Madagascar Trip Report

Jun 3rd, 2005, 06:14 AM
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Madagascar Trip Report

Saturday -- I had used Delta SkyMiles to book a business class ticket (120,000 miles) from JFK to Antananarivo on Air France, but I was upgraded to First Class on my JFK to Paris leg. I traveled next to one of the ESPN sportscasters who was traveling to Paris to cover the French Open.

Sunday -- after transiting in CDG and showering in the lounge, I arrived in Antananarivo (Tana), Madagascar's capital, and was transfered to Hotel Colbert (nicest hotel in Tana, and it was OK -- nice room, lobby filled with hookers, good bar, CNN). After traveling around 20 hours, I had no trouble falling asleep.

Monday -- drove to Perinet, one of the best national parks. Stopped along the way at a small "zoo" that raised chameleons -- they had many different varieties and I think they sell them to foreign zoos and collectors. At Perinet, I stayed at Vakona Lodge, the most upscale lodge in Madagascar (I'd give it three stars -- very basic). Food was OK, room was very spartan, but a nice pool. We hiked at night to see nocturnal lemurs and chameleons, but not much luck.

Tuesday -- morning hike in Perinet to try to locate Indri, the largest and loudest lemur. Very interesting hike through rain forest and up into hills -- I was covered with mud, leeches and was soaking wet, but we found two different groups of Indri. The guide played their call on his tape recorder, and the Indri responded by loudly howling and I think their call can be heard over one km away. In afternoon, drove back to Tana and overnighted at hotel near airport (very, very basic).

Wednesday -- caught morning flight to Morondova, on Mad's west coast, and was picked up by owner and guide and chef from Chez Maggie for drive to Kiridny Park via Avenue du Baobob. Stopped at zebu (cattle) market on the way. Saw hundreds of baobob including Avenue du Baobob and took lots of photos. About another 90 minutes to Kirindy. While waiting for cook to prepare lunch, went on short hike and located Sifaka (a large lemur). Great lunch (smoked fish, salad, tons of grilled shrimp and Three Horses Beer). After that, went on long hike and found Brown Lemur, Sportive Lemur and Sifaka. Returned to camp for snack and then went on nocturnal hike and located Mouse Lemur, Sportive Lemur and Pygmy Mouse Lemur. They Pygmy Mouse Lemur was identified in the 1850s and then not seen again until 1995 and only live in Kirindy -- they are the world's smallest primates and we saw several (I thought it interesting that in less than two years I have seen world's smallest and largest primate, silverback gorillas in Uganda and Rwanda). After hike, drove back to Morondova and Chez Maggie, a great place to stay right on the Indian Ocean.

Thursday -- spent time at beach on Indian Ocean (the Mozambique Channel) outside Chez Maggie -- great beach, very few tourists. Lunch was garlic crabs (delicious), but when I was leaving, the local fishermen were dropping off enormous lobsters, but since I wasn't able to stay for dinner... Flew back to Tana and overnighted near airport.

Friday -- flew to Ft. Dauphin, at the southern tip of the country, and drove to Berenty, a private reserve known for ring tailed lemurs. Arrived around 10:00 and after lunch, went hiking and saw plenty of ring tails and also more sifaka. After dinner, went on night hike in spiny forest (plants look like cacti) and saw several nocturnal species.

Saturday -- flew back to Tana, spent day at Hotel Colbert, and caught redeye flight to Paris and was back in NY on Sunday.

Madagascar, obviously is a long trip, but I'm glad I visited, even for one week. While I like wildlife (I've been on lots of safaris, and have visited the Galapagos, for example), I think I would have grown bored if I had extended my trip to visit more parks and see more lemurs. One week was enough, for me. The lemurs were interesting, but didn't hold my attention like game on safaris in east and southern Africa. While the trip was interesting, I don't find myself yearning to return, which is the feeling I had after returning from the traditional safaris or the Galapagos, for example.

I have posted some photos on

thit_cho is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2005, 06:20 AM
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One more observatio. The local people were very nice and there was very little, if any, begging, which I found unusual in the world's fourth poorest country, but maybe that's due to so few tourists. The only hassle were the hookers in the hotel lobby, but they were fun to watch as they attached themselves to very old French businessmen. To me, they looked disease ridden and dirty, but the businessmen didn't seem to mind. I didn't inquire about price, but things in Mad are very cheap. By way of example, before my redeye flight back to Paris, I had an hour long legitimate massage in the hotel for US$12.

The other strange encounter was a young girl who tried to sell me several kilo of raw, uncleaned shrimp as I arrived at the airport in Ft. Dauphin. I can't imagine what she thought I'd do with a huge bag of raw shrimp on a one hour flight.

thit_cho is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2005, 01:19 PM
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Thanks for the report...Madagascar is on our list too!
welltraveledbrit is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2005, 09:37 PM
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Thanks for the report... and great pictures!

Madagascar is also on my "to do" list. I think a week would suffice for me as well. I adore lemurs but, as you said, a week was plenty.
safari274 is offline  
Jun 4th, 2005, 05:46 AM
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Thanks Michael for your report - Madagascar is somewhere I've wanted to go for a long time, and I thought about incorporating it into that 9 week Southern Africa trip last year but it didn't make financial sense...

It's good to hear your experiences of it.
Kavey is offline  
Jun 4th, 2005, 04:18 PM
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You know, Madagascar wasn't really on my radar, but now that I've heard about the hookers...

Kidding, of course. Thank you for a very interesting report and some great photos. Glad you had a good time!
Leely is offline  
Jan 25th, 2006, 10:55 AM
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I'm trying to open your kodak gallery but the link doesn't work. Any ideas?
Toshi is offline  
Jan 25th, 2006, 11:05 AM
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Hopefully, that link will work.
thit_cho is offline  
Jan 25th, 2006, 11:26 AM
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Welcome back Michael~glad you enjoyed your trip!
matnikstym is offline  
Jul 24th, 2006, 04:01 PM
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Wonderful pictures of the lemurs and chameleons! I hope I get to go there some day!
tanuki is offline  
Aug 27th, 2006, 10:35 AM
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Just FYI, while Vakona Lodge is indeed by far the best option in or near Perinet, it is not by a longshot the most upscale lodge in Madagascar.

Tsarabanjina, Anjajavy, Iranja, Venta Club, and Princesse Bora are all very, very nice places to stay. You will pay dearly for the luxury though.

For anyone making their dream trip to Africa, I'd recommend sticking to the mainland. Lemurs are cute, but Madagascar is difficult and expensive to travel around and the tourist infrastructure is very much lacking. (The political violence is also now ramping up in advance of the next Presidential election) I lived in Madagascar for several years and my fondest memories were my trips to the mainland.

soleil17 is offline  
Oct 19th, 2006, 06:42 AM
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1. You are correct. There are many nicer accomodations in Mad than Vakona, but I think they are all beachside resorts.

2. I forgot to mention that I also saw a fosa at Kirindy (fosa are very rare, and are the largest carnivore -- sort of look like a small puma). One fosa was in the habit of approaching the cooking tent, and it spent several minutes walking around less than 15 feet from me.
thit_cho is offline  
Oct 19th, 2006, 07:22 AM
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Nice report, Michael.....i missed this report until now. Thanks........

Oct 19th, 2006, 03:11 PM
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Somehow I also missed this the first time around (and the second and third). Thanks Michael.

Madagascar is on my list. A long ways down, but there none the less.
Femi is offline  
May 22nd, 2007, 11:56 AM
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Finally found the report - searching on "thit_cho and madagascar" brought up several threads but not this one. I finally found it by searching on "madagascar report"!

Michael, can I ask how you went about booking/ putting the trip together and how you decided upon the destinations you included?

Kavey is offline  
May 23rd, 2007, 02:48 AM
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Kavey, there is not as much material on Madagascar as on the more popular African safari destinations, but I found the Bradt guide extremely useful (and the Lonely Planet to a lesser extent). I also used the website for Cortez Travel, with whom I ended up booking (the operator is an honorary consul to Madagascar and was able to process my visa).

I know that I wanted to visit wildlife parks, not the beach, and that I wanted to cover the country by air, at least as much as I could in a week or so. I had also known about Andasibe/Perinet (where Attenborough and Durrell did research), and decided to make it my first stop -- it was only two hours or so from Tana. The Vakona lodge at ndasibe/Perinet was decent (but certainly not like a 5-paw lodge), clean and comfortable.

I also know that I didn't want to cover long distances by road, so I looked for parks relatively close to airports, and I also wanted to go to different parts of the country, so I ultimately decided on Andasibe/Perinet (in the east), Kirindy (near Morondova and Avenue du Baobob, in the west) and Berenty (in the south, and by far, the world's best and easiest place to see lemurs up close). If I had a few more days, I may have added an extra day at Chez Maggie in Morondova -- the host (Gary) was terrific, the rooms very nice, and an amazing beachside location.

Contrary to what I had written at the end of my initial post, I can see returning soon to Madagascar, especially since I want to get to Mauritius and the Comoros and would likley transit via Madagascar.

thit_cho is offline  
May 23rd, 2007, 03:08 AM
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Thank you, very helpful!
Kavey is offline  
Jan 19th, 2008, 11:56 PM
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Michael, It's almost 3 years since you took this trip but it is still a very interesting and informative report. I tried to see your photos and discovered that the album is no longer on the Kodak site. I'd love it if you could repost. I'm sure others would enjoy hard to find pictures from Madagascar.
Mediatorr is offline  
Jan 20th, 2008, 06:19 AM
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Mediatorr, the second link, that I posted on January 25, 2006, should work.
thit_cho is offline  
May 18th, 2011, 02:57 PM
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I hate to be an idiot pest but I can't find your photos on the Kodak Gallery site. I only can get to a home page by clicking your link. Then what do I have to do? what am I missing?
Mediatorr is offline  

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