This multi-terrain expedition is set to achieve ambitious and adventurous goals, by crossing the central massif of the island of Madagascar on foot and in rafts. The challenge is to travel eastwards, starting near the Mozambique Channel in the North, climbing the island's highest peak and navigating the Bemarivo rapids to end up in the Indian Ocean.

Expedition aim

Our 2015 team aims to have an incredible adventure, crossing northern Madagascar coast to coast on foot and using rafts for the expeditionary white-water section. On the way we aim to summit Mount Maromokotro, Madagascar’s highest peak. The team will also forge a path through the wildest and most pristine rainforest on the island during the four-day jungle section, taking in some of the world’s most unusual wildlife and spectacular scenery en route. The expedition concludes with a challenging and expeditionary white-water descent of the uncharted Bemarivo River, ending up on the shores of the Indian Ocean.


  • Climb Madagascar’s highest peak, Maromokotro (2,876m).
  • Navigate some extremely wild and uncharted river systems (with significant portages).
  • Trek through mountainous grasslands and spectacular river valleys.
  • Cross an uninhabited and pristine rainforest environment on the four-day jungle section.
  • See any of the 200,000 species – including 105+ varieties of lemur – on the world’s oldest island.

Adventure magazine Madagascar article


Blog and Press Coverage



Phase one: summiting Mount Maromokotro

The expedition begins in the capital, Antananarivo. Enjoy the afternoon in the city or visit its renowned lemur park, then we’ll depart by plane for Antsiranana the next morning. The journey to reach the rail head then continues by road with a 270km drive, ending at Marovato where we’ll set up a riverside campsite. This is where the fun begins!

The first phase of the expedition involves roughly five days of serious uphill trekking. We start our journey at an elevation of approximately 35m and aim to summit Mount Maromokotro (2,876m) on day five, including a 1,500m+ vertical climb day. Incredible landscapes, absence of civilisation and sore muscles are to be expected.

Phase two: rainforest trek

After summiting Maromokotro we head for the Bemarivo River, taking us back down to 400m. Over the next four days we trek across the country’s most uncharted and pristine rainforest which is home to some of the world’s most unusual wildlife including over 100 lemur species. The jungle is so dense we’ll barely cover five kilometres after eight hours of hard work on some of the toughest days (we say ‘work’ because trekking in the Madagascan jungle cannot be described as ‘walking’! Hacking, climbing, sliding, getting slapped, hurting and river crossing would be more like it). Epic adventure guaranteed.

Phase three: tough white-water rafting

After an approximate 150km trek, in the final and truly expeditionary phase of this adventure, we will white-water raft the wild and little-travelled Bemarivo river, aiming to reach the Indian Ocean in less than six days. During this 125km journey we’ll negotiate some extremely challenging rapids and be faced with many physically demanding portages (carrying the boats and supplies around rapids too tough to negotiate). The rapids’ official grading underplays their seriousness; encountering rock hazards, being channeled down narrow gorges and capsizing are all possible so team members should relish challenges of this nature and be confident swimmers.

This is in no way a float down a river! The team will be engaged, challenged and tested throughout this entire section and should be ready to play their part both on the water and while carrying kit, equipment and rafts during the portages. The portages are likely to take up around a third of the team’s time during the rafting section, and some are over 500m and include steep, challenging terrain. Everyone should be prepared for early starts and demanding days (each containing several portages) which often won’t finish until after last light.

The finale: Indian Ocean beaches

Deserted white-sand beaches are the well-deserved reward when we arrive at our destination on the coast at Sambava. Relax for a day on the shores of the Indian Ocean! This varied, intense and stimulating expedition is tough so the opportunity to sit back and enjoy yourself will be gratefully received.

The varied terrain of this isolated region make this expedition truly remarkable. There are few expeditions that cross through such a wealth of ecosystems in such a short space of time, from mountainous grasslands and river valleys to jungle trekking and white-water rafting. This gives us an excellent opportunity to see the famed flora and fauna of Madagascar. The island harbours some 13,000 species of flowering plants of which a staggering 89% are endemic. On top of that, Madagascar is home to a huge array of birds, reptiles and mammals – most famously over 100 varieties of lemur.

Check out Lev Wood, our 2012 leader, talking about that year’s epic expedition.

As featured in the Sunday Times:

View Madagasacar 2013 in a larger map

Expedition grading (degree of effort required)

315 degree expedition graphicSecret Compass grades each of its expeditions according to the degree of effort required by each team member. Due to the demands of this particular expedition it has been awarded a 315° rating. Find out more about our degrees of effort grading system here.

It should be noted from the outset that this expedition, in addition to mountainous grasslands and jungle trekking, contains a very challenging and expeditionary white-water rafting section including lengthy and frequent portages over steep and challenging terrain.


Team members should be willing to be part of a team working together to achieve the goal of the expedition. They should have an adventurous and robust spirit. They should be over 21, fit and healthy as this trip involves several continuous days of trekking carrying a 15kg pack in remote areas over and through difficult terrain at altitudes of up to 3,000m. They should also be strong, confident swimmers prepared for long, arduous and physically demanding days on a river with challenging rapids and long portages. Please speak to us about the fitness requirements.


  • Full services of a Secret Compass expedition leader with local guides, experts and porters.
  • All meals.
  • All specialist and safety equipment.
  • All accommodation including tents.
  • All permits.

not included

  • International flights.
  • Local airport taxes.
  • Tips to local guides.
  • Alcoholic beverages and any costs of a personal nature.
  • Personal equipment. Upon booking you will receive a comprehensive kit list.


In Antananarivo and Sambava we will be accommodated in small hotels. For the remainder of the expedition we will be wild camping. The accommodation will be by no means be luxurious but the breathtaking scenery and wildlife of the region will make you wonder what appeal a posh hotel really has! Sleeping is unlikely to be an issue as our long, hard days hiking will wear out even the hardiest of us.


In ‘civilisation’ we will be eating in hotels and restaurants. Whilst on the expedition we will be eating basic meals carried and cooked by our porters.


The trip will involve internal flights, bumpy rides in 4WD vehicles, trekking and rafting.