Maroantsetra in detail

Flights & getting there

Maroantsetra is one of the most isolated towns in Madagascar. The RN5 between Soanierana-Ivongo and Maroantsetra is so bad that taxi-brousse have stopped running from Maroantsetra to Mananara.

The air and boat options aren't much better: there are flights to Tana only and boat services to Mananara between September and February only.

Air

  • Tsaradia flights connect Maroantsetra twice a week with Antananarivo (just once from January to March).
  • Weather may affect plane schedules, particularly during the rainiest months (winter and summer).
  • Flights fill up quickly during vanilla season (July to October) so book ahead.

Boat

  • The Melissa Express passenger boat runs between Maroantsetra and Mananara (three hours, which then runs on to Soanierana-Ivongo) twice a week between September and February. Fare is Ar80,000. The service is subject to frequent weather-related interruptions, and the duration of travel is merely indicative.
  • Cargo boats sail from Maroantsetra to Île Sainte Marie, Tamatave, Antalaha and Mananara. They take passengers although there are no set fares, routes or schedules, and no facilities on board. Bring sun and rain protection (an umbrella is handy), food and water, and a sense of adventure. Note that people are often seasick.

Motorbike

The only reliable option out of Maroantsetra by road for the time being is a moto-taxi. It costs Ar300,000 to go to Mananara (six hours) and Ar1.6 million to Soanierana-Ivongo (two days, although you may want to make it three for comfort). The fares include all boat/bridge crossings as well as the food and accommodation allowance for the driver.

A few tips for travelling by moto-taxi:

  • This is very tough going – be prepared to get wet, walk, help push the bike through a swamp or out of a rut.
  • You will get wet and muddy – it rains a lot around here, there are rivers to cross, rafts to get on and off etc. Make sure you have waterproof trousers, a waterproof jacket and gumboots. It's also a good idea to line the inside of your bag (even though the drivers will provide a plastic sheet for the outside).
  • Consider hiring a separate bike for luggage: this is for your comfort as well as your security.
  • Make sure you agree on the timing of the itinerary with your driver: moto-taxis are obsessed with getting from A to B in the quickest time possible and find the concept of leisurely travel hard to grasp.

Be Leonor, the president of the local moto-taxi association, is warmly recommended; unfortunately he doesn't speak English. Otherwise ask at Bar Taxi Moto close to the market.

Private 4WD

Because of the appalling condition of the road, finding even a private 4WD is very difficult, not to mention costly (Ar4 million to Ar6 million). Local tour operators can help you find a vehicle.