Working for JENMAN African Safaris has afforded me quite a few opportunities, one of them being the chance to travel to Madagascar.
Day 1: departing from Cape Town, we headed to Johannesburg to connect to the Air Madagascar flight to Antananarivo. Upon arrival, we were transferred to our hotel… And then the fun began!
Like many capital cities, Antananarivo was bustling at 9 pm on Saturday night – food stalls were open, people walking in the street and sitting on their balconies.
Day 2: We awoke to the sun shining, which shocked us, as we didn’t know what the time was; we rushed around, hoping that we did not miss our first tour of Tana. Once we were at breakfast that we found out that Madagascar time is an hour ahead of South Africa and that we were an hour and a half early for our tour – Shoo! We met our tour group and embarked on a tour of the city of a hundred warriors filled with rice paddies and friendly people. We stopped at the Lemur Park for lunch for our first glimpses of Madagascar’s most famous & endangered animal! We headed back to our hotel, for a nap before heading out for dinner.
Day 3: we checked out of our hotel and embarked on our tour bus where we met the rest of the tour group! We stopped at the supermarket to buy our lunch and stopped at the local reptile park on our way East to Andasibe or the Perinet reserve. One of the most beautiful and tranquil areas, Andasibe is the home of the biggest living lemur- the Indri Indri.
Day 4: We departed early from the hotel well stocked with water and mosquito repellent. We visited Lemur Island. Like cats, lemurs do not like water and after a small canoe across to the island – we reached the island where we fed bananas to the Common Brown lemurs and Black and White Safikas and allowed them to use us as trees. We then hiked in the rainforest of Andasibe National Park for a chance to see the Indri Indri. We then hiked through the Mantadia rainforest to experience the botanical diversity of the park.
Day 5: We checked out of Vakona Forest Lodge and stopped at the crocodile park –we witnessed Nile crocodiles and the Fosa- the only natural predator to the lemur. We then headed back to Tana for a supermarket lunch. We stopped at an Aluminium factory, Zebu (type of cattle) horn souvenir manufacturers and a toy car and textile factory in Antsirabe. Once we checked in our hotel and freshened up, we went to a local restaurant and live music bar.
Day 6: we embarked on a tour of Antsirabe and visited the local post office for postcards and stamps and the bank for local currency –the Ariary. We then travelled further south on long winding roads to Fianaratsoa, the second-largest city in Madagascar. On our way, we stopped at the local park which is run by the local; community for lunch to view the ringtail lemur population. After a few minutes on the outskirts of the forest, we saw our first ringtail lemur family.
Day 7: After breakfast, we checked out and drove to a viewpoint overlooking Fianaratsoa. We then visited the local food and clothes market. Unlike western supermarkets, all the food sold is organic (including the free-range chicken that are alive and sold at the markets). We departed the bustling city to visit the local wine estate, where 4 different types of “wine” are made – red/white/rosé and grey wine. Grey is the opposite of rosé. We then headed to the silk factory, where silk scarves are hand made from the wild silkworm cocoons. From there we visited the handmade paper manufacturer. All the materials and flowers used are sourced from the surrounding areas. We drove then to the biggest national park in Madagascar – Massif De L’Isalo. We stayed outside of the nearby town of Ranohira.
Day 8: After an early breakfast, we drove through Ranohira, to pick up our local guide for our hikes in Isalo National Park. Armed once again with water and mosquito repellent we hiked through the Maki and Rat Canyons. We learned that the local people create graves for their beloved in the steep cliffs of the canyons. At about midday, we headed to the natural rock pool (piscine natural) for a swim. After a 20 minute hike, learning about the local culture, medicinal plants and viewing of the canyon we reached the rock pool and waterfall. After a refreshing swim, we hiked back to the bus. On our way, we were caught in a thunderstorm, which is very rare for the time of year!! It was utterly amazing, with thunder above you and lightning ahead of you and rain pelting down on you, you realise how small we really are. Safely, but sopping wet, we returned to our hotel, to celebrate our last day with our tour group.
Day 9: we checked out of our fantastic hotel (Relais De La Reine) and said goodbye to Isalo, on our way to Tulear. We drove through the We stopped at the local rum “factory”, to taste the local drink, which depending on how it is made can be up to 90% alcohol. Still, on the N7 national road, we passed the local Merina tribe tombs and our first Baobabs also known as roots of the sky. We saw our first glimpse of the sea and arrived in Tulear for lunch. And yes you can get pizza in Madagascar! We visited the local shell market – where bartering is common and some good deals can be made.
We reached the hotel we said sad goodbyes to our fellow travellers and transferred to Tulear Airport. Once we arrived, we were told that we and about 20 other people had been bumped off our flight as the airline had overbooked it. We surprised the tour group when we checked into the last available room at the hotel. After a refreshing swim and a good meal, we headed to bed for an early start to the next day.
Day 10: We arrived 2 hours early for our flight to make sure all our luggage had been checked in and tickets ready – thank you to the most amazing guide – Solofo and driver Prosper! We embarked on our flight to Morondava, said goodbye to the group (again) and connected to the Antananarivo bound flight. Do you know that you can see baobabs from the plane??? We arrived mid-afternoon in Antananarivo and visited a few hotels we use in the Capital city. We then checked into our hotel and relaxed before dinner
Day 11: We had an early morning transfer to Ivato airport for our morning flight to Johannesburg and then on to my home town – Cape Town. Madagascar is definitely the place to visit more than once – and in the great words of Arnold, “I’ll be back.”
Things to do before returning to Madagascar:
1. Learn to speak French!!!
2. Buy a bigger memory card for my digital camera – scratch that – get a better digital camera-there is so much to see.
Things to bring to with when returning to Madagascar: A football or rugby ball – Soccer/football is the most famous sport in Madagascar with rugby at a close second.