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Tsiribihina, Madagascar: Down the River of Golden Dreams

A very silent and calming way to experience this wonderful river full of nature, villages and life.

If you consider yourself an independent traveller and you are a beginner: you will respect a long list of rules and specific cliché of a globaltrotter that you have developed on your couch. At home you have studied maps and decided where you would like to go and what you would like to see, to listen to, to sniff. And definitely it’s a good idea to do this research work and to arrive ready when it’s time to leave, but sometime happens that you become slave of your rough itinerary…you don’t try to understand, you don’t try to speak with the country…you are there to see what you thought to find…with the passage of time I’m understanding something it’s important for me, “to be travelled”, let the things happen…So no plans…

Finally in Antananarivo, while we are deciding where to go, the south it’s the most likely option, we walk a lot through the markets of this town…Madagascar is not so easy to travel and maybe it is not the best place for the “no plans rule” …but, the second day I meet a guy that was my fellow traveller for few days in a lonely trip I did seven years ago in Central America…a big surprise for both…he is now married and with his wife he has already organized to go down a river called Tsiribihina so we join them (no more south but west)…the day after we are ready to leave…

The landscape is mountainous and people work in rice fields. Here the traditional houses are made of red bricks. The trip from Antananarivo to Miandrivazo, where we will start to go down the river, is very long. On the way we see a lot of fires…they use this practice to have new fields or to grow new grass for the zebu, but they don’t realized that in this way they destroy a unique environment. At the end we arrive to Miandrivazo and the temperature is very different from Tanà, it’s hot…we have dinner while geckos are already eating every kind of insects close to a neonlight.

At six o’ clock we wake up and take breakfast. A walk in the village, just to take care of few things before leaving and also because everybody has to go to the police office to sign a paper together with the driver of the pirogue (small flat-bottomed boat). The pirogue is the cheapest way to go down the river. It’s a 146 km (3 days) travel. In the price it is included the piroguier, the boat, food and water, the tent, and the hotel for the first and last night. Before paying, you have to bargain a lot and check all the stuff (it’s a stark experience so it’s better to have the bare minimum).

We embark with our piroguier and his two sons at their first experience on the river (they are going to learn the father’s job). The pirogue is made from a rosewood trunk, the space is not a lot but it’s so well organized that we have also two chickens alive…on the bank there are children that play and greet us…the river goes through the wonderful Tsiribihina gorge, passing through forests and different landscapes.

You have lunch under the shadow of big trees or close to waterfalls and during the night you will camp on banks of white sand where the river is not so deep. The water is red, nature everywhere and silence, every now and then a small village made of huts where people smile and greet. It’s one of the most isolated part of Madagascar.

We are in the dry season so we are obliged sometimes to go zigzag to avoid the shallows…you have the occasion to paddle a lot…My piroguier has the good habit to smoke a lot of grass otherwise 146 km for him would be very long and tough. The sunrise is one of the best thing I have ever seen in my life and the mist of the first hours of the day contribute to give you a fantastic vibe.

After three days we arrive in a village called Antsiraraka, it’s here that we finish this wonderful and peaceful experience. When we arrive the village is full of life…children everywhere…we say goodbye to our piroguier and his two sons…they will leave tomorrow to come back to Miandrivazo…their trip will last ten days because on the way back they are upriver…

If you go to Madagascar without plans I’m sure you will be captured from this magic river.

written by -a-l-b-e-r-t-o-


  1. tveden


    This is fantastic Alberto, hope the rest of the pics will be on soon.

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  2. disdis


    Really nice portraits Alberto! The gallery is perfect. It's wierd the all look happy. Guess we are the unhappy people!

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  3. vicuna


    Great great story and I totally agree with you that travelling is all about surprises and unplaned discovery! What I like to do is to have some basic informations about the country to visit before I go there, but then the best thing is, like you say, to let the things happen...
    Great first gallery, but unfortunately I can't see the 2 other ones... I will have a look at these pics on your home! :))

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  4. wil6ka


    loves it!

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  5. kazarareta


    rest of the pics are up! sorry this came out prematurely

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  6. vicuna


    Oh man, now that I can see the 2 other galleries, I can simply say: WOW!! That's a fantastic photographic reportage. All these shots of people and specially the kids, I simply love it!!
    Congrats for this fantastic location a-l-b-e-r-t-o!!

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  7. vicuna


    and I also agree with disdis: they look all so happy, smiling everytime despite the fact that Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world... I had the same impression in Burkina Faso... we, the rich people from the north, are always unhappy even if we got all we need...

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  8. jeabzz


    that's great, the gallery, the story...congrats :)

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  9. stouf


    Hoooo !!! What a great diary ! And beautifully documented ! Thanks alberto for sharing this stunning location !

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  10. blue-dog


    It shows you had a great time. Thank you for showing your trip and the friendly people on the way..

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  11. -a-l-b-e-r-t-o-


    the best comment i have never seen :))...thank you guys

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  12. satomi


    wow, location of the week for sure!

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  13. dogma


    Amazing man!

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  14. renaishashin


    This is too amazing! Congrats for location of the week :D

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  15. lomollete


    Geat fotos (and nice combination of cameras).

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  16. dotdotdot


    Fantastic article! Loved all the shots and the great write-up!

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  17. -a-l-b-e-r-t-o-


    thank you for your sweet comments

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