The so-called Jungle Express: Exploring the Wild Side of Adventure

Train ride and adventure tour Until a few years ago, we would have highly recommended a tour with the Jungle Express to any tourist planning a vacation in Madagascar. However, the trips on this train have become such an adventure that we can no longer in good conscience recommend such a trip to our vacationers. Since we […]
Zugfahrt in Madagaskar

Train Ride and Adventure Tour

Until a few years ago, we would have strongly recommended every tourist planning a vacation in Madagascar to take a tour with the Jungle Express. However, the trips on this train have become such an adventure that we can no longer in good conscience recommend such a trip to our vacationers. But we do know that Madagascar as a vacation destination attracts many adventurers and experience-seekers, who are looking for a unique and thrilling experience.

When looking for the extreme and truly extraordinary, we are committed to providing the necessary information about the Jungle Express. While we do not have any standard offers for traveling with the Madagascan railway, it is possible to incorporate segments of the journey into our tours to the East Coast. This way, you can experience the Jungle Express firsthand. To ensure you are well-informed, we have compiled the following details.

The History and Present of the Malagasy Railway

The Malagasy railway, now widely known as the Jungle Express, runs from the Malagasy city of Fianarantsoa down to the east coast to Manakara. Manakara was once the main port on the island of Madagascar and also the largest hub for import and export goods. Many of the typical colonial goods were loaded onto ships in Manakara and then shipped to the rest of the world. However, most of these goods understandably did not come directly from Manakara, but often from the inland, from villages and small settlements.

Many of these small settlements are still not accessible by roads today, leaving the people living there isolated from the outside world. The French colonial powers therefore decided to build a railway to transport important and valuable goods from the Madagascan hinterland to Manakara, and from there, profitably send them out into the world. The railway construction project between 1926 and 1936 became a gigantic feat, albeit at the cost of many lives. Thousands of workers perished under harsh conditions during the construction of the tracks. However, the result was at least worthwhile for the colonial rulers, as it opened up new economic opportunities. It has now become easy to transport precious goods quickly and safely. From a tourist perspective, the railway line offers some very special attractions and is considered one of the most visually stunning train routes in the world. The route passes through Madagascar’s famous mountain cloud forest, crossing a total of 67 bridges and through a total of 48 tunnels, with the longest tunnel measuring over a kilometer. The railway tracks cover a length of 163 kilometers, with the rails coming from Germany, the diesel locomotive from France, and the railway carriages from Switzerland.

The Jungle Express in Madagascar

The Quirks of the Jungle Express

What was once a pleasant and visually impressive journey has now turned into an unpleasant spectacle where all possibilities are open. From the extremely irregular departure times that are hardly compatible with a solid travel plan today, to the irregularity of the stops made, as well as the overall questionable condition of the railway, traveling with the Jungle Express nowadays generally offers more inconveniences than anything else. While there may still be a certain charm to the experience, it’s important to be prepared for the challenges that come with it.

In Europe, there is a first class on the train, but the guidelines valid here only have a limited capacity. First class in this case simply means that reserved seats are likely to still be available at the beginning of the journey and that very few chickens and other animals are in this compartment at the start of the journey. In addition, travelers in first class have the opportunity to use the “toilet” on board for up to two hours. However, the smells in the small cabin become so overpowering afterwards that it is strongly advised against using it.

Im Zug nach Manakara

Generally, the journey from Fianarantsoa to Manakara is planned to take about ten hours, but this is often not the case. Loading and unloading luggage and goods at various stops can take so much time that a travel time of up to 24 hours must be planned for the entire journey – and that’s without any unforeseen stops or a functioning toilet on board.

The doors on the train are always open, which is quite pleasant, especially in the humid and warm regions that the train passes through, even though the train only moves forward at a maximum speed of 15 kilometers per hour. The many negative experiences that can arise during a journey on the Jungle Express are somewhat offset by the fact that the ride offers a spectacular visual spectacle of changing landscapes and breathtaking natural beauty.

Meet people from different regions and cultural backgrounds on your journey, as the small villages along the way have their own unique traditions and customs. If you are interested in a tour on the Jungle Express despite all the challenges, we can organize a trip for you. However, we recommend our individual trip from Antananarivo to Tulear with a stop in Manakara for a trip to Manakara. On this journey, you can enjoy impressive views. Discover the stunning landscapes of Madagascar with added comfort and safety. Contact us for more information.

Explore more about Madagascar