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trip report: mauritius, madagascar, south africa- madikwe

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Dec 14th, 2004, 11:43 AM
  #1
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trip report: mauritius, madagascar, south africa- madikwe

again- in the interest of being useful:

south africa- madikwe safari lodge- outstanding accommodations, game viewing included a lion going after wild dogs that showed up between it and a mother and baby rhino, then the same pack of wild dogs feeding on a just killed KUDU the next morning.

all other game plentiful and right on the roadside- you cannot drive off road here. highly recommend the new ccafrica madikwe lodge.

mauritius- do not drive yourself crazy trying to vacation here. hawaii, the caribbean, tahiti, the maldives all have better beaches and higher quality "off resort" restaurants and attractions. found the island itself not interesting, the hotels overrated and the scenery surpisingly bleh. the beaches- even the best ones were underwhelming compared to my very high expectations. kudos to the marketing geniuses who have convinced everyone these islands are must see.

madagascar- an amazingly beuatiful unspoiled paradise, with abundant wildlife and scenery.

i will happily help anyone going to these places- planning can be difficult with madagascar especially- but it is worth the effort- enjoy.

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Dec 14th, 2004, 12:06 PM
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i found your comment about not being able to drive off roads interesting. Is that the rule of the lodge or of the whole reserve? Were there exceptions.
How was the game. did you see the big five cheetahs giraffe etc
thanks for the review
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Dec 14th, 2004, 12:28 PM
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Thanks for sharing kerikeri. Your experience at Madikwe sounds simply incredible.

I'm curious about Madagascar - there's limited information on this forum and I'll admit I've yet to do extended research elsewhere. Did you stay in one specific place/climate, or travel around the island? If I recall correctly, birds and monkeys are the prime attraction there - is that correct or is there an abundance of other wildlife? What about other activities beyond game drives?

-Heather
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Dec 14th, 2004, 02:14 PM
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two quick responses as the mack truck of jet lag is pulling up to my doorstep:

madikwe- i believe it is a permission thing or a national park thing. it may even be a cc africa thing0- the guide seemed to have a different philosophy of game viewing than some of the other guides who would drive right up the wildelife's noses for pictures. we appreciated his thoughtfulness and winced later on at other lodges that did not display same sensitivity.

yes, we saw 4 cheetah on our first game drive. we did not spot the elusive leopard here nor did we see elephant (we heard them), BUT we only had one night. i am confident we would have seen everything (except maybe the leopard) if we had stayed 2 nights and had 2 more game drives. did see rhino, caracal, eland, kudu, impala, giraffe, hyena, hartebeest, zebra, warthog, scrub hare, lion rhino, wild dog and that big bird kori bustard.

as for madagascar- the animals here are lemurs and chameleons- found nowhere else in the world. the hotel/lodging standards are not 5 star, this is a developing country. we did a very quick trip and stayed at the valkona lodge which was nice, and right inside a national park popular for up close encounters with 3 kinds of lemurs and with 3 more kinds in a private reserve on the hotel grounds.

it is not for everybody, but of the entire wildlife experience- having a lemur take my hand and select a piece of banana from it was the hightlight of the trip (this was a 'wild' lemur a guide called to from the forest who appeared with her newborn baby and seemed semi-tame). ethics of feeding wild animals aside (this one was already "trained" i cannot think of anything as enchanting as feeling that rubbery hand in mine!
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Dec 14th, 2004, 03:27 PM
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Glad to see your comments on Madagascar, where I am visiting in May (flying Air France from NY via Paris to Tana).

I am currently planning on visiting Tana (Hotel Colbert), Perinet (Vakona Lodge) and Berenty. Did you visit any of those places and can you comment on your lodging.

I'm glad I didn't extent trip to included Mauritius. My research led me to the same conclusion that you reached.

Michael
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Dec 14th, 2004, 04:15 PM
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vakona lodge was a long 20 minute bumpy drive from the entrance to the park you will be visiting. people we met at vakona said it was far better than their lodging at berenty- but they went to berenty right off a safari trip and seemed very peeved to no longer be in 5* luxury.

vakona's advantages are the pretty setting, the pool, and the semblance of comfort- from the exterior it looks great. inside, however, it is very very basic. clean, but no frills. mosquito netting, but no fans and no ac.

if you are a nature lover and accommodation standards are truly unimportant, the feony is much better situated. it is literally at the entrance to the park.

the architecture of tana and the scenery on the drive to perinet was stunning.

i was not sure how i'd like madagascar so only planned a very short visit but would not hesitate to go back.

but this is a very poor country and all of the things that accompany that are present: dirty streets occasionally, crime after dark in tana and lack of sanitary places to just stroll in and have a snack. still, i think if you have any interest in wildlife and scenery and different cultures, you'll enjoy it.

if you need a private car and driver i can highly recommend someone whose sister does all the arranging via email and who even booked my last night hotel for me when i couldn't get through on my own. they plan to start up their own agency, and her background and former job were in tourism. his name is hans and he has a nice SUV and he speaks many languages, has perfect instincts in terms of your comfort and needs as a visitor and really loves his country and wants to show it off.

as for hotel colbert- i did not see it, but you can always scram for the hilton if it is truly awful.

as for berenty my only info is second hand from a group that had just come off of mombo camp and they did not like it at all...but seemed to enjoy themselves at vakona. i saw 9 types of the country's 42 lemurs at vakon. i think berenty has just the banded tail type. that's a long trip for just one type of lemur. in addition, perinet is drive to, whereas you must fly in berenty and allow 2 extra nights to catch the flight in either direction.

let me know if you'd like hans' sister's email and i'll post it here. also if you have any other questions, don't hesitate.
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Dec 14th, 2004, 04:41 PM
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Thanks for the info, but I'm working with Cortez Travel to plan my trip.

Your info is very helpful.
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Dec 15th, 2004, 05:27 AM
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One more question -- can you give more info re Feony. What is the comfort level? are the bathrooms OK? how about the restaurant?

I think I'd prefer Vakona and a 20-minute drive doesn't bother me, but if Feony is comparable to Vakona, that may change my view.

Thanks
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Dec 15th, 2004, 08:55 AM
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Glad to hear you had a good trip and keen to read about Madagascar as it's been high on my wishlist for quite some time.

Will you be sharing any pics online?
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Dec 15th, 2004, 09:18 AM
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hi again

if i have not already done so i want to thank everyone who answered my endless questions (kavey!) and helped me take this trip at the last minute.

as for pics: i am amish when it comes to technology. i prefer the look and control of shooting film, and sadly that means something is lost in the scanning translation. what's interesting is that i was very scared off by the pics others had posted, they made madagascar look like some tumbled down badlands and that was not at all the case.

for michael- the feony a'la pics i think are on the cortez travel site. i stayed at vakona, but had i realized just how far it was and that we would be making that same back and forth 3 times in the course of one overnight stay, i would have endured whatever spartan conditions the feony offered. first you drive to vakona to check in. then you drive to the park for the night guiding, then back.

then in the morning you drive to the park for the indri cries, then back to the hotel to check out.

for me, my philisophy is "i can sleep anywhere for one night" and had i realized how far vakona was from the lemurs (maps make it look quite close), i definitely would have endured the feony's conditions.

as it was i was deeting up the room at vakona anyway and afraid to get out from under the mossie net once it got dark. we had the requisiete power failure there- once while in the dining room and once the second we enetered our dark room after dinner. it's not like you are trading something realy great.

also had i not been lucky enough to hear the indri cry at dawn from the porch of vakona, i would have been really annoyed to have stayed there. it's like coming to a ski resort and staying in the frontier town and not on the slopes: a lot of back and forth. the weather was not right for swimming, so the atmosphere of vakona was kind of lost on me.

the feony restaurant was where we spotted one species of night lemur. it had many travelers and all seemed to be in good health and enjoying the food. i wish we had eaten/stayed there for the experience. it's not that vakona was so great you can't miss it, or so horrible to reach, just inconvenient and we did not feel comfortable in the rooms any moreso than we would have in accommodations that were a wrung down.

the bathrooms in vakona were certainly not up to standards you would find in a motel. there were cement floors, i think and a very dark shower, with the er throne tucked into a corner and just a laminated counter for your things. nothing nice at all.

it must get very cold there as there was a heater in the bathroom and the main room. we had to burn a mossie coil all night because the door had a crack at the bottom.

there was a safe in the room, and a nice porch outside, and lights., i have no idea what the feony lodging looked like in reality, as we only passed by it while visiting the park, but once you have to be on full alert all night, does it really matter whether you are in a 3 or 2 star?

i hope that helps in your decision. if it makes you feel better to be in "the nicest in town" you should stay at vakona. if you are sincerely interested in the indri, choose the feony.
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Dec 16th, 2004, 05:16 PM
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Thanks for the trip report, I was especially glad to hear about Madikwe Safari Lodge as we will be there next June. I did not understand that you cannot go off-road there, but it appears that you saw plenty of wildlife anyway. Can you tell me anything more about the lodge, how was the food and accomodations?
Also, sorry to hear about your experience with Air Botswana, as we will be going to Maun from Gaborone after Madikwe, but there does not seem to any other choice when trying to get up to Maun to start safari in Botswana. I hope that we have better luck!
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Dec 16th, 2004, 06:00 PM
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kerikeri,

Did you happen to get a look at Madikwe Hills Lodge? I plan to stay there and would be interested in your impressions. Also, had you ever been to Kruger. If so, how did Madikwe compare?
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Dec 17th, 2004, 12:35 AM
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Didn't mind answering questions at all - surely you can tell I love talking about Africa?! You're welcome, glad anything I said was of help, very good to hear about the trip.
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Dec 17th, 2004, 05:52 AM
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hi again-

for brandywine and mtea-

food: we really enjoyed the preparation and presentation of the food. casual, hip, inventive cuisine. we eat out every night so food quality and originality in very important to us and we found everything outstanding.

we do not eat red meat so most of our dishes were "light" in nature- they included great salads, hearty breakfasts, fresh fruits and fish and chicken- but food prep is seasonal and i'm sure they will prepare whatever is fresh and in season.

we are not very formal and one of our favorite features was the style in which meals were served- when we came in we asked for lunch in the room and we dined off of a platter of selections left on our dining area - just what we wanted: nobody hoovering over us and so much variety!

the wines qwere excellent and the best we encountered on vacation- all south african. be sure to make requests they were very generous and attentive to all of our needs.

the accommodations were exactly our style- young and fun and stylish. none of that out of africa monkeys on the pillows cr*p. it's like they know they are in the 21st century. to me it was perfection.

by the time you arrive they may well have whatever permits they are awaiting regarding walking safaris- it has something to do with rifle permits and maybe that is the off road thing as well..

air botswana this is exactly what we did- we overlanded to gabs and then flew to maun. our flight was scheduled for 1:50 pm. it was delayed to 14:10 wehn we arrived. we waited in the sweltering waiting area 1:10 hours before finally boarding at about 3pm. at that point the airport waas closed down for a prwsidential departure- something our seatmates said was very very common. we did not get to maun for our safari until nearly 16:40. we got to the airstrip midway through the afternoon drive, missing lunch and went straight into our safari right off the plane (our choice).

i am telling you this because if there is anyway that you can change your itineraryu to fly back from madiwke to jnb, i would do it. it's just not worth the $ to wreck your safari and this board is all about learning from experince. another option would be to do the charter from madikwe to maun with someone like mack air or seofane. just worth any price imho.

now mtea:

as for kruger- we have not been. i am comparing this experience to botswana and the delta, so i'm not sure if i can be useful. everything was right along the roadside- but there were not the wide open spaces one associates with "plains game" just a lot of scrub and low trees and watering holes, but each little vignette had something in it.

the most interaction we saw in 6 nights of safaris was in madikwe.

as for the madikwe hills question- i know we saw their game truck once- the night we all turned up to see the cheetah, but apart from that i did not visit any other lodges.

and kavey- i think i am becoming like you- any excuse to talk about africa!
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Dec 17th, 2004, 02:36 PM
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Dec 17th, 2004, 06:14 PM
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Thanks KeriKeri, Madikwe sounds excellent, can't wait for our trip!
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