Madagascar

January 7, 2013 in Madagascar, Travel







Some of my videos, where you can see extra photos are available as:
The fascinating world of Madagascar
Madagascar exotic beaches
I now wonder where and how do I start this wonderful story? There are lots of people asking me about this trip, some of the friends and on the internet, so even though it has passed some time since then and I’ve recommended places and things to do and see to people asking, I believe it’s a good thing to have a short story about the place written on my blog, although I would like to keep it short. When did the idea about Madagascar began and why did I choose this place among so many others? I don’t know for sure…maybe I was hoping to find the cutest animals, the lush vegetation, exotic beaches and the far away forgotten places, but I know that it started in one day when we were sufficiently unconscious to bypass the fear of flight, the fear of serious illnesses like malaria, the fear of political riots present around the time of our trip and not the least the fear of unknown, and to enter on the airline’s website, make a few clicks, so in a few minutes we could have 2 tickets to Madagascar insured. I remember I was a little sorry the next few days that we did that haha, because I realized than we had to go, and some things remained unresolved, like the pills we had to get for malaria, and we couldn’t find them anywhere in our country, after unsuccessfully trying to buy them online from different websites, we finally found an online pharmacy from UK that would sell them to us… I still don’t know why it was that hard! These pills are the first thing you have to buy before going there, the second would be a flashlight, very handy, as in Madagascar the sunsets around 6 o’clock all time of the year, so it gets dark quickly and you do need it in many places with no electricity(In some places the resorts had generators, but they used to keep them only for a few hours on). Although it’s situated at the Tropics and you would think it’s so hot, the temperature it’s so pleasant like 28° C, and pretty cold especially at night in the highlands like Mantandia and Andasibe National Parks where we used to cover ourselves with 4 blankets at night. Looking through my list of things I usually take to trips, here are some more you would need or that would be really useful in such a trip: a penknife, an mp3 player with voice recording(if you like to keep some kind of a journal, it’s easier and faster than writing) sunglasses, a hat, a scarf(protection for the burning sun!), sunscreen lotions, an effective mosquito repellent, garbage bags(for different things you would like to take home, like sand or shells :) ), some of the most important drugs like antibiotics, painkillers, as there you will not be able to find most of them, some patches, and my list could go on and on, but I found these to be the most important. Now you can imagine how my luggage looked like! You have to book at least the rooms in Antananarivo, and arrange a taxi from your chosen hotel, to take you from airport, because it’s really hard to go and search for places to stay, especially if you arrive late at night, and Antananarivo it’s not that safe!
It’s better to get the visa from your country, as although you can get it on the site, you have to stay in line for like 2h or so, and that is the last thing you want after a long long flight(of course depending on where you live, but Madagascar it’s pretty far from most of world) and besides even if it’s really unlikely not to get it, I wouldn’t risk it! The fastest way to travel for us was with Air France(we got the tickets online from their website) on Budapest-Paris-Antananarivo, lasting for 15h + 1h max waiting in Paris for the next flight. Getting through the checkpoint, hundreds of people were waiting with banners with names on them. We spotted our driver’s banner with my name on it and the name of the hotel. The first thing you have to do is exchange some money, and at the airport is the easiest and the best place to do that. First impression: friendly people with interesting balck-asian features :), traffic jams, highly polluted city, a lot of garbage, more gendarmes than I would have expected, poor people, and then a strange thought crosses my mind… what if something bad happens, where do we turn to? haha I must say I get a little crazy and suspicious when I’m really tired.
We had an extra day to spend in Antananarivo, as we could hire a car with a driver only the next day. I admit we were a little confused, it’s like we weren’t to eager to go out and visit, because our first impression on the city as we saw it by night was not really a good one, but since we were there and we had a day for this, we had to do something, so we got out in the city. First of all there were so little and narrow sidewalks and zebra crossings that you would have to develop some kind of an extra ability to handle through the crowd and traffic. Even though there were a few white people on the streets, we were not that much in the center of attention as I would have expected, and that was a good thing! except for some beggars and some merchants from a market trying to sell us some things. I would say people in Istanbul saw us more as strangers than those from Antananarivo. It’s a strange thing, isn’t it? We didn’t do much the first day, we just walked all the way to the Lake Anosy and a visited a market on the way with lots of interesting cereals, fruits, a lot of things we didn’t know they were existing, we were just accommodating to the place. There aren’t as many stray dogs as there is said to be, in fact we have more in my country..I’m not proud of it but that’s the truth..Antananarivo is a picturesque city, with hills covered with crowded 2-3 storied small buildings and houses and it has some incredible viewpoints.


This was the view from the balcony of our hotel. Amazing isn’t it? I have to say it was a pleasure to take our meal with this perfect sight, I especially loved the mornings and the evenings.


Some cute kids playing on the streets in Antananarivo


We’ve hired a car with a driver from the hotel and the first road trip we’ve made was to the wild west haha. You can also travel by taxi brousse(the buss taxis from Madagascar) but you’ll need a much more time for this, and it’s pretty risky as they get really overcrowded, some run at night and the many drivers are driving drunk, so overall it’s better to hire a car for long trips! We were going to see the baobabs and the Kirindy Forest, and especially to see how people are living in the rural west villages. This is said to be the poorest part of the country, probably because it’s so arid compared to the lush east.
In west savana the soil is the reddest I’ve seen so far, it’s like on a different planet, with palm and banana trees here and there, more and more present as we approached the west coast. There are these cute zebus that are like cows with a bump on the back, adapted to tropical climate. The roads are narrow and pretty good until the last 50km before the west coast, with so little cars on road, greeting each other with a short horn. Although so little they have, this people were so friendly, helping each other, It was so amazing to see that when we were approaching the west coast and the roads were really bad, drivers were making room for others to pass. Once in a while a taxi brousse overcrowded with people and luggage on top, would overpass us. Once a taxi brousse was overhung-ed with tens of chickens, that was a real 100 chicken-power taxi brousse! People were selling fruits and veggies on the road and in the poorest regions they were selling wood sticks and kids were filling the holes on the roads with sand when a car was approaching and stretching out their hands afterwords to get a coin :( People and especially kids were so happy to see us, in some remote places people were not used to tourists at all, kids were afraid to approach when we would stop the car to give them sweets, so we would leave them there, afterwards they would come to get the sweets and were smiling and waving to us as we left. Once we stopped the car to see the rice paddies, some kids came smiling to us, I asked them: “Photo?” and a sweet one replied “Bombon?”, that was the cutest thing ever! We stopped to take some fruits and sugarcane, here is the
video of us eating sugarcane on the road :) The villages were sparse, with only a couple of houses, people living in the simplest way I’ve seen so far. We ate our lunch in Antsirabe, he had Malagasy traditional food: zebu and chicken soup, We are not really into meat and their zebus and chickens have pretty hard meat, but I loved a cocktail made in 3 colored layers of fruits nectar. We arrived after dark in Minadrivazo..the hottest city in Madagascar..and it was hot as I couldn’t sleep that night.


Next day we arrived late in Morondava, so we didn’t have enough time to see the baobabs, we enjoyed the evening on the beach. The first time at the ocean in Madagascar :) so magic! I loved it.
Kids singing Waka-waka while bathing in Mozambique Channel’s water.


Morondava beach at night



The next day we were visiting the well know Alley of the baobabs, the oldest of them and the baobabs in love, pictures are worth a thousand words when describing this wonderful place. We headed to the Kirindy forest afterwards…it got pretty late, not really a good thing to travel after dark especially in the west, but we arrived safe and we were staying over night in the Kirindy forest in the most rustic bungalow ever. We had a guide that showed us the forest and animals by night, he even woke up in the middle of the night to show us the giant jumping rat, haha it was a funny thing to run in pajamas after a rat in the middle of the night haha, he was a sweetie, he would run than stop, run and stop like he would enjoy the chase haha. You can see him in my youtube movie linked above.


Rural scene in west Madagascar near the Alley of the Baobabs


The Alley of the Baobabs

Baobabs at sunset


Other 2 days back straight to Andasibe and Mantadia National Parks, great places to see the rain virgin tropical forests, to spot lemurs,
hear the indri’s call – the lemurs that only live in these forest, see chameleons, and other endemic and interesting animals. We also stopped at Vakona forest lodge to have a great meal and come closer to the lemurs. Here it was a small island where lemurs were used to people, and they would come to you to give them carrots and bananas. We stayed in bungalows just near the Andasibe forest, and we could hear the song of indri, early in the morning.


Memories from Mantadia and Andasibe National Parks



We headed to the east beaches. Mahambo is such a great place to be, and La Pirogue offered us one of the most amazing experiences we had in Madagascar with beautiful gardens, great beach and the most pleasant place to have you meals.
We had a
bungalow just near the beach, and at night we used to sit on the terrace in front of the bungalows, hearing the oceans waves and admiring the glow-worms making their dance in the warm air, the sky full of stars with the palm trees figuring on. A dream place isn’t it?


We tried some fruits that were specific to these places, one of them being the biggest in the world, the jackfruit.





Mahambo by night


We continued our trip to Soaniera Ivongo to take the boat to and island – Ile Sainte Marie. Here our driver left us, planning on coming to take us back after like 10 days. The boat trip wasn’t enjoyable, this is a hard passing, the waves are big, and the unsuitable small boats have a hard time braking the waves. If a storm is approaching it’s not advisable to pass. But it was so worth passing! Palm trees bending on endless stretching beach, tropical lush forests, all for yourself to enjoy! You see what I mean:




We stayed in different places on the island and made several trips crossing the island by foot from west to east twice on different paths to see the mangrove forests and the natural pools and to enjoy the island’s beauties. You never get to enjoy things better than traveling by foot, you meet locals, see things you could have never seen when traveling by car or worse by airplane.
A little girl we met on a small village on the island:


The staff from the resort helped us take the table, chairs and the food on the beach for the most romantic dinner ever. We’ve made a bouquet from hibiscus and other flowers and placed them in a vase made from a bottle and palm wood.


We took our first taxi brousse from the north to south of the island, a tire had broken, as expected haha, they started repairing it and after an hour we continued to the south. We took a pirogue to pass to a small island in the south Ile Aux Nattes, measuring only 12km round. We stayed in a bungalow formed by 3 hexagonal shapes bonded together in one, with a hammock inside, just near the window with a view to the beach, we used to open all the windows to have a complete view, just amazing! On the beach we had 2 other hammocks, really we didn’t have enough time to enjoy them all haha! We used to take our lovely meals, consisting in salads of local fruits(I loved the mango salad) and fresh ocean fish together with sweet potatoes right on a small terrace on the beach. You would have to wait 1h and a half after ordering, or order it in the morning, but really we didn’t mind waiting after the long walks around the island. Meanwhile we watched locals plaiting fishing nets, sailing on pirogues, building bungalows, people just living their lives on this small island.


The view from our bungalow in Ile Aux Nattes



While waiting for the dinner to arrive..now you see why we didn’t mind…

The hammock on the beach

Places from all over the island


We climbed on the island’s hill to see it’s beauties from above. What a view..

This is a small story with a few photos about the amazing places we’ve seen and the things we’ve done in Madagascar. You can find more photos on the youtube videos linked at the beginning of the article. Some of the costs involved: the plane tickets(check the rates on Air France website) cost high, the meals cost medium(we payed between 6-15Eur), room rates cost low to medium(we payed between 15-60Eur), taxi and car renting and fuel cost high(we payed 1000Eur for the car renting together with the driver and fuel, taxi brousses are cheaper but still more expensive than for the locals as they give you different rates if you’re a foreigner), Ticket entries to tourist attractions and National Parks price medium-high(between 10-15Eur/person/entry, some places have the guide included, in others you’ll have to pay a separate price). Hope you enjoyed this virtual trip to Madagascar!