Madagascar is the 4th poorest country in the world, what it lacks in finance makes up tenfold in riches with flora and fauna.
The 4th largest island in the world located of the southeast coast of Africa by the Indian Ocean.
Once a French Colony now an independent country you can still see the French style architecture and French is still one of the main languages spoken, the first being Malagasy.
The easiest and fastest route from Edinburgh is with Air France via Paris on to the capital of Madagascar, Antananarivo also known in short by Tana.
The city’s population is not small at over 1.6 million residents. Crime can be strife in this over populated city mainly happening in the known tourist hot spots. As with most cities be vigilant and leave your valuables at home or in the hotel safe. Also take registered or hotel reserved taxis in the evening.
We travelled with GAdventures tour “Highlights of Madagascar”. The tour took in some of the main National Parks including Andasibe-Mantadia National Park, Ranomafana National Park and Isalo National Park, all of these very different ranging from rainforests to red lunar landscapes with different species of Lemurs to be seen!
We decided to take a taxi transfer from Tana airport to the Chalet Des Roses Hotel, which was a bargain at 45,000 Malagasy Ariary / £11.00. We had read that it was important to check that the Taxi Driver had the formal taxi licence card; we didn’t have any problem with finding a taxi driver. The porters swarm you at the baggage belts and seem to multiply before your very eyes! Then once past the immigration official the taxi drivers appear waving their official card fighting for your attention. Beware all the porters are looking for tips including tips for the immigration official. They would love Sterling, Euros or Dollars in that order, anything other than Ariary. The going rate is 2000 Ariary each/£0.50. The best exchange rate was with Sterling then Euros and lastly Dollars. You can change money at the airport for convenience but the best rates are available at the official banks in the main city or larger towns. The queues and time taken in banks can be somewhat lengthy! ATM’s can be found in the city and in the larger towns too.
The 45 minutes to an hour taxi journey was thankfully uneventful and after the long journey it was appreciated that we are able to check directly in to the room. We arrived on the same day the tour started and the welcome meeting took place at 4.00pm. We were due to arrive two days earlier to explore Tana however Air France strikes started and alternative flights were found at the last minute taking in a longer route but with “The pride of Africa” Kenya Airways. The service and flight were brilliant! We couldn’t recommend enough.
The accommodations were basic and mainly clean in quaint little bungalows other than the hotel in Tana. Most provide mosquito nets and some plug in repellent although we found holes in some of the nets. We took along a plug in repellent; repel mosquito spray and natural citronella cloth wrist bands. These we found to be invaluable. The cloth bands tend to fall off using the fastening. So we took these out and tied them on our wrists, which seemed to work better. The accommodations do provide towels some better than others and only small bars of soap. The water pressure and temperature varies greatly along with water availability and electricity.
Some things I found to be invaluable on the trip was a head lamp, Teva’s/flip flops for showers, Dry Shampoo and a beach sarong.
Food was a really interesting and often colourful topic on our tour with 12 out of 14 in the group becoming quite ill. Some of the eateries were very small quaint home style with local Malagasy food served. I won’t name names here of the best contenders but can highly recommend some brilliant eateries we found to be life savers.
There are a few places along the beach that are worth trying.
We did experience some great pizza which was a blessing on our journey to Ifaty. On low days we found the local Madagascan Chocolate, crackers, cookies, yogurt drinks and coke cola ideal!
Some of the main highlights were staying in the rain forest hearing the evening sounds and waking up to the Lemurs calling, visiting the paper, silk and aluminium factories. The home stay was unique and the visit to the local shaman was very interesting!
We had a brilliant time seeing the Lemurs in their own habitant’s and experiencing the local culture. It is a great time to see the real Madagascar and the unique endangered species.
We are looking forward to our return to see more of this captivating country.
If you have any questions or top tips visiting Madagascar please do get in touch.
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