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Trip Report Trip Report: Madagascar and Rwanda

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INTRODUCTION

I have been reading and posting on Fodors for more than 10 years, but I have been truly terrible about writing trip reports, typically because I feel like I don't have much to add beyond what has been posted by others (and also laziness on my part). However, I have just returned from a fantastic trip to Madagascar and Rwanda, and although there is a quite a bit of information both here and on other sites re Rwanda, I could find very little recent/up-to-date information re Madagascar when I was researching the trip. Thus, I promised myself that I would write a trip report right away, before the memories fade and before I start focusing on my next trip. I just returned 4 days ago and am still experiencing some pretty intense jet lag, so apologies in advance for typos/rambling/etc . . .

I traveled with a close friend/colleague with whom I've traveled frequently over the years. We're both middle-aged women who are in decent shape, but I would not call either of us particularly athletic. I'll provide more detail below re how we ended up in Madagascar, but for anyone reading this who is contemplating a trip there, my advice is to GO! It can be a bit intimidating given how little information exists, and how little information there is re reputable guides/drivers, etc . . . . I've provided information below re the companies we used, and I'm happy to answer any questions re the guides/logistics/etc . . . .

REPORT: MADAGASCAR

This was originally supposed to be an “all gorilla” trip, with 6 days in the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville; as distinguished from the Democratic Republic of Congo) to visit lowland gorillas, followed by 4 days in Rwanda. We booked through Africa Adventure Company (based in Florida), in part due to their good reputation and in part because they were one of the few operators who handled both Rwanda and Congo. Several months after we booked the trip, we were informed that the company operating the Congo camps (Wilderness Collection) would no longer be operating the camps as of the end of April. We were told that the Wilderness Collection also provided the charter planes needed to reach the camps, and did so at a subsidized cost, so while the Congo Conservation Company continues to own and now operate the camps, we were told that we would need to charter our own flight to get there, which would be cost prohibitive. This was a huge disappointment, and I hope we can find a way to visit Congo in the future.

In any event, we had already booked our international airfare and wanted to avoid the fees associated with changing it, so we put our heads together with AAC to figure out an alternative. We did a “standard” safari a couple of years ago (Kenya and Zimbabwe), and my friend has also spent time in South Africa and Botswana, so we wanted to do something a bit different . . . and decided on Madagascar! AAC quickly put together an itinerary that fit within our original schedule. I should note here that AAC was great to work with and was a great choice for us, given that we were combining more than one country, and especially given that we were forced to make a major change just two months before the trip. They also came to our rescue when we faced a major logistical issue part-way through the trip thanks to Air Madagascar . . . but more on that later.

We have United FF Miles and therefore needed to travel with United and/or a Star Alliance partner. Our routing was pretty good, albeit long: LAX to Heathrow on United; Heathrow to Johannesburg to Antananarivo (“Tana”) on South Africa Air. We arrived in Tana, the capital of Madagascar, mid-afternoon and were met at the airport by a representative from Za Tours, a Tana-based company that AAC chose as our local operators. The airport in Tana is quite small, and it took only a few minutes to get through immigration and to get our bags. For US citizens, visas are free and are obtained on arrival. We also successfully obtained some local currency (ariary) at the airport ATM.

After leaving Tana with our guide, Roddo, and driver, Parany, we traveled approximately 3.5 hours east to the Vakona Lodge, which is located near the Andasibe Reserve and was our home for 3 nights. The drive was quite scenic, although we were both exhausted and had trouble staying awake. The Vakona Lodge was lovely – we each had a stand-alone bungalow with a huge bathroom, outdoor sitting area, and the typical amenities. The setting of the Lodge is stunning – you are basically in the middle of the rainforest. The one downside is that everything was a bit damp, and the rooms had a bit of a mildew smell. We were visiting at the very beginning of the dry season, and there had been quite a bit of rain just before we arrived; our last day there was dry and sunny, and the mildew smell dissipated quite a bit, so I’m guessing it wouldn’t be too noticeable later in the dry season. The rooms themselves were spotless, the restaurant/common area was fantastic, the staff were friendly and helpful, and the location can’t be beat, so overall, I would recommend Vakona Lodge.

We were up early the next morning for a visit to the Parc National de Mantadia/Mantadia National Park, a huge area of primary rainforest, and one of the only places to see/hear the fabulous Indri lemur. To get there, you travel about an hour on an unpaved, extremely bumpy road, but the scenery is fantastic. In addition to Roddo, we were accompanied by a local guide, Dezi (I didn’t ask either Roddo or Dezi to write down their names, so I’m sure I have the spelling wrong for both; the other guides/drivers I specifically asked). We did the Tsakoka circuit, which is one of the longer circuits in the park, and the terrain was pretty challenging – lots of ups/downs and tromping through rainforest, often “offroading,” as we came to call it (ie, not walking on marked paths). That said, they payoff was huge. Within 15 minutes, Dezi had spotted a group of diademed sifaka, who were absolutely beautiful. Over the next 3-4 hours, we saw some terrific plants and animals, especially birds, including a collared nightjar and a rare Madagascar pygmy-kingfisher. We often heard the Indri’s distinctive call, but they eluded us until the end of our visit, when we finally found a group of them high above chewing on some leaves. They were worth the wait, but unfortunately, we only had about 5 minutes with them before they moved on. Fortunately, the following day we would have another chance to observe them in Andasibe National Park.

We were both exhausted after the visit to Mantadia, but I highly recommend visiting, if for no other reason than to see the amazing primary forest. We saw only 4 other people in the park during our time there, whereas Andasibe was much more crowded. There are some shorter circuits in the park, and you can take your time/go slowly if need be. One thing I would do differently – both my friend and I forgot to tuck our pants into our socks, and we also didn’t think to wear the gaiters we had packed for Rwanda. As a result, we were both bitten by leeches on our ankles. They are small and not dangerous in terms of carrying diseases, but the bites really, really, really itched for at least a week.

That night, we did a night walk with Roddo and Dezi near the village of Andasibe. We saw a Goodman’s mouse lemur, a woolly lemur, and a fantastic Parson’s chameleon (the true highlight of the night walk, in my view).

The following day, we spent the morning at Andasibe National Park (Roddo and Dezi accompanied us again), where we saw a grey bamboo lemur, common brown lemurs, and more Indri! The Indri are really magical and captivating, and it's humbling to spend time with them while knowing that this is literally the only place on earth they exist (Indri have not successfully been kept in captivity and are extremely endangered). We also had some good bird sightings, including a blue coua. The terrain in Andasibe was, in large part, much easier to manage than Mantadia, but the park was a bit more crowded and consisted largely of secondary forest. We visited “lemur island” that afternoon, which is run by the Vakona Lodge and has a variety of lemurs (black and white ruffed, brown, bamboo, and apparently one diademed sifaka that we did not see) that have been rescued and can’t be released into the wild. You can feed them bananas, and both the brown lemurs and the black and white ruffed lemurs will jump on you (especially the brown, who are not at all shy and are shameless about grabbing bananas). I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I really enjoyed it, both for the opportunity to interact so closely with the lemurs and for the great photo ops. We also walked through the village of Andasibe, which we really enjoyed.

The following morning, we sadly left the Vakona Lodge and headed back to Tana for one night before flying to the west coast. We easily could have stayed a 4th night, but I think 3 nights was sufficient to cover the “highlights.” We made it to Tana in time for lunch, and we ate at the Lokanga Boutique hotel, which was fantastic. If I ever return to Tana, I will stay there. We did a brief city tour that afternoon, followed by a little shopping at a handicraft collective, and then checked in to the Palissandre Hotel for one night. It was clean, had a nice restaurant, and wonderful staff. We were pretty underwhelmed in general with Tana (to me, it seemed pretty charmless), but to be fair, we weren't there for very long.

NEXT INSTALLMENT: Kirindy and Morondava – more lemurs and baobabs

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    MADAGASCAR, CONTINUED:

    We were scheduled to leave Tana on a 12:05 pm Air Madagascar flight to Morondava. The night before the flight, Roddo informed us that the flight had been changed to 8:00 am – four hours earlier than the scheduled time. This was our first experience with the notoriously unreliable Air Madagascar. To make matters worse, there were rumblings of an imminent Air Madagascar strike, due in part to the tense/unstable ongoing political situation (note: this is foreshadowing). Fortunately, we didn’t have anything planned for the following morning, so we got up early and went to the airport, saying a sad “goodbye” to Roddo and Parany (who were both fantastic). After getting through security, we discovered that the flight was now scheduled to leave at 7:30 am! Fortunately we were there in plenty of time, but we need not have worried . . . we didn’t actually leave until just after 10:00 am. The flight itself was short and uneventful. What we didn’t realize at the time was that this was one of the last Air Madagascar flights to get off the ground before the threatened strike became a reality . . .

    Upon arrival in Morondava, we were met by Za Tours representative Njiva, who was our guide for the next several days, along with our driver, Naina. Njiva was quite a character (in a good way), and we really enjoyed spending time with both him and Naina. From the airport, we left for Le Camp Lamoureux, near the Kirindy forest, which is northeast of Morondava. Most of the drive is on a very difficult road, and it took a couple of hours to get there. That said, the drive takes you through the famous “Alley of Baobabs,” which I’ve wanted to visit for years after reading about it in Afar magazine, and the scenery in general is stunning and much different than the Andasibe area. Le Camp Lamoureux is located pretty much in the middle of nowhere, about 45 minutes from the entrance to the Kirindy Forest. I have to confess that I was a little nervous about staying there, given some of the reviews on Tripadvisor. It is a very basic camp, and accommodations consist of a tent on a raised platform with a thatched roof covering. There is an ensuite shower, toilet and sink behind the tent (also on the raised platform). There is also a small, open-air area where food is served (and is included in the cost).

    It turns out I need not have worried . . . I loved it! Perhaps I would have felt differently had we stayed more than one night, but I loved being in the middle of the dry, deciduous forest. An adorable grey mouse lemur had taken up residence in the tree outside my bungalow, and although mouse lemurs are typically nocturnal, he (she?) was out sunning himself all afternoon. One of the staff at the camp took us on an afternoon stroll, where we saw red-faced brown lemurs and some geckos. That night, we journeyed (over very bad roads – thankfully Naina is a great driver!) to Kirindy for a night walk, where we saw several species of nocturnal lemurs, including grey mouse lemurs, fork-marked lemurs, sportive lemurs, as well as two sleeping (diurnal) Verreaux’s sifaka. As we were leaving to head back to camp, we saw a fossa (a cat-like, carnivorous mammal related to the mongoose family, and Madagascar’s largest predator) walking on the road, which apparently is a bit unusual, particularly for this time of year.

    Dinner at the camp was basic but delicious. It occurs to me that I have failed to mention thus far one of our favorite discoveries of the trip – the local Three Horses Beer. It’s a pale lager and is really tasty. They had some for purchase at the camp – I think it was about $1 USD for a large bottle. The stars at the camp were amazing, and the forest was very peaceful and quiet at night. It was a bit cold in the tent, but I was fine with the tent flaps closed and the provided blankets.

    The next day we went back to Kirindy for a morning walk. The terrain there is very easy – largely flat and very dry – a nice break after the rainforest. We saw more brown lemurs and had several terrific Verreaux’s sifaka sitings; we were with one group for nearly an hour. When we returned to the entrance to the park, we learned that a fossa was spotted nearby (apparently it comes around mid-morning to check out the dumpster for leftover food, as there are some basic accommodations located at the entrance to the park). Within minutes, we spotted the fossa and got some great pictures.

    After lunch and some time to rest, we headed back toward Morondava, reaching the Alley of Baobabs at sunset for some great pictures. From there, it was a somewhat short drive to Morondava and our home for two nights, the Palissandre Cote Ouest Resort, which is located right on the beach. We loved this resort and could have stayed for a week. We each had a huge, beautiful bungalow on the beach. The common area and pool were spectacular, and the food in the restaurant was by far the best we had in Madagascar. The first night there, we had a shrimp dish that was quite possibly the best shrimp I’ve ever had. We had been really conservative in terms of what we ate for fear of the dreaded intestinal issues many travelers experience in Madagascar, but we ate anything and everything at the Palissandre in Morondava (with no ill-effects). The next day Njiva took us on a short tour through the village, including a visit to the local market, which was really fun. The rest of the day was spent lounging by the pool. Because it wasn’t quite high season yet, and because of the issues with Air Madagascar, we were the only people at the resort until our last morning, when a French couple arrived.

    It’s a good thing we were well-fed and well-rested, because the next 48 hours were among the more stressful of my travel experiences. Njiva checked the Air Madagascar schedule the night before we were due to fly back to Tana, and at that point, the flight was still scheduled to leave the following day (3 hours early, actually). But the next morning, it was starting to look like the flight was not going to take off due to the strike. We were supposed to have a free afternoon in Tana and then transfer to the airport at midnight for a 3:00 am flight to Rwanda, so we really needed to get back to Tana that day. Given the situation, the only real option was to drive, so we got in the car and rode back to Tana with Njiva and Naina. The road from Morondava to Tana is not safe to drive at night (apparently lots of armed robberies of private vehicles), so we had to leave right away, as the trip takes nearly 11 hours. There is actually a nice place to stop about 1/2 way, so we ended up having a nice lunch, and parts of the drive were quite scenic (others were not).

    It wasn’t ideal, but at least we made it back in time to freshen up (we had rooms reserved at the Palissandre in Tana), re-pack and make it to the airport for our 3:00 am Kenya Airways flight . . . only to find out it was canceled due to complications from the strike (lack of ground crew). This is where things got a bit complicated, because we didn’t have a lot of wiggle room in our schedule, as we had two non-refundable, non-transferrable gorilla permits lined up. Fortunately, we had scheduled a day/night in Kigali prior to heading up to Volcanoes National Park, and we could still make it in time for our first gorilla trek if we could get re-booked on another flight. We contacted AAC, and they gave us two options: a South Africa Air flight through Jo-burg, and a Kenya Airways flight through Nairobi. Both flights left that afternoon (it was now 1:00 am), and both involved an overnight in either Jo-burg or Nairobi, which meant we would miss the night in Kigali but arrive in time to transfer directly to Volcanoes NP. We ended up picking the Kenya Airways flight, then went back to the hotel to sleep for a few hours. We arrived back at the airport at noon, several hours before the flight was set to take off, and it was a complete madhouse at the airport. All departures and arrivals that day ended up canceled … except our Kenya Airways flight to Nairobi!!! It was pretty touch-and-go for a while, and we talked to several people who had been trying to get out of the country for several days. Njiva and Naina stayed with us until they were sure we were going to take off – they were supposed to have the day off and really went above and beyond to make sure we were okay.

    A bright spot in the whole ordeal was that we ended up befriending an American couple who had been living and teaching in Madagascar for several years and were also headed to Kigali for gorilla trekking before heading back to the US. We spent all afternoon with them at the airport, and we met up with them again in Rwanda. I hope we’ll stay in touch and that our paths will cross again.

    When we got to Nairobi, AAC had provided us with two HUGE suites at the Ole Sereni Hotel near the airport, which was a really nice thing for them to do. I wish we had more time to enjoy it, but we were headed to Rwanda early the next morning.

    Before I get to the Rwanda installment, some parting thoughts and some logistics re Madagascar:

    - First of all – GO! Despite the Air Madagascar snafu and the general unreliability of the airline, I would not hesitate to go back. In my view, one of the best chances for saving the endangered and critically endangered plant and animal species, nearly all of which are found only in Madagascar, is to provide revenue to the country in the form of tourism. I really hope the country can stay politically stable enough to support tourism, because the country has so much to offer.

    - I can give my highest recommendation to Za Tours. They were across-the-board fantastic. As I said above, we booked through AAC, but I believe you can book with them directly, as well. They specialize in English-speaking guides.

    - I dutifully took malarone while we were there (and in Rwanda), but saw very few mosquitoes, except at the beach resort in Morondava, where I saw a number of them (but not as many as I saw in Laos or Vietnam in November). I was somewhat diligent about using deet (despite the fact that I hate the stuff) and I think I got one, maybe two, bites.

    - We were very conservative in terms of what we ate, sticking to cooked vegetables, pasta, rice, and French fries, primarily, except for the resort at Morondava. I felt “off” for one day in Andasibe after eating at a local restaurant and chewed a few pepto pills, but other than that, neither of us had any problems. Za Tours provided unlimited bottled water for free, which we also used to brush our teeth. And I'm sure the beer helped.

    - If you are going to the rainforest, take good, broken-in hiking boots. Tuck pants into socks or wear gaiters. If you go during their winter, bring layers, as we found it to be very warm during the day but chilly at night.

    - Consider a longer trip if you have time. We did not make it to Berenty in the south, or to any number of other places that sounded amazing. Seven days was not close to enough time to see everything I wanted to see. That said, if 7 days is all you have, I would say GO. You can get a nice snapshot/overview of a couple of areas in that amount of time, and I felt like we got a good overview.

    - If you can learn one or two Malagasy words, you’ll be greeted with huge, warm smiles wherever you go . . . at least that was our experience. Neither of us speaks French, and pretty much nobody outside the hotels spoke English, so communicating might have been difficult had we not had our guides, but in general, people seemed really friendly and willing to help however they could.

    NEXT INSTALLMENT: Rwanda (which I will keep short)

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    Thanks, Abby! Madagascar??!!! Oh no ..anotherone for the to-go-someday list! Thank you for posting all this, especially as there's relatively available about the country. Looking forward to your Rwanda report too!!

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    Thanks for taking the time to write such a great report on Madagascar as there is very little written about it here. Thanks most especially for the descriptions of the wildlife and lodgings. I'll definitely plan to assign plenty of time as a cushion against mishaps with logistics such as you describe. I'm glad you decided to post, it was worth the wait :)

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    Thank you! I recently watched an Anthony Bourdain show (I believe) about Madagascar. It looks like a wonderful place to visit. Your tr is another push for us to go. Vivid pictures in my head while reading. Thanks.

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    CaliNurse, Femi and christabir - thanks for reading and for your comments and encouragement! I'm planning to work on the Rwanda portion of the report this evening . . .

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    Thanks so much for posting your TR. I'm traveling right now and only read it quickly but I'll be pouring over it when I get home. Madagascar has been on our list for ages, thanks for going to all the bother.

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    Thank you so much for sharing. Madagascar is one of those places where I have images in my head but don't know much about. Other than the baobabs and the lemurs, I have this picture of the tsingys.

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    Welltraveledbrit and tripplanner001 - thanks so much for reading and commenting! I was suprised at how little information there is online re Madagascar. I realized that I have taken for granted the many trip reports I've read/relied on over the years, so hopefully this report can provide some helpful info for someone planning a trip to Madagascar. Tripplanner001, I wanted to go to the Tsingy de Bemaraha NP (although I read that it is quite difficult to get to, and also challenging to hike), but we didn't have time. Another reason to return!

    Sorry for the delay re the Rwanda installment! I am already starting to forget the details, so here it is, finally:

    RWANDA

    We arrived in Kigali around 9:00 am and were met by a representative from Primate Safaris, the local/ground operators chosen by Africa Adventure Company. Over (delicious) coffee, we were briefed on the itinerary and given some general information about Rwanda and the gorillas. After coffee and the briefing, we met Patrick, our driver for the next 4 days. Patrick was great – friendly, informative, and fun. We were really pleased with Primate Safaris and would recommend them to anyone planning a trip to Rwanda (I believe they also cover Uganda).

    The trip to the Sabyinyo Lodge was approximately 3.5 hours over a good road with beautiful scenery. It was truly stunning; Rwanda is a beautiful country. Upon arrival at the Lodge, our luggage was whisked away and we faced the “dreaded” walk from the car park area to the Lodge. It was drizzling and very slippery, and our lungs were burning from the altitude (approx. 8200 ft), but we eventually made it. The walk became much easier as we adjusted to the altitude over the next couple of days and the weather dried out a bit, but that first walk to the Lodge was a doozy.

    The Sabyinyo Lodge exceeded our already high expectations. The setting is magical; the cottages are extremely well-appointed and beyond comfortable; the main Lodge is gorgeous with lots of areas to sit/relax/enjoy a cocktail/read; the staff are friendly, knowledgeable and accommodating; the food (especially the soups) is delicious; and Lodge Managers Wendy and Fin were extraordinary hosts (sadly, Wendy and Fin were leaving the following week to manage a camp in Tanzania).

    I relied heavily on the trip reports posted by atravelynn and canadian_robin (as well as several others) for advice re what to pack as well as the general logistics of the trip, and I won’t repeat everything they said but instead will just say that their reports were EXTREMELY helpful. I felt like I packed all the right “gear” and felt comfortable/well-outfitted for the hikes. One thing I was on the fence about was whether to pack leg gaiters. Since we were traveling during what was supposed to be the dry season, I figured they might be overkill. But in the end, I packed them and was really glad I did. There was a bit of late-season rain (it was pouring the morning of the first hike and didn’t stop until just before we started hiking), and there was a lot (a whole lot) of mud. I really liked having the extra barrier provided by the gaiters, and they also provided extra protection against ants, which we frequently ran into along the trail. One of the gentlemen on one of our hikes got ants in his pants – literally – and ended up dropping his trousers right there on the trail in an effort to get rid of them. Anyway, the Sabyinyo Lodge provides gaiters (and boots and raincoats and even backpacks if you need them), but I believe most other lodges do not, so it’s worth it, in my view, to pack them. That said, others in our group seemed to do fine by tucking their pants into their socks, but they did get really, really muddy.

    On both hikes I wore thicker, weather resistant hiking pants (one pair from Athleta, one from REI), a short-sleeved t-shirt, a thick long-sleeved shirt (the LL Bean corduroy shirt that canadian_robin recommended) and a rain jacket (more for warmth than protection from rain, although it did drizzle on the first hike). I brought gardening gloves and wore those during portions of the hike to protect against stinging nettles. I wore my already well-worn hiking boots (I would not recommend wearing shoes that are not already broken in) but saw people in all manner of shoes – sneakers, wellies, work boots, and even sandals (yikes!). My shoes were literally covered in mud after each hike, but the staff at the Sabyinyo Lodge cleaned them each day, and they were spotless!! I packed a fleece and did not use it on the hikes but was glad I had it for the chilly evenings. In my day pack I carried the snack provided by the Lodge (which I did not eat and ended up giving away both days), heavy-duty rain pants (for rain or nettle patches – these went unused), passport (which you will need at park headquarters the morning of the hike), money for the porter/trackers/gorilla guides and for souvenir shopping at the nearby co-ops, camera and related gear, water, and a small first aid kit. Walking sticks were provided.

    We did what I would consider to be two "medium" hikes. We visited the Agashya and Hirwa groups -- both of which are often on the "easy" side, but in both cases, they were farther away than normal due to issues with a lone silverback in the area. Each hike was about 2 hours to the gorillas -- about 45 minutes through generally flat farmland and then an hour (or slightly more) through the bamboo forest (with modest elevation gains, but nothing too steep). My friend and I each hired a porter, as did most people in each of our groups. The porter was a real life-saver, especially given the amount of mud from recent rains, and as many other Fodorites have already said, it’s important to provide this source of employment to the local community. One of my porters was a woman, which I thought was really cool. There is some good advice on this site re tipping, and both Africa Adventure Company and Primate Safaris provided tipping guides. My friend and I each tipped the porters $30USD and the guides and trackers $10USD (each).

    The time with the gorillas was all I expected it to be, and more. It’s hard to describe the full impact of the experience. Some of my colleagues thought I was nuts for “going to all that trouble” for just an hour with the gorillas. But the reality, at least for me, was that the whole experience was not “trouble” but a lot of fun, and although the hiking and altitude was a bit physically demanding at times, it really wasn’t as hard as you might think, and the time with the gorillas is truly indescribable. In fact, I’m already planning a return trip. As an added bonus, we re-connected with the couple we met in Madagascar and invited them to the Lodge for drinks and dinner on our last evening at the Lodge. Another couple from the Lodge (who we ended up hiking with on both treks) joined us, and it was a great way to cap off a fantastic experience.

    After 3 nights at the Lodge, we departed after breakfast for one last day in Kigali. We visited the genocide museum (extremely sobering but a “must do,” in my opinion), had a nice lunch at the Hotel Mille Collines (the basis for the movie Hotel Rwanda) and did a bit of quick shopping. Patrick dropped us off at the airport, and we said a sad goodbye. I wish we had more time in what is truly an extraordinary country. It’s amazing and inspiring to see how they’ve re-shaped the country after the atrocities that took place just 21 years ago.

    My friend and I both loved this trip. It wasn’t always easy, but it was extremely rewarding and a real adventure.

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    Thanks again for sharing. I can only imagine the lack of information about the countries you visited. As I am researching and planning my first trip to Africa, I am finding a noticeable lack of information even for more-visited countries such as South Africa.

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    Thanks for the additional stuff on Rwanda too. Its great to read about it all.

    Just fyi for trip planner and anyone else who is interested the Bradt Guides provide great information of less common destinations in Africa and elsewhere, you may well have used their guide for Madagascar. They have guides to places like Angola, Gabon, Mali, Eritrea and Cameroon among MANY others...

    http://www.bradtguides.com/destinations/africa.html

    You can find lots of information its just getting the right resources, I find that overall there's much less travel and awareness of Africa in the US than you would find in Europe.

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    welltraveledbrit - I agree; the Bradt guide was indispensable and provided accurate, in-depth information on Madagascar. We also had Lonely Planet, which was fine but significantly less helpful for us.

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    Good information on Rwanda! We are going on our first Africa trip next July and will spend 5 nights in Rwanda, 3 at Sabinyo. Happy to read the confirmation that Sabinyo provides gaiters, as I'd heard this but it wasn't confirmed so still wasn't sure if we needed to pack our own. Still trying to decide whether or not to pack rain pants.

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    abby - how serendipitous [is that a word?]! on our recent trip to Cuba, DH and i were discussing where we'd like to go next and both SA and Madagascar scored high on our list so when I started a search here, your TR hit the spot.

    SA would be a return visit [I'd particularly like to see the spring flowers] but Madagascar would be a first time adventure - would August/September be a good time for Madagascar?

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    WTB - thanks for the tip about the Bradt guidebook to Madagascar - I'll be looking out for it in our local library. [and trying not to lose it like i did the Bulgaria one]. Funny you are thinking of going there too.

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    I was very interested in the Madagascar part of your trip. Your tips at the end were a great summary. A Madagascar & Rwanda combo is unusual so it's good you can contribute your experience matching these 2 countries.

    Shame about DRC and Wilderness. It would be great for the area if that could be successful. Maybe in the future.

    "I should note here that AAC was great to work with and was a great choice for us...especially given that we were forced to make a major change just two months before the trip. They also came to our rescue when we faced a major logistical issue part-way through the trip thanks to Air Madagascar . . . but more on that later."

    I too have had AAC come to the rescue when there were problems, whether it was a no-go for a destination booked (like your DRC) or plane problems within Africa.

    You must have been stressed with the strike and cancelled flights. Yikes.

    When you mention that more time would be better, from my brief investigation, it almost seems like you'd need more than one trip to visit the destinations with unique flora and fauna AND spend adequate time at each.

    Thanks for the good info.

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    annhig - My understanding is that August/September would be ideal; the rainy season starts in October, so it might be hot in some areas, but it would be dry (which, in my mind, is important for spotting lemurs as well as photographing them if that's important to you).

    atravelynn - it is a shame about Wilderness, but I am hopeful for the future. I'd love to do a DRC/Republic of Congo trip to combine mountain and lowland gorillas. Fingers crossed . . . . I am actually returning to Rwanda this August for another gorilla experience -- apparently I can't get enough. :) In terms of how much time to spend in Madagascar, I agree that you'd really need more than one trip to see it all, unless you had something like 4 weeks (and even then, you'd have to make some hard choices). It's a really big island, and it takes a long time to get from place to place. I hope to return in the next couple of years. Madagascar has really stayed with me these past few months. It was a special place.

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    Wonderful report, thank you!

    it is a shame about Wilderness, but I am hopeful for the future. I'd love to do a DRC/Republic of Congo trip to combine mountain and lowland gorillas.

    This is a dream of mine too.

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