Madagascar

Madagascar

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13 travelers at this place:

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  • Day150

    After buying a local SIM card, water and getting some cash, we drove ~4 hours up to the Analamazaotra-Mantadia National Parks (another world heritage site).
    The people in this part of Madagascar look far more Asian than we expected. You could easily believe you were in Indonesia or Malaysia. We’ve learned that the first people to settle here were originally from SE Asia, and they were followed by Portuguese, Arabs, African slaves, Indians, French, etc. You can definitely see the French influence in the farmhouse–style architecture complete with wooden shutters. And happily, you can taste it in the food – including some delicious patisseries and boulangeries.
    We learned a few days before arriving that several of the hotels we’d planned to stay at were fully booked so we ended up in a very basic “eco-lodge”. Essentially, it was a straw hut with a bed inside and attached toilet block (where the toilet hardly worked and the hand-spray shower water was cold). Not a good introduction to accommodation here, and especially disappointing because this is where we spent our 20th wedding anniversary.
    Nevermind. We had each other. And the lemurs and chameleons (almost) made up for it!
    We first visited Mantadia park and were lucky to see 3 species of lemurs there, including a lemur baby. Ridiculously cute creatures that are so odd – almost a cross between a gibbon, NZ possum, sloth (not the movement, just the look) and meercat. On several nocturnal walks we were able to see 3 more species of lemurs as well as 3 kinds of chameleons. Amazing. And, on our last day here, we saw 2 more lemur species and several more babies.
    For our anniversary, we went to lunch at a fancy lodge (where we’d wanted to stay) and enjoyed a bottle of wine and some seafood. Very nice, though the animals here have been the absolute highlight.
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  • Day153

    Many of the names here sound similar. Antsirabe is, in fact, a different town and was a stopover point on our way towards the west coast.
    We drove most of the day with a stop at Madagscar Exotic, a fantastic “zoo” housing many species of chameleon, gecko and butterflies in very large outdoor enclosures. Let us tell you…we LOVE chameleons. They are so incredibly beautiful and have an endearing way of moving slowly, looking around, and adapting to their environment. It was such a treat to watch them being fed and getting a chance to hold several of them. Such cool creatures.
    The hotel where we stayed was very charming – a French colonial café that had been converted to a hotel. Our room was enormous with a sitting room, separate bedroom, and ceilings 15+ feet high. It was such a treat to stay here after such a crappy place before. Unfortunately, we were out the door at 6am for our long drive west.
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  • Day155

    Another day’s drive reminded us how happy we are not to be self-driving. This became even truer as we had several very interesting ferry crossings. On the first ferry, which was ~45 minutes long, we had to drive up onto a pontoon with 6 other cars via 2 thin metal ‘planks’. Absolutely no room for error. Yikes! The second ferry was very short (~5 minutes) and involved driving into a river up to thigh-level, then driving up 2 very steep narrow planks onto a ferry which dropped you on the other side of the river and again required traversing the narrow metal tracks.
    While here, we took a river trip down the Manambolo River to see the beautiful gorge and did some hikes in the small and grand Tsingy Bemahara (another world heritage site). The scenery and landscapes have been incredible. The walks have been challenging, not only because of the insane heat (it’s >95F), but the walks require scaling ladders, using ropes and harnesses on some of the steepest bits, squeezing through narrow canyons and caves, and trying not to cut your hands on the incredibly sharp limestone edges. The Tsingy are limestone outcrops that have been eroded over millions of years into unique formations of razor sharp serrated pinnacles, canyons and caves. The local guide we had for two days, Narcis, was great and taught us not only about the flora and fauna, but also educated us about Madagascar history and culture. We also had some good lemur sightings, adding a new species to our count (9 total now).
    Did we say it’s hot! This is the hottest weather we have had in Africa with temps reaching 38C (100F), which usually means starting activities early with a siesta during the hottest part of the day. We’ve also encountered the worst mosquitos since being in Africa. Christy has not resorted to wearing her mosquito suit yet, but we promise a picture of her wearing it at some stage in our time here.
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  • Day158

    A full day’s drive through many villages and different landscapes took us to Morondava where we’d picked up our second car and driver a few days back.
    Slash and burn agriculture - chopping down trees to make charcoal (which is the main cooking fuel source for most), burning off the remaining grass and bush so new grass will grow that livestock can eat and, eventually, planting crops - is a common practice here. It’s most devastatingly obvious when in and around some of the national parks where we’ve seen dense forest on one side of the road, and barren, charred land on the other. Sadly, the poverty is so extreme in many areas that it seems people have no other option to survive. The hardest to see is many young kids working (in fields, carrying bricks, breaking rocks, etc.), not going to school, and begging on the side of the road.
    We arrived at our odd, but comfortable hotel on the beach looking out over the Mozambique Channel.
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  • Day159

    On the way to our stopover point, we were pulled over once again by the police and our driver had to pay another ‘fine’. Apparently, the tinted windows are too dark and need to be changed. This was a law just introduced last week and obviously being exploited by the traffic police.
    We enjoyed a quiet night while it poured with rain and John was able to watch the exciting SA-NZ rugby game at last since we had decent internet.
    On our way out of town, we stopped at an interesting artist’s colony where locals were making miniature toys out of recycled materials. Very clever and original toys reflecting items from everyday Madagascar life.
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  • Day160

    This small town on a hill is famous for woodcarving and was only a few hours drive from Antisirabe. We ended up having a great experience with our accommodation after a bad start.
    We’d been taken to a room at our originally booked hotel that was simply not happening. It was essentially a wooden box in the garden with daylight showing through the walls, one small ‘window’ with a shutter (no net or glass) and no mosquito net for the bed even though the room was already swarming when we arrived. The hotel was fully booked so they couldn’t put us into one of their decent rooms in the main building.
    We called the tour organizer and learned that the hotel had an annex. Not expecting much, we drove down a very rough road through a small village, past an abattoir and over a collapsing bridge before pulling up to large, new-looking house. The caretaker, a cute older lady, let us in and proceeded to show us 4 rooms. The place was empty, and the rooms were large, clean, and did not need nets because the doors and windows were new. We settled into the room and after realizing we were the only guests, and seeing how organized the new kitchen was and knowing the caretaker was also the cook, decided to eat dinner there. What a great meal! We ordered early for a later dinner and after she knew what we wanted, she headed into the village to buy ingredients. Simple food, but fresh and wonderfully prepared.
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  • Day161

    Ranomafana National Park is in a very dense rainforest with a river running along its’ border. The river has big boulders, impressive waterfalls and some thermal pools. We were meant to soak in the thermal baths, but the Minister of Health had closed them because of some “parasite”. Glad they were proactive.
    While here, we did a day and night walk to look for critters. On our day walk, we were able to see a new lemur species - the red bellied lemur, as well as a few types of bamboo lemurs and another sifaka – this one black & white. It was a beautiful forest, though a tough climb to see the lemurs. And when our animal spotter would find a lemur family, we’d go racing off trail through the woods crossing creeks, scrambling up and down muddy hillsides, and trying not to fall down. The lemurs were worth it!
    On our night hike, we simply walked along the road (in a steady rain) where it is easier to spot chameleons. We were able to see the nocturnal mouse lemur, some frogs and lots and lots of chameleons!
    This park was very different from the others and well worth the trip.
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  • Day170

    We wanted to visit this remote park, Tsimanampesotsa, to see a unique species of baobab so we took a taxi about an hour up a sand road to another beach area, Ambola. This turned out to be one of the most beautiful beaches we’ve ever visited and we were the only guests so had it all to ourselves. The hotel was very basic without any running water (we used buckets for washing and to flush the toilet), but the food was very good and mostly straight out of the sea. After asking if there was good snorkeling, one of the hotel staff drove us a few kilometers up the deserted beach and dropped us off so we could float back with the current. It worked great and we were surprised to find more variety and quantity of tropical fish than expected, though they were all small. If this reef were protected, it would certainly become a world-class diving and snorkeling area.
    We spent one morning in the park doing some walks and admiring the very unique baobabs. There’s also a huge salt lake here that changes color as the sun changes position – very beautiful. During certain times of year there are huge flocks of flamingos, though there were only a few around during our visit.
    It was a very good visit and much nicer than the more popular Anakao beach area, but it was again stinking hot at ~100F (nearly 40C).
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  • Day171

    We had to spend another night here since the boat only goes out early in the morning. This time we had not just one, but two, mouse lemurs in our hut.
    It was interesting getting on and off the boat because the tide was very high and we were lucky all of our stuff didn’t get soaked – especially in the oxcart ride where the animals were up to their mid-belly in the water.
    After waiting around for ~4 hours, it was finally time to catch our flight to Tana. The small airport was odd in that when the plane eventually showed up late, it was announced with an emergency siren that you would expect to hear before bombs dropped or a tsunami hit. The plane was relatively new and large, but the pilots drove it erratically. When they parked after landing, they drove straight towards the terminal and then whipped it around for loading – it seemed very close to hitting the building and isn’t something we’d seen before with such a large jet. The takeoff and landing were also very rough, but we were very happy to be sitting in on air-conditioned plane and to eventually land safely in Tana.Read more

  • Day168

    It only took us ~3.5 hours to get to the coast, but the drive was a bit disheartening as we passed through sapphire mining towns and barren landscapes with very possibly the worst poverty and exploitation we’ve seen. This was highlighted when we stopped at a village to give away all our empty water bottles we had been collecting over the last few weeks. The local villagers use them to store water and local rum, brewed from sugar, which is then sold roadside. There was a mad scramble as our driver got out to give the bottles away, highlighting how precious even an empty water bottle can be in this part of the world.
    We spent the night at the hotel connected to the Arboretum d’Antsokay. It was a very interesting place with lots of plant species, chameleons, tortoises and mouse lemurs (which we saw on a night walk).
    There’s been a fairly serious outbreak of the plague (Black Death) in the capital city and on the east coast so we’re not only hoping to avoid catching anything, but are a little worried that it might be difficult to get out of the country next week as travel restrictions are possible. Fingers crossed as we’re looking forward to exploring Reunion and Mauritius next.
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Republic of Madagascar, Madagaskar, Madagascar, Madagaska, ማዳጋስካር, مدغشقر, Madaqaskar, Мадагаскар, Madagasikari, মাদাগাস্কার, མ་དཱ་གྷསྐཱར།, Madagaska nutome, Μαδαγασκάρη, Madagaskaro, ماداگاسکار, Madagaskaar, મેડાગાસ્કર, מדגסקר, मेडागास्कर, Madagaszkár, Մադագասկար, マダガスカル共和国, მადაგასკარი, Bukini, ម៉ាដាហ្កាស្ការ, ಮಡಗಾಸ್ಕರ್, 마다카스카르, मडगास्कर, Maddajaßka, Madagascaria, Madagasika, ມາຄາກັສກາ, Madagaskaras, Madagaskara, Repoblikan’i Madagasikara, മഡഗാസ്കര്‍, मादागास्कर, မဒဂတ်စကာ, मडागास्कर, ମାଡାଗାସ୍କର୍, مادغاسکر, Madagaskära, மடகாஸ்கர், మాడ్గాస్కార్, ประเทศมาดากัสการ์, Matakasika, ماداگاسكار, مڈغاسکر, Ma-đa-gát-xca (Madagascar), Orílẹ́ède Madasika, 马达加斯加, i-Madagascar

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