Madagascar, Part II – An Unforgettable Trip
See also: Madagascar, Part I – An Unforgettable Trip
When you’re planning on visiting Madagascar, think about your itinerary and find out what you really want to see. Don’t underestimate the distance between places, and keep in mind that it’s all beautiful, anyway! Depending on how much time you have, you can do a southern loop, a northern loop, or a combination of both – like we did.
You can fly into Antananarivo easily from different cities in South Africa, Europe and Asia. Flights are not cheap, but once you’re there, it can be one of the cheapest places to travel in the world.
Let me tell you a little bit about some of the highlights of our trip. Isalo National Park, where we went camping overnight, allows for amazing hikes through the beautiful mountainous nature. We didn’t run into anyone until we reached the camp at night, which is just the way I like it. You’re obligated to go with a guide though, like in most parks in Madagascar. Outside Isalo, we stayed at the beautiful Satrana Lodge, which totally lived up to our high expectations based on the pictures we saw. It’s too bad I was struck by a violent G.I. attack over there, otherwise it was perfect!
The Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park is full of weird-shaped limestone towers, which you can climb over and through, it’s a lot of fun. But the most fun you’ll have is getting to the park in the first place. After a full day of 4-wheel driving through the mud and rivers to get to the ‘town’, the next day we thought the 14 kilometers / 9 miles to the entrance of the park would be a piece of cake. 1 hour and 15 minutes later we realized that it being a national park had absolutely nothing to do with anyone bothering to build an access road, as the ‘road’ was pretty much non-existent. I had a great time and we had the best driver, so we were lucky – but if you have an inexperienced driver, it can take you a little while longer…
By the way, the Orchidee du Bemaraha is unfortunately not the best place to stay in Bekopaka town – at least not anymore. Three days of not eating properly made us a bit cranky, so we finally asked if there was an alternative – and thankfully our driver brought us to the little paradise known as Soleil du Tsingy, where we spent one memorable night that made up for all the previous mediocre ones. The place was newly built and therefore not listed in the Lonely Planet yet, but I’m sure it will be in the next edition. I mean, look at this pool picture!
On the way back from Tsingy to Morondava you will have the chance to visit the famous Avenue of the Baobabs. Make sure you’re there around sunset, which allows for the most beautiful pictures – it is truly as amazing as the iconic pictures of Madagascar you always see. Make sure to bring enough mosquito repellent, though. You need to walk through a swamp to get to the best place to take pictures, and you’ll be eaten alive otherwise.
After long consideration, we decided to go to Ile Sainte Marie instead of Nosy Be for the ‘tropical island’ portion of our dream vacation. It’s a gorgeous place, with a lot of stuff to do, like quad bikes and diving – but the absolute highlight of possibly my overall travels was Ile aux Nattes. I almost feel like I shouldn’t talk about it in public, because it should remain a secret… It’s not only one of the most beautiful islands I’ve ever seen; it’s still untouched, the people are friendly, and it’s a completely unique experience – one that I had been looking for, for a while. The well-known Petit Traversé is a great place to stay and it has the best pizza, but the Sambatra Beach Lodge is located on one of the best stretches of beach and has nice little beach huts for a bargain price. I can’t wait for the day we get to go back, even though I’m usually always looking forward to exploring the next, new destination.
If you have the chance, I would also recommend visiting the Andringitra National Park, as well as Nosy Be. We had to make choices and that’s why we didn’t get to visit those places… There is just so much to see and do – depending on what you’re looking for. Madagascar has it all!
Tips & Tricks
- When taking one of the local taxi-brousses, try to find one that is almost full, or be prepared to pay for additional seats – that is, unless you have unlimited time and can leave 5 hours later than originally scheduled. Most taxi-brousse drivers will be happy to cut a deal with you if you’re willing to rent the whole thing.
- Try not to travel at night. I know we shouldn’t, but we (accidentally) did it anyway. We were lucky, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone – neither would the locals.
- Bring a bag when you go to exchange a few hundred dollars. You get a LOT of local currency in return.