For many adventurers, the allure of travel is in the land itself.
- Wildlife & Polar
Wildlife & Polar highlights
- Types of Holiday
Popular Cultural Holiday
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The trip was a great experience. Madagascar is very different to anywhere else I've been in Africa. The tourist industry is less developed, which in itself added to the 'adventure'. This does mean that there was no alternative to eating in the hotels along the way. We covered a lot of ground, which leads to long hours in the bus, but there is lots to look at along the way, and it's the only way to see all the different locations that we visited. The unmade road to Andringita National Park was an experience in itself - in 4x4 jeeps, with planks on top, in case they are needed (and they were) to enable us to cross basic wooden bridges. We saw less wildlife than I had hoped, but never had the dispiriting experience of seeing nothing!
The trekking days were great. The countryside varies - the granite in Andringitra is very different from the sandstone in Isalo. Some of the trekking gradients, particularly in Isalo, were more challenging than I had expected from the trip notes. Be prepared for hills up and down throughout - and some steep drops at the side of the path. It was hot, we needed lots of water. The trekking guides were attentive, very knowledgeable and keen to share information. The porters singing and dancing in the evening in Andringitra was very special, and not just because of the local rum!
The night wildlife walk was busy with chameleons, mouse lemurs and a rat, and the local guide's enthusiasm was infectious.
The rain forest of Ramomafana was beautiful, but really brought home how horribly deforested Madagascar is.
The Madagascan people are lovely, and keen to make contact. The children love having their photo taken, and then seeing themselves on the camera screen. Crayons, balloons etc are very welcome gifts - but take advice from your guide how to give them, as you can provoke a feeding frenzy if you're not careful, or provoke begging. The guided visit to the fishing village was really interesting, with the opportunity to ask questions about local life. The local shop was amazing.
Rija worked hard for us, and was always positive and enthusiastic. We sometimes could have done with better details of the day's activity - for example, we didn't know that we would be spending nearly 3 hours at the natural swimming pool in Isalo.
Be prepared for long days on the bus. There is always plenty to see outside, but I was glad to have an iPod with me for some of the longer journeys.
We had a number of power cuts, and some of the hotels switched off electricity overnight. Be alert to charging batteries when you can. A powerbank is a useful backup, and removes some of that stress.
I was surprised by the blandness of the food. If you crave something a little spicier, you can ask for chilli sauce ('sakay') at any meal - including breakfast!
The first night camping at Andringitra is cold, you do need a warm jacket, gloves, etc.
Change your money at Tana airport, the rate is fine and it's much quicker than using a bank. There is very little opportunity to spend money on this trip, around £200 was ample for me. You need a minimum of 50 Euro to change money back on your way out of the country, and the change back rate is poor.
A very busy but well paced trip that I thoroughly enjoyed. The trekking is tougher than I'd expected, due to the heat, and there were some stiff climbing and descents, but the paths were very good and the views en route were stunning. Both Isalo and Andringitra, where the majority of the trekking takes place, are very different and offer very different experiences.
Madagascar is an interesting country, quite different to other places in Africa that I've been too, but sadly, almost totally deforested nowadays, so the distances between the various national parks are several hours drive apart, meaning some long sessions on the bus. However, the scenery is very interesting nevertheless - Madagascar is not a flat country so there is plenty to look at while you drive. A nice touch was that the bus would stop one side of a village, you'd all get out and the bus would drive a couple of miles up the road allowing you to amble through the village to break up the journey - we did this several times and they were very welcome breaks.
This did mean, however, that there was very little wildlife to see outside of the parks, and indeed, within them sometimes. I had expected more if I'm honest, however, our tick list of Lemur spieces was still good - around 6-8 I think. In Ranomafana, the rainforest, we saw quite a few, although they tended to be high up in the canopy. The night walk we did here was excellent though - our guide managed to find 2 mouse lemurs in the dark, and there were lots of Chameleons, and this was definitely worth doing.
The beach resort at the end was paradise. You have a free day and although the whales had gone, so that trip was out, some of us elected to visit the fishing village just up the coast, which I loved. You can easily walk to the village, by turning left out of the lodge, but the paid for visit allows you to wander around the village itself, rather than just watching all the boats on the beach. In the afternoon, we visited the "Spiny Forest", which was actually more of a botanical garden, but still interesting.
On the camping portions on the trip, the first two nights (in Andringitra) were very basic, and it got quite cold at night, but the 3rd night was at a lodge, which was lovely - and they sold beer there - so was a very welcome place to end the time in the national park. In Isalo, the camp site is in a lovely location, and the porters had kindly brought a couple of crates of beer with them, so we had beer that night too, so it was only the first two camping nights were we had no beer and very basic facilities.
The hotels were all excellent and tourist standard for Madagascar. They all had patchy Wi-Fi and the restaurants and bars were good and all sold beer, so we didn't need to leave the hotels in the evening to eat or drink. However, there is only 2 places where you stay for 2 nights, and we tended not to arrive until tea-time, so there was very little unpacking. I think I only had one cold shower during the two weeks.
I loved seeing the mouse lemur on the night walk in Ranomafana, as that was very unexpected.
In Anja reserve, you WILL see a lot of ring tailed lemurs, which are great fun, and I loved the time we spent with them.
The scenery in the two national parks was stunning and worth the effort to get there.
The beach resort at the end was lovely and I really enjoyed the visit to the fishing village
Although not a particularly hard slog, getting to the top of peak boby and enjoying the amazing views was also great.
Rija was delightful - she always had a smile on her face and was unfailingly nice and polite and it was lovely to meet her.
1. The beer is quite strong. THB, the national beer, is 5.5%. Even the Skol, the weakest we found, was 5% and there are beers stronger than this. Don't get caught out thinking you are drinking Fosters, or you will regret it the next day (speaking from experience I'm afraid).
2. The first two nights of camping were quite cold, so take some warm clothes for the evening, and something you can sleep in.
3. The food is good generally, and the beer reasonably priced. Just after Brexit the currency had dropped from around 5,000 Ariary to the £ to less than 4,000, but the beer was still around 5000 for a large bottle. A main course for dinner was around 15,000, so still good value. I made do with £300 worth for the whole trip.
4. Get currency at the airport when you arrive as the banks are VERY slow - it took 3 or 4 people about 2 hours to change money at the first money stop, making us very late for the hotel on day 2.
5. During the day it was very hot, even if the evenings were cold, so you will need plenty of water - so take a bladder to put in your rucksack as you'll go through bottles very quickly.
6. When camping, you leave a chunk of your luggage behind. If you have a second Exodus bag, which folds up small, take this to put what you won't need while trekking. The porters will take up to 10kg for you, leaving you with just your day sack to take while walking.
7. washing in the rivers is possible, but awkward. The first couple of days it was too cold in the evenings, but the final two were fine for washing as it was still warm (there were hot showers at the 3rd campsite).
8. On the last day in Isalo, you visit the natural swimming pool, so this is the day to take your cozzies. You will have a couple of hours to rest / swim. Porters bring your lunch to this spot - as it is only 45 mins walk from the bus.
9. I opted not to do the early walk on the last day in Isalo, as you return to the campsite for breakfast, but they saw some lemurs on this walk, so I was gutted to miss that.
10. take a few little gifts for the kids - balloons, pens etc. - they will greatly appreciate it, particularly if you plan on doing the village walk in Ifaty.
11. There was very little opportunity for souvenir buying, apart from the village we visited on the first walk, and on the beach by the beach resort - although one of the masks I bought turned out to be riddled with woodworm, so check this if you buy anything.
12. Ignore the height gain / loss that the trips notes give for the Isalo trek, it's another two days of steep ups and downs, but the scenery is again wonderful.
13. Take loo roll for the camping, and wet wipes if it's too cold to wash in the rivers. Pack as lightly as possible, as you don't see your luggage during the day as it's on the roof, and you have to leave quite a lot behind when camping.
I really enjoyed this trip and I think it had a nice balance of wildlife and trekking.
This trip was just amazing. An excellent opportunity to discover this beautiful country. During the two weeks, you can discover a big variety of landscapes (rainforest, savannah, beach...) and see many animals.
I found it particularly great, that we spent almost two days in the Ranomafana (rainforest) region.
I appreciate that there are no visits to animals in captivity/ zoos. During our tour, we saw unexpectedly plenty wild animals. I would say that chances to see many various Lemurs are quite high!
The highlight of the trip for me were the two trekking "sequences" with camping.
It is just awesome to have a swim in one of the most scenic "natural pools", and then walk refreshed through the breathtaking landscape of the Andringitra national park.
I furthermore really liked the sunrise hike to Peak Boby, Madagascar's second highest peak.
Eating at the fireplace and singing with the local helpers Malagassy songs was very inspiring and a great experience.
I found the encounter with the lemurs very touching. These animals seem so friendly and it is a great pleasure to observe them.
Armel took great care of the group. Including all sorts of special needs. He has a great spirit, respects the nature and his funny comments has lead to a great atmosphere among all travellers.
He supported us in all possible needs (hiking tips, airport transfer, clothing, lost sleeping bags...)
We could profit from his multiannual experiences: he showed us animals and places that are otherwise overseen by tourists.
Please be aware of the long driving days. Even if you can stretch your legs during the breaks, those days are very long. I experienced myself - even though I expected many hours in the bus, they became somewhat annoying.
But also note that this is just the nature of the trip. Without the travel, it is just not possible to discover all the sites we have seen. And after all, there are of course still many hiking opportunities! So don't let the drives demotivate you, just be prepared for them.
And even in the "always sunny south", there can be rainy days. If you are prepared for them, you'll enjoy the holidays weather independently. We also had a great time on hikes in the rain.
During the two trekking phases, there are local porters that cook, guide and set up the tents for you. They also transport the luggage. You should thus restrict the to-be-transported luggage. Since we can store away luggage that is not needed during the three trekking days, this can very easily be achieved. I even managed to carry my luggage by myself.
Personally, I think it is important to respect the native porters/ helpers. Even though they get a (very small) wage, it is nothing but fair to be polite and grateful for the great services they provide. This is not the place to be demanding, but to make new friends.
And finally, don't hesitate to book this trip. It will be an unforgettable journey to encounter amazing animals and to discover a wonderful place on earth!
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