RN5 Madagascar 2024 Was Our Toughest Expedition Yet: In Photos

The Grand Tour, a global sensation on Amazon Prime Video, features a trio of hosts navigating the world's most challenging roads. In 2020, a special episode thrust them onto the brutal RN5 Madagascar, pushing them to their limits. The journey proved so gruelling that, for the first time in the show's history, one of their vehicles met its match before week's end.

“There are boulders the size of garden sheds and ruts in which a fully grown man could hide,” remarked Jeremy Clarkson, one of the three presenters. “And, to make things worse, to our left was a jungle made from colours that exist nowhere else, and to our right an endless succession of perfect white beaches. Which meant half the time we weren't looking where we were going. On one particularly rough day, we covered four miles in 16 hours.”​​

Traversing the Madagascar RN5 demands nerves of steel. That's precisely why Nomadic Road plotted an expedition here. In April 2024, a fearless band of adventurers set out on an 11-day RN5 Madagascar expedition. Unbeknownst to them, it would become Nomadic Road's most gruelling expedition yet. 

Unexpected cyclones, landslides, and damaged pontoons forced the expedition to be cut short by a couple of days. Nevertheless, each participant returned with unforgettable stories from their Madagascar escape. What follows are visuals from the deadly expedition that was.

This shot, taken at Andasibe National Park, kicks off our Madagascar expedition. On the first day, drives were kept simple and direct, with a significant portion on tarmac roads. The focus was on participants bonding with their vehicles, especially crucial when you visit Madagascar.

The next day, our journey led us into Mantadia National Park. Similar to Andasibe National Park, Mantadia is renowned for its dense rainforests and rich biodiversity. However, accessible solely by 4x4 vehicles, Mantadia offered a more remote and untouched experience. Here, we had tête-à-têtes with Malagasy giant chameleons and common brown lemurs.

One standout feature of overlanding in Africa is tackling water crossings with your 4x4 vehicles. You'll frequently encounter pontoon crossings when travelling to Madagascar in an overland vehicle. Put simply, floating platforms transport vehicles across rivers or bodies of water.

But like we said, this Nomadic Road expedition proved to be our roughest yet. One day, high tides thwarted the pontoon's path. We navigated the waters with grit, boarding the pontoon against the odds. Besides, with our usual route blocked, we embarked on a rugged three-hour detour upstream. Eventually, we found a safe spot to disembark and press on with our journey.

Still, amidst the hardships, we found solitude and serenity. This image captures one of the most remote beaches along Madagascar's coast — a serene oasis on the vast expanse of the Indian Ocean.

 Unforeseen rains made certain sections incredibly arduous. Covering a mere three kilometres took over three gruelling hours. Nearly every turn found some vehicles mired in deep mud and slush, requiring a variety of techniques for recovery. Not your typical Madagascar escape.

Travelling to Madagascar solo may not be ideal. Even in perfect weather, tackling the RN5 demands serious planning and resources, pushing vehicles to their limits. Fortunately, our technical team was always on standby to address any vehicle issues that arose along the way.

Traversing the Madagascar RN5 means conquering mud, gravel, and dirt roads, along with river crossings, steep hills, and rough surfaces. Dense jungle and vegetation pose additional hurdles, especially during heavy rain.

When you visit Madagascar, expect to venture into remote areas where modern conveniences are scarce, especially along routes like the RN5. Despite the rugged terrain, we ensure comfort with clean bedding, freshly prepared food, and ample tent space. In fact, setting up rooftop tents and discovering coastal campsites add to the adventure of living simply in dramatic settings.

Participants in Nomadic Road expeditions share a passion for challenging conventions and embracing the unconventional. For them, luxury isn't defined by opulence but by the raw excitement of adventure and the opportunity to connect with nature. As Venky, the founder of Nomadic Road, often emphasizes, "True exploration isn't constrained by the need for creature comforts."

Occasionally along the RN5, we encountered remote villages where the residents were primarily fishermen or farmers. Their lives were simple and serene, far removed from the hustle and bustle of city living. Despite the lack of modern amenities, they seemed content with their way of life.

When you visit Madagascar, you'll experience a whole new world. Here, you see Malagasy rickshaws, called pousse-pousse, a tradition dating back centuries. Initially pulled by zebus (cattle), now human pullers prevail. These rickshaws aren't just for getting around; they're colourful expressions of art, adorned with patterns, motifs, and messages.

Due to landslides and a broken pontoon, the final section of the RN5 was impassable. To reach Maroansetra, we arranged for two boats. The 8-hour boat ride proved tougher than driving along the RN5. That said, it offered participants a chance to reflect on the arduous journey they had nearly completed. 

The Madagascar expedition had changed their lives forever.