Surf Trip to Toliara

Not fully knowing its potential when I came out here, it was only when someone suggested that for its location between South Africa and Réunion Island, Madagascar must surely have some epic waves, that I decided to look further. With little optimism, due to the shark situation, and minimal infrastructure, I did a bit of research into whether Madagascar was surfable. I managed to find a few companies that were offering Mentawai style boat tours, and I was amazed to see endless streams of photos of perfect unridden waves on their websites, and the affirmation that the shark problem was in actual fact not a problem at all, with no shark attacks recorded on the west coast. I booked away a week off work, and signed up for a tour for the end of August. After two weeks of endless youtube videos of the surf there, and scrolling through all the surf Madagascar hashtags on Instagram, I was very excited to make this trip.

Zebu 4×4 doing what it does best

To get there, like with any trip in Madagascar, was not an easy process. With the option of either an expensive flight or the local taxi brousse, I decided to face my enemy and brave the bus again. This time with more preparation, I bought two seats at the front of the bus, next to the driver, which proved to be actually quite comfortable. The bus was in much better condition than the one I had taken before, with much more space inside, although the entire front windscreen was completely cracked, which did not give me much confidence in the driver’s skills. We had a pretty poor start, with two flat tyres in the first 3 hours, but in the end made the journey in just under 24 hours. A particular highlight was when at 2 in the morning a policeman armed with an ak-47 got on the bus and sat next to me. After a few minutes the previously incessant blasting Malagasy music stopped, and in its place I heard the soothing flute of Celine Dion on the speakers, and I felt a tear in the corner of my eye as both the driver and the policeman, revealed their angelic choir boy voices, bursting into song.

Our boat loaded up with boards

The surf tour was based in Toliara, overlooking the sea, and as I arrived I was greeted with the news that the surf was going to be epic for the next week.

The next day we headed north to Mangili and Ifaty, on the boat, stopping off for a surf on the way at one of the numerous reefs. The waves were pretty big for me, and seemed pretty perfect, but the rest of the boat didn’t seem that impressed so I knew there was more to come.

Unridden monster at sunrise

In the evening we organised a trip to see the baobab forest nearby , on zebu 4x4s, a trip made even more fun with the addition of a few rums. The species of Baobab was different to that in the allée de baobab in Morondava, so the trees were shorter, but there were many more, all spectacular with their fat bizarre shape. We climbed a few trees, watched the sunset and then headed back to our hotel in paradise.

Obligatory Baobab hug photo

With the swell coming in predicted to be over 5m in size, we were limited on where to go, so took the boat south towards Anakao, stopping at a famously deadly break called ‘Kamikazes’ to set up for the next few days. With only one village nearby, this was true simple paradise, staying in minimalist bungalows, being cooked great local food, and with a perfect view of the surf break from the beach.

Our bungalows on the beach

The next few days was filled with surf, eat, sleep, surf, eat, sleep. With the main break looking like an angry Teahupoo, we were surfing a smaller inside section called ‘maggots’, that was still scary enough for me.

The water was warm, blue, completely empty of surfers and sharks, and home to the best waves I have ever seen. In the next twenty years, I am sure this is going to change, so I need to get back here before everyone else discovers this well-kept secret!

Indian ocean tunnel

To top off this amazing trip we organised a local to sail me back to Toliara, in a traditional Malagasy sailing pirogue, in the 40 knot winds, and the 5m swell. This was such great fun, managing to complete the journey in half the time that we took in the motor boat, although we did have to spend a lot of time emptying out water from the inside of the seemingly fragile pirogue.

The calm before the storm in the pirogue

The taxi brousse back to Antsirabe, was fairly uneventful, however we did pass an overturned taxi brousse on the side of the road, a quite shocking reminder of the consequences of not being careful.


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