop towards the end of the dry season, navigation gets increasingly slow and difficult. After the start of the rains in November, flash floods and the rising waters rule out the trip until the following year. Various vessels are used for the trip, including traditional pirogue canoes, modern kayaks and rafts, and larger river craft with on-board facilities and canopies to protect you from the extremely hot sun.

You normally camp on the riverbank – check what bedding will be provided. Meals and bottled water are included; other drinks are extra. It’s important to note that in recent years there have been a number of attacks on overnight tourist camps, especially on the upper Tsiribihina, usually by cattle rustlers chancing their luck in pursuit of an alternative source of revenue. Tourists have been seriously injured in these robberies, so you should check out the local situation in advance before committing to the trip.

The Tsiribihina

On this, the larger of the two rivers, the voyage is around 140–150km, depending on sandbanks and the precise route taken through them. It starts at the landing stage (embacadère) at Masiakampy, a tiny village on the Tsiribihina 35km south of the town of Miandrivazo. Most tours, however, start in a group vehicle at the start of the surfaced RN34 244km further east at Antsirabe on the central plateau. The trip ends near the coast, at Belo-sur-Tsiribihina.

The Manambolo

The more scenic of the two trips starts at Ankavandra (look out for the British NGO Hoveraid, which has its headquarters here, and whose little hovercrafts scud around the sandbanks of the river), about 200km west of Antananarivo via Tsiroahomandidy – a very long day by taxi brousse or a slightly shorter, more comfortable one in a tour company’s 4×4. After passing through a spectacular canyon in the southern part of the Tsingy de Bemaraha, the trip ends at Bekopaka, leaving you perfectly positioned to explore the national park.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Madagascar features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Passport to write: the runners-up!

Passport to write: the runners-up!

After weeks of deliberation, we're thrilled to announce the results of the Rough Guides and Journeys are made @gapyear.com writing competition. The winning p…

03 Jul 2015 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
Incredible forests of the world

Incredible forests of the world

Spiny Forest, Madagascar On an island filled with weird and wonderful living things, the spiny forest has to be Madagascar's most unusual ecosystem. Endemic to…

03 Oct 2014 • Alison Roberts camera_alt Gallery
The world's most epic cycle routes

The world's most epic cycle routes

Life on two wheels is a beautiful thing, and travel on two wheels can be epic. Here are a few of the world's greatest cycle routes to consider for your next big…

15 Apr 2014 • Greg Dickinson camera_alt Gallery
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month