Travel trends come and go (kind of like humanity’s obsession with flare jeans, or the avocado) and the latest vogue to sweep departure lounges everywhere is Wellness Travel. Active holidays that are good for mind, body and soul. It’s a natural extension of the health industry that generates billions of dollars each year, mostly off cold-pressed juices and lapsed gym memberships. More and more, people are looking to continue their active lifestyle on the road. In 2015 travellers set out on approximately 691 million wellness trips, and a lot of them were looking for something new. A fresh destination well away from tourism’s ‘usual suspects’.
We think we might have just found it.
Madagascar is not a traditional wellness destination. In fact it’s not even a traditional travel destination. Eighty eight million years ago it was set adrift off the coast of Southeast Africa, and ever since it’s existed in isolation from the rest of the continent. A perfect evolutionary breeding ground (over 90% of the country’s animals are found nowhere else on earth). Not a lot of people travel here, and the ones that do stick to very traditional itineraries. But now, with our latest Active Madagascar adventure, you can ride and trek in one of the most remote and untouched places on the planet.
Here’s why Madagascar is the world’s hottest new wellness destination.
1. No-one else is doing this
Seriously. Tourism infrastructure on Madagascar is limited, and most trips stick to a direct southwest-to-northeast route between popular spots like Ile Sainte Marie, Tulear and Antananarivo. No companies are running active itineraries across the country that include stops like Antsirabe, Zafimaniry Country, Andringitra NP and Peak Boby. This tour actually took us a long time to build (finding 12 bicycles for a small group cycling trip through the wilds of Antsirabe is not an easy task!). But that’s part of what makes Madagascar such an exciting destination. It’s not like Kruger National Park or the Serengeti on the mainland – tourism is still in its infancy here. That’s good news for travellers; it generally means fewer crowds and completely untouched natural beauty.
2. You can hike through Zafimaniry Country
Trekking is a wonderful way to see the world, but the problem is that, generally, other people know this too. Sharing the Inca Trail or the road from Namche Bazaar to Everest Basecamp is fine, but it’s refreshing to find a cultural trek that’s way, way off map. And this is it. Welcome to Zafimaniry Country, a collection of tribal lands and villages completely untouched by tourism. The Zafimaniry are one of the 18 original ethnic tribes of the Malagasy people. This is their ancestral land, home to 16,000 people living in 100 small villages southeast of Ambositra. We’ll walk a trail through Eucalyptus forests, grasslands and mimosa trees to reach places literally inaccessible by car. You get to camp in villages like Sakaivo and meet the rice farmers and woodcarvers that have lived here for generations, and whose way of life is pretty much unchanged. The walk’s not bad either: two days of solid trekking through some of the most beautiful scenery on the island.
3. Cycling in Antsirabe
Commuter cyclists take note: this is a ride not many people on the planet have done before. If you’ve got friends bragging about their latest cycling jaunt along the Istrian Peninsula or through the south of France, prepare to bring out the big guns. Antsirabe is best known for its thermal springs (Norwegian missionaries built a health retreat here way back in the late 1800s), but it’s really the countryside we’re interested in. We’ll kit you out with bikes and head off for a 27km loop track around both Andraikiba Lake and Andrononobe Lake (Andrononobe, like the word ‘banana’, is very easy to start spelling, but almost impossible to stop). Both of these lakes are stunning (just Google them) and in the summer months (May – December) you can even stop off for a swim among the natural pools and cascading waterfalls. Just the thing after a long ride.
4. Complete the Peak Boby trek
Famous trekking countries always have their Classic Walks. The Top Shelf Edition. For Nepal, it’s either Basecamp or the Annapurna Circuit. For France, it’s Mont Blanc. And for Madagascar, it’s the Andringitra central mountain range, and the rocky route up to Peak Boby, the country’s highest ascendable point. Without exaggeration, this is some of the most stunning trekking country we’ve ever seen anywhere in the world, and it only gets about 3000 visitors a year! (To put that in perspective, the Inca Trail attracts over 1.3 million trekkers a year). It’s basically like having Yosemite National Park all to yourself: the soaring heights of the Tsaranoro Massif, thirteen different species of lemur, over a thousand plant varieties and screensaver-views around every corner. The trek up to the top of Peak Boby isn’t easy, and the entire region is remote and largely inaccessible, but it’s an experience that’s becoming increasingly rare in global trekking circles: it’s an experience that’s truly original.
Ready to take the challenge? Check out our brand new Active Madagascar adventure.