There are a lot of national parks in Madagascar, but there was one that we knew we couldn’t miss. We simply had to trek Pic Boby, the 2658 meter peak in Andringitra National Park – no matter how hard getting there would be.
We rolled up in Ambalavao and promptly pulled into the swankiest hotel complex we could find. Our driver heard that we could arrange transport to the national park Andringitra from there. Sure enough, they did offer 4×4 transfers but at a hefty price. Meanwhile, our driver called one of the local guides and arranged for us to meet and discuss an overnight trip in the park. We needed everything – tent, sleeping bags, food, cooking supplies and a guide.
We sat around awkwardly waiting for the tour guide to show up when suddenly our poor driver smacked his head and started saying ‘oh no, oh no.’ He explained to us that he’d inadvertently called the tour guide that he’d been warned against instead of the one that had been recommended to him.
Forewarned, we knew we were info gathering only as Marcel rolled up. He was slick – with open arms and hearty welcomes to Madagascar, we like to think that we would have known his type without the warning. He proceeded to tell us that he could arrange it all for us – the transfer, delicious food and the most amazing itinerary to make the most of the park. He had options for us and when we finally boiled it down to our most likely trek, then the game began. He started to hum and haw about the price. First there was a price, and then there was an add-on for the transfer and an add-on for the equipment – suddenly his all inclusive price had a lot of plus, plus, pluses. In the end, the price he landed on was three times what we’d been told the excursion should cost – $425 vs. $175. He conceded that he was tired and offered to lower the price by $20 if we went with his guide instead of him.
We thank him for the quote and went into town for more info. Another tour operator offered us a more reasonable price but as we were in the shop getting the spiel, the other guide that Marcel introduced us to explained the scam to our driver who was waiting behind the shop. It turns out that everything is available through the park office and that Marcel never actually goes on the hikes because he is not an official guide – we would have had to hire the guide anyway. So, we decided to DIY it and found our own transport, bought our own food and took Marcel’s guide at the official price through the park office.
The equipment from the park office had seen better days and we suffered a little with bug bites and a collapsing tent that did not keep the rain out (we had a giant puddle on one side). In the end, we got what we wanted – a fair price to spend two days in Andringitra including a pre-dawn hike up Pic Bobby for the sunrise and an epic hike out that same day. And, the trek, it was spectacular – see the video.
Everything you need can be rented at the park office – just get yourself up there.
4×4 transport costs between 170,000 – 200,000 Ariary ($80 – 90 CAD) (including fuel)
Cost of 2 days park entry for 2, guide, 2 porters (who carry gear and cook), tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, cooking equipment & tip was about 150,000 Ariary ($70 CAD for 2 ppl)
Don’t forget to buy enough food in the market for your guides and porters too (they eat rice for every meal, so get lots)
We heard really good things about the tour company JB Trekking and their equipment appeared to be in much better condition than the park’s gear. It also save you time because they arrange the transport and buy the food.
Book your accommodations on the other end before you go. We were almost shut out after 16 hours of hiking. Camp Catto is recommended and they offer bungalows, permanent canvas tents and camping tents if you’re on a budget.
If you meet a guy named Marcel – steer clear. We heard even more horror stories about his scams from locals after we’d avoided his trap.
If you love hiking and amazing landscapes – don’t miss out on this trek! It was hands-down one of our top trip highlights.