Likes & Dislikes

Opinions

“Anyone looking to travel around the whole country will need either a lot of money or a lot of time. The distances are enormous and comfortable; long-distance buses don’t exist.

If you want to avoid domestic flights, then another option is the local minibusses. These depart when they’re full, and the concept of ‘full’ means something quite different here from what we’re used to. Either you’re going to need a lot of time and patience, or else you’ll have to put yourself in the hands of a travel agency.
While traveling in Madagascar is difficult, it’s not impossible, and at least it’s safe. The locals are friendly and happy to help, the countryside is spectacular, and an encounter with wild lemurs is unforgettable.” (2016)

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We spent two nights in the capital. We had read that it’s dangerous, and absolutely not recommended for tourists, especially in the evening. All I can say is that we experienced nothing of that sort – everyone we met was extremely kind, and far from being robbed or pickpocketed, I can’t say we even received so much as an unfriendly look.

We took a domestic flight with Air Madagascar to the island of Nosy Be, where we stayed at the Vanilla Hotel. I would recommend it to anyone – the beach was gorgeous, and the staff was extremely helpful and polite.

We took a tour of the island, traveling across to Port Saint Louis by speedboat, then on to Diego Suarez. En route, we saw the Ankarana National Park. The roads are in terrible condition, and generally, it’s impossible to drive at more than 25-30km/h. You’re almost certain to get seasick on the road. This was genuinely the biggest negative of the whole trip.

The plant and animal life of Madagascar is breathtaking – as though you’d wandered into a lavishly illustrated picture book.

From Diego Suarez, we headed back to Nosy be for a final three-day stay at Andilana Beach Hotel, which with its Italian owner, is run at an almost European level of service and quality. No need to worry about not putting ice into our drinks here. Except for this hotel, everything was very cheap.

The official currency in Madagascar is the Ariary, and there are around 4,000 Ariary to one US dollar.

As far as food went, I was extremely conscious of the fact that for our midday and evening meals, there was rarely anything to choose from besides seafood or zebu.

It wouldn’t do any harm to come prepared with the right kinds of medication because of the 21 days we spent in Madagascar; I had some kind of digestive trouble for 15 of them. Still, I don’t mind, because this is a trip I wouldn’t have missed for the world.

Conclusion: We saw the world’s smallest chameleon, huge baobab trees, lemurs leaping around us in a restaurant, and gorgeous ocean beaches, but also horrendous poverty, though, despite it, everyone seemed happy. Perhaps this is the hardest thing for a European to understand.
(S. K. 2016)

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,, The Baobabs are very much verging on the surreal. You could say the place has got everything, OK not New York-style everything. “It has Ancient walled villages and burial sites.

As mentioned the Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve, a labyrinth of limestone that covers a sizeable chunk of the island’s western half. It is utterly impassable, a maze of crooked canyons, caves, tunnels, and spires, and relatively unexplored.

In fact, the best plan is to go for a year to have a proper look around.

In general, I preferred the countryside and the smaller places. Madagascar is pretty remote anyway and it's possible to find yourself in places with no roads out, no phone signal, and a three-day boat ride to anywhere presuming you can negotiate a price that you can afford.

Added to that no electricity and I nearly forgot, there is also a good chance no one can understand you because they only speak the local dialect which you thinking a bit of schoolboy French will get you by have not even a smattering of.

I would like to say, I was once stranded in Newfoundland Canada, and it's worse than that. Even with its challenges, Madagascar is an incredible place.

Madagascar doesn’t have the same kind of structure or experience with tourists that other big-name destinations have. That’s what makes it such a thrill to explore—you really do get off the beaten path.

You have to go in with an open mind, though. Madagascar isn’t a “check off the highlights” kind of destination, and it’s a big country so you can’t really see it all in one trip anyway.

If you’re up for an adventure and know that things may not always go exactly to plan, then you’ll fall into the rhythms of the island. That’s where the magic is. (Alan Durant, 2021)





south east Africa - Madagascar - girl - Elter photo

off South East Africa - Madagascar - lemur - Elter photo

Practicals

Transport

One of the most significant obstacles for tourists to discover Madagascar is that vehicles can travel very slowly on poorly maintained roads, often on dirt roads only.

The total length of the country's road network is approx. fifty thousand kilometers, but only 5000 kilometers are asphalted.

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“The total length of Madagascar’s road network is approximately 50,000km, but of this, only about 5,000 have been asphalted. The fact is, though Britain is a smaller island, it has one hundred times as many asphalted roads. What’s more, the quality of the asphalt in Madagascar varies greatly: some sections are exposed to heavy traffic, and so have many potholes in the poorly prepared surface. Even the most robust undercarriages are sure to be put to the test. In the countryside, larger potholes are filled with earth and small stones, and people with shovels and brushes inform passing motorists of the dangers ahead. In return, bank notes of small denomination fly from the vehicles.

One of the key methods of urban transportation is the taxi. Almost 100% of the taxi fleet consists of veteran Renault R4s and Citroën 2CVs. Survivors from the days of French colonialism, these are repaired locally and remain doggedly operational – the fare is not expensive, but as a tourist, it’s wise to agree on the fare in advance. Every kilometer is a real journey back in time: no air-con, cramped space, and you expect the vehicle to disintegrate at any moment, but there’s always some cheerful Malagasy pop blaring on the sound system, so you end up grinning anyway.

The two methods of long-distance transportation are the minibus and the big bus. Ventilation and air conditioning are taken care of by headwinds, the roof is piled with luggage, and nobody expects a comfortable ride. One of the universal aspects of travel during the dry season is the reddish dust which generally covers everything in the passenger compartment. The high ground clearance is no accident: on the roads where these vehicles go, a normal bus wouldn’t survive for long…
Most people traveling in Madagascar use local buses traveling a fixed route, operated by independent contractors or small businesses (taxi-brousse). Those traveling on city routes are often crowded, and getting on and off requires a mix of physical flexibility and determination. Seats are cramped, but in return the fares are low – almost everyone can afford them. The conductor stands by the back door, yelling the names of the stops, collecting fares, and helping people on and off if he’s in the mood. Most minibusses are also old bangers, with infinite miles on the clock. (2016)

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,, It's worth remembering that only 11% of the country’s roads are paved. Traveling in Madagascar takes time. This is not only because it is a huge country, but also due to its underdeveloped and poorly maintained infrastructure.

Most of the roads we traveled on were either extremely bumpy or potholed and muddy. I was very glad that we had a Toyota HiLux otherwise we would probably have still been stuck up some backwoods track.

During the rainy season, many roads are impassable, forming huge obstacles to travel.. (Alan Durant, 2021)




off south east Africa - Madagascar - hop on hop off sightseeing transport - Elter photo

off south east Africa - Madagascar -road scene - Elter photo

Madagascar - overpacked public bus in the countryside

Madagascar - Tsingy de Behamara National Park - hanging bridge - Elter photo

Food

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Madagascar - fresh lobster dish for a lunch (costs less than 5 USD) - i.m. photo

Shopping

Q. Is Madagascar expensive to visit? A. Yes, Madagascar is expensive to visit. The facts that everything on the island is far off and only Euros and Dollars are acceptable to make it expensive for travelers to visit. Moreover, if you are traveling solo, it would cost you a fortune.(Alan Durant, 2021)

Madagascar - lemur souvenir - Elter photo

Madagascar - Antsiranana - shopping - s.o. photo

Madagascar - carrots for sale - y.m. photo

Fun

,, What are the fun things to do in Madagascar? A. Diving with whale sharks, visiting the Crocodile Farm, watching the humpback whales, paragliding and hiking are some of the fun and adventurous things to in Madagascar." (Alan Durant, 2021)

off south east Africa - Madagascar - dance - Elter photo

Madagascar - nearly Las Vegas - Elter photo

Public safety

,, How safe is it to travel in Madagascar? A. Like any other country, there is a certain level of the crime rate that every traveler needs to be cautious of. But with some safety precautions, you can a smooth trip. Just make sure that you don’t wander around in a large crowd, and make sure to keep your belongings safe. As long as you stay in the capital, Antananarivo, you are safe. It gets sketchy once you get out of the capital, especially at night but that is true of anywhere." (Alan Durant, 2021)

Madagascar - police force

Health

,, Be sure to have good health insurance. This doesn’t mean that there will necessarily be a doctor available should you need one. I’m not sure if it’s polite to describe the village “doctors” as witch doctors but considering some of the remedies they suggest I can’t think of a better way of putting it.

I was told of a “prescription of mixing a bit of Zebu poo in your soup. When this doesn't work and presuming you survive I suggest finding a practitioner of western medicine. The weirdest part is that often the "patient" recovers from sleep and rest but they give credit to the witch doctors remedy. They then go and tell everyone else about how it worked and it becomes common practice.

There is plenty of creepy crawlies in Madagascar, centipedes, and scorpions abound. They hiding in all sorts of places, especially where there is food. Try not to get bitten or stung or you could be on your back feeling distinctly rough for a few days.

Don’t expect to be cured by some guy waving a feather over you either. It is important to have a mosquito net as well. Madagascar has endemic Malaria something you can do well without.

I was impressed by seeing people skinny dipping in a sea bright with bio-luminescence although what with the Mosquitoes not knowing what might be lurking in the water and my advancing years I passed on the experience.

Q. Do you need a visa for Madagascar? A. Yes, absolutely. No matter which nationality you have, you would require a visa to enter the country. Yellow Fever Vaccination is also mandatory. Q. Do you need vaccinations to go to Madagascar? A. Yes. Hepatitis A, Yellow Fever, measles, and routine vaccines are mandatory for all travelers. There it is maybe the weirdest place you can visit and definitely not for the faint-hearted financially challenged or people who are frightened of insects but you can tell your grandkids about it because by then it will probably nearly all be gone. (Alan Durant, 2021)







Madagascar - number two (kaka) costs twice as much - Elter photo

Others




Madagascar - table soccer championship - s.o. photo

Background

Madagascar - national flag - Sainam-pirenena Madagasikara

Destination in brief

Madagascar in brief

Madagascar is an island country located in the Indian Ocean, in the Southern Hemisphere (summer: November-March). Madagascar is 400 kilometers (250 miles) off the eastern coast of Africa across the Mozambique Channel, south of the Equator.

Madagascar was a French colony and gained independence in 1960 as the Malagasy Republic. In 1975 the country was renamed the Democratic Republic of Madagascar, which remains its official name to this day (in French: République démocratique de Madagascar).

Size: 587,041 km² (226,658 mi²) – The world’s 4th largest island (Greenland being number one) – Interestingly, some ecologists lean toward calling Madagascar a kind of “8th continent” (or a biodiversity hotspot) because of its distinct ecological character – Madagascar stands apart from Africa in many other ways as well (see below).   

Capital city: Antananarivo – locals simply call it “Tana”

Population: 27.4 million (2020) - The locals (Malagasies) are genetically, ethnically, and culturally closer to Southeast Asians than to Africans. A foreign visitor, when having a conversation with a local, will soon realize that the locals do not like to be referred to as Africans.

Languages: Malagasy and French are the official languages. French is not well spoken outside the cities, but Malagasy is spoken everywhere. 

Religions: The people here are predominantly Christian, but most of them have animist beliefs that include beliefs in magic powers and spirits.

Political and economic situation (April 2020): Madagascar is a semi-presidential representative democratic republic. Politically, the country has been relatively stable for the past few decades.

The current president is trying to concentrate more power in his own hands, claiming that this is the only way to fight poverty and other essential social issues.

Madagascar is among the top ten most impoverished countries in the world (all of them are Sub-Saharan African countries). Most locals are deeply unsatisfied with the country’s situation. Many people in the countryside live in such low-built huts that they cannot even stand up straight in their own home.  

The situation looks promising, however, as Madagascar has enjoyed sustained economic growth for the past several years.

Madagascar is a world leader in vanilla cultivation.



Currency: Malagasy ariary (MGA)

Average net monthly salary (in 2020): 190 USD

Most common surname: Rakotomalala

Safety (May 2020):

Madagascar is not a safe destination for non-experienced individual tourists.

Especially risky areas: the capital city and its surroundings, as well as Toliara and Fianarantsoa provinces

Luckily for the beach vacationers, Nosy Be and its area is much safer than the southern regions of the country.

The tourist infrastructure is poorly developed. 88% of the country's roads are unpaved.
Optimal timing for a tourist visit: April-November for the north, any time of the year for the south and the western coast, July-November for the eastern coast

Top tourist attractions:

Madagascar’s totally unique fauna and flora make the country a standout tourist destination. More than half of the world’s chameleon population lives here. Madagascar has over 10,000 endemic species of plants.

Tsingy de Bemaraha Nature Reserve, Royal Hill of Ambohimanga, Atsinana Rainforest, Ranomafana National Park, Masoala NP, Andasibe-Mantadia, Ifaty for diving & snorkeling, The Avenue of the Baobabs is a group of trees lining the dirt road between Morondava and Belon’i Tsiribihina in western Madagascar, Nosy Be for a beach vacation, Ile Sainte Marie for snorkeling

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Q. What is the best time of year to visit Madagascar? A. You can plan a trip to Madagascar all year round except December to March. It is the wet season on the island involving cyclones. (Alan Durant, 2021)


Geography

,, Q. What is Madagascar most famous for? A. Madagascar is famous for indigenous flora and fauna. Tourists from all over the world come to see the true wonders of nature on the island.

Q. What is the rarest animal in Madagascar? A. Madagascar Pochard is the rarest duck on the island and in the world. It has a population of below 100. So don’t eat it. " (Alan Durant, 2021)


Almost all of the northeastern part of the island belongs to the Masoala National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is Madagascar’s largest nature reserve, remarkably rich in terms of biodiversity: 50% of the island’s plant species and more than 50% of its animal species (mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians) live here.

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“Ninety percent of the animal and plant species living on Madagascar are endemic, meaning they live only on this island. The ecosystem of Madagascar developed after the island broke away from the African continent, and the animals there began to develop differently to those on the mainland. Unfortunately, a large proportion of these unique animals are endangered, as the people who arrived and multiplied on the island have gradually burned the forests, clearing an area which could be cultivated for around ten years before the nutrients were depleted. Then they would move on and burn a new area. If you’re interested in the wildlife of this island, I recommend the film which David Attenborough made on the animals of Madagascar. On the island itself you’ll only see them in zoos, or after long and difficult journeys – and only then if you’re lucky. This is because, in most cases, few individuals survive from each species, they are often secretive, and many are also nocturnal. Still, you should see plenty of chameleons, and it’s great to watch them change color in seconds.It’s possible to catch them, but there isn’t much point. If you pick one up it might try to bite you, or give a menacing hiss, but after that it will wait until you put it down, and it can continue its slow hunt for bugs.

The other star of Madagascar is the baobab tree. These look as though they have been placed into the ground the wrong way up, and locals believe the devil placed the baobab upside down. These trees can, if left undisturbed, live for up to 800 years, and their delicious fruit is rich in vitamins. Locals have at last begun to realize that these bring more income as a tourist attraction than can be made by cutting them down, and so have started to take care of them. Previously, baobab trunks were used to make hollowed-out fishing canoes.

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,, Madagascar’ No not the kid's cartoon, the place. It's hidden off the east coast of Africa the child of restless tectonic plates and somewhat ignored by people until about 10000 years or so ago.

The local flora and fauna would, I’m pretty sure, have been much happier if people had ignored Madagascar permanently and there is definitely a case for treating it with more kindness than we have so far.

Madagascar is big I mean really big and weird, very weird. Weirdly enough the people who colonized it are supposed to have originated from the East Indies, presumably getting there in pretty basic boats.

People do things like row the Atlantic to the applause of the feeble-minded twelve thousand years ago people were crossing the Indian Ocean as if they were on the local bus, a local bus that you sometimes had to get out and push.

Lemurs, baobabs, rainforest, desert, hiking, and diving: Madagascar is a dream destination for outdoors enthusiasts – half the fun is getting to all these incredible attractions, the other half is getting back in one piece.

Madagascar is an interesting mix of a place. In modern times the French colonized, not to the benefit of the local population but definitely to the benefit of the local food.

Madagascar must have seemed a weird place to the first colonists even in a past time when weird wasn’t as rationed as it is now. A great many of the animals are endangered due to the impact of people a pattern not unfamiliar worldwide. Since the arrival of permanent human settlers around 2,350 years ago, Madagascar has lost more than 90 percent of its original forest.[Despite this Madagascar remains a paradise for wildlife lovers Madagascar possesses a vast number of different species – many found nowhere else.

Among its resident animals are more than half the world’s chameleons and dozens of species of lemur.” (WIKI) Perhaps the strangest animal is the aye lemur, whose long middle finger helps it find grubs hiding inside trees. Don’t let it point its middle finger at you or you will die, according to local superstition. They are considered bringers of bad luck or even death.

Locals sometimes kill them because of this I suggest just taking pictures but you will need a flash as they are nocturnal. I deny any responsibility for death and destruction resulting from this advice. I am drawing a veil over the giant rats that can jump three feet into the air but forewarned is forearmed.

If your knowledge of Madagascar is solely from the cartoon film don’t be surprised, there are no lions, giraffes, or hippo, but half of the world Chameleons live there. . I always wanted to see what would happen if a Chameleon walked across a chessboard. I have watched them change color in a more regular manner and that is impressive enough.

There is a tiny Chamelion that is small enough to perch on your finger. They don’t fall off even when you joggle them because it tickles and makes you laugh. Lots of the animals seem to hark back to earlier forms. I wanted but didn’t manage to see a Coelacanth which is a fish thought to be an extinct form around 66 million years ago but rediscovered in 1938 in the Mozambique Channel. It has fins like primitive legs, sort of an early missing link for fishes that moved onto land. As you can imagine they are pretty rare and I wasn’t lucky.

Madagascar is also great if you like looking at birds. I especially like the Long Tailed Ground Roller which, as the name suggests, has a long tail but doesn’t roll on the ground. Having said that it doesn’t seem very keen on flying. There aren’t a lot of them, maybe their aversion to aviation makes them easier to catch? There are also all types of plants, huge octopus trees that look like spiky loo brushes, the baobab trees resembling overfilled hot water bottles with sticks of celery pushed in the top, and loads of other stuff. (Alan Durant, 2021)





off south east Africa - Madagascar - cameleon - Elter photo

off south east Africa - Madagascar - lemur - Elter photo

Climate

From November to April, cyclones can hit the island, mainly the coastal areas. The climate of the country is warm, subtropical. The rainy season runs from November to March, with monsoon rains in the northern and eastern parts of the island, predominantly between December and March. The dry period is between April and October, but precipitation still occurs.

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,, Although the entire island of Madagascar lies in the tropics, not all of the isle experiences a warm, tropical climate. As it’s so large, it experiences different climates simultaneously. In winter (May to October), it can get rather cold in the central highlands, with temperatures as low as freezing in the area around Antananarivo and Antsirabe. But once you wind your way down to sea level in the west (Morondava, Ifaty, Isalo), it is usually hot and sunny all year round.

The rainforest in the east often receives wet and overcast weather. During our one-month trip through Madagascar, we packed everything from thick winter wear to singlets and flip-flops. (Alan Durant, 2021)

History


,, Madagascar can boast plenty of colorful history. It had a mad queen. Not just mad but mad bad and dangerous to know.

Fans of the Flashman series of novels may well have heard of Ranavalona. “She thwarted European efforts to gain sway over Madagascar during her 33-year rule but also focused her energies on brutally eradicating Christians, neighboring kingdoms, and political rivals. So widespread were the purges, and the use of slave labor to construct a vast palace and public works, that the island’s population fell from five million to 2.5 million between 1833 and 1839.

One way Ranavalona maintained order was the tangena ordeal, by which the accused was poisoned, and then forced to eat three pieces of chicken skin. Death, or the failure to regurgitate all three pieces, indicated guilt. Others opponents were simply thrown into vast ravines.” (WIKI)

The remains of her palace, the Rova of Antananarivo, can still be seen in the capital. It's nice enough but somehow didn’t sing to me, not sure why. Maybe better if you’re stoned which is not that unlikely as almost one in 10 Malagasies smoke weed, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs. That’s more than the Dutch. (Alan Durant, 2021)

Nowadays

,, What is the culture in Madagascar? A. The culture of Madagascar displays influences of Arabs, Indians, British, French, and Chinese settlers and reflects the origins of the Malagasy people in Southeast Asia and East Africa.' (Alan Durant, 2021)

off south east Africa - Madagascar - Antananarivo - Elter photo

off south east Africa - Madagascar - urban landscape - Elter photo

Madagascar - on the way home - l.b. photo

Madagascar - village shop - s.o. photo

People

“People in Madagascar live their lives on the streets, as part of a wider community, not tucked up within the walls of houses and apartments as we do. Families often have as many as ten children, so as you can imagine there are always plenty of kids running around.

We were enjoying the warmth, in our short-sleeved polo shirts, and it was funny to see the locals wrapped up in layers, with warm sweaters and knitted hats. Sometimes, seeing Lambert waiting for me outside the kindergarten, I would smile at him and say ‘mora-mora’ – the same expression he often said to me. This is a kind of credo among the locals, and means something like slowly, calmly, or with care.

They always say that we have watches, but they have time. They stick to this rule in all areas of life, especially in restaurants, where we were are lucky if we ‘only’ have to wait an hour and a half for our food. But we found that whenever we repeated this mantra, mora-mora, we smiled, and realized we had plenty of time to talk. Plenty of time. Not like at home.”

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,, Madagascar is weird although the predominant religion in Madagascar is Christianity (introduced by missionaries), most people still believe strongly in the magic powers of their ancestors.
Even modern, urban Malagasies regard the deceased relatives as part of the family. Many of them bury the dead in coffins placed high up in caves and on the cliffs (to bring them closer to ancestors in heaven).
During the turning of the bones’ ceremonies, you can see families dancing with the dead relatives and taking photos with their bodies.” (WIKI) I thought maybe I’d like to see this but nobody seemed to want to talk about it so I decided that perhaps the idea was too intrusive and I wasn’t completely sure I wanted to see it anyway."  (Alan Durant, 2021)


Madagascar - cowboys - Elter photo

Madagascar - work - Elter photo

Tourist etiquette

,, One of the things to be aware of is the local belief in curses. Be careful not to appear to be giving anyone the evil eye, mind you that can apply equally as well in a pub in Manchester. I Madagascar they take it a step further, going as far as hiring a Witch Doctor to put a curse on somebody maybe their team might lose, or at the other extreme they might drop dead. Apparently, you’re not supposed to rubbish other people's belief systems so… (Alan Durant, 2021) 

Gastronomy

Malagasy cuisine is much closer to Asia than to Africa. Rice is part of almost every dish. This is their staple food.

Malagasy people are one of the largest consumers of rice in the world. The average consumption of 160 kg of rice per person per year means half a kilo of rice every day (including children).


Attractions

Antananarivo

“More and more of the 22 million people who currently live on Madagascar are moving to the capital, because of the promise of an easier life which it offers. The city now has between two and three million inhabitants. Antananarivo, incidentally, sits at an altitude of 1500m, in the middle of the island, and enjoys a very pleasant climate.

At the beginning of June, the mercury in the thermometer may drop to 12-15°C at night and rarely rises above 25-29°C during the day. Such climatic conditions are not conducive to the reproduction of malaria-spreading mosquitos, so the capital and its surroundings are safe from a disease which is very much present in other parts of the island.

Set on dozens of hills, the city offers beautiful vistas in all directions. Of course, as in other hilly cities, the rich tend to inhabit the hilltops, while the poor neighborhoods and markets are situated lower down. Stepping out of any downtown hotel, we are soon confronted by the realities of local life, as an army of street vendors and beggars surround us. Still, these are not particularly aggressive and can be shaken off with a little determination.

It’s true that the city does not have too many sights, though it’s worth at least spending a morning here, and walking to Rova, or up to the Queen’s Palace, at the highest point in the city. This was the capital of the Merina Kingdom from the 16th to the 19th century. Though the building is imposing from the outside, it was in fact burned, so there is not much to see inside.
As for tourist attractions, the old railway station is by no means an everyday sight, and it also now houses an excellent restaurant. Interestingly, passenger trains no longer run, though there is still a freight service.” (2017)


off east Africa - Madagascar - Antananarivo - Rova of Antananarivo - royal palace complex - Elter photo

Madagascar - Fianarantsoa - Ambalavao Fahazavana church - Elter photo

Nosy Be Archipelago 

“We set off for Nosy Be. Air Madagascar flies this domestic route several times a day, though the ticket price is quite steep. Still, it’s worth taking a flight, since on overland routes it would take two days of rough travel to arrive.
In any case, even during landing, it’s easy to see that Nosy Be (meaning Big Island) is quite different from the capital and its surroundings. It is surrounded by an archipelago of smaller and larger islands, with lush vegetation everywhere, tiny houses on the shoreline, and fishing boats in the harbor. An idyllic picture.

All the way from the airport to the hotel, we enjoy a wonderful aroma – the scent of a tree which our guide tells us is the ylang-ylang. It transpires that the new growth of this tree is cut off and dried, and its scent permeates the whole area. Ylang-ylang is a principal ingredient in many perfumes.

The Orangea Hotel has spacious rooms, a huge terrace, and a bar that plays Italian lounge music. It turns out that most of the guests here are Italian, thanks to the three charter flights a week from Italy. The hotel manager and chef are both Italian, as is much of the food.

Our accommodation the next day is the Vanilia Hotel and Spa, which surprisingly only has three stars, though we found it even more impressive than the previous hotel. It was built 30 years ago, which is most apparent in the garden: dozens of people are employed, just to keep this vast space in order. The rooms are even more immense, the view is even more spectacular, and under the watchful eye of the French cook, the food is even more refined. A truly unique location for a relaxing holiday.

There is a relatively plentiful range of accommodation options on the island, none of which are concrete monstrosities. All are discreet, one- or two-story buildings that blend into the landscape, and there are also many bungalows and villas. Of course, the excellent accommodation means there isn’t much incentive to travel around, and the sports facilities and untouched nature of the surroundings make one even more inclined to stay put.
Lovers of the life aquatic can go snorkeling or scuba diving on smaller islands nearby. It is possible to visit the uninhabited, protected island of Tanikely, which can be reached in under half an hour, where you can admire the tropical fish on the surrounding coral reefs, and even swim with giant tortoises.

On another nearby island, Sakatian, it’s worth taking the one-and-a-half-hour walk, which gives you an insight into traditional village life, and how they cultivate vanilla, ylang-ylang, black pepper, and other herbs and spices. It’s also possible to pass by a local holy place and make friends with the village schoolboys.

After so much walking in the humid heat, there’s nothing better than a refreshing dip in the ocean. By the time you’re starting to get hungry, lunch will be prepared on the beach, made from a range of local ingredients cooked on charcoal fires: fresh fish, crab stew, green papaya salad, and, inevitably, the local staple, cooked rice.” (2017)

Nosy Be

Nosy Be - Nosy Iranja - a.h. photo

Nosy Be - Nosy Iranja - a.t. photo

Red Tsingy

Madagascar - Red Tsingy - s.o. photo

Morondava

,, The city of Morondava famous amongst other things for the spectacular Avenue of Baobabs. Baobabs are the coolest trees imaginable. These giant baobab trees are an 800-year-old legacy of the dense tropical forests that once thrived here. As the forest was cut down the locals preserved it for religious reasons.

Today, deforestation still continues as large areas of this region, including some of the few remaining baobabs, are cleared to make way for sugar cane plantations.

Remember stay away from sugar as much as you can, it's bad for you and bad for the environment. They hide it in our food to make crap ingredients taste good.

There is a decent if long road to Morondava. I was also told you can get small boats ferrying you to different places on the coast. It's worth visiting the away along a decent road. " (Alan Durant, 2021)

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