Days 1 – 2
So here I finally was, standing at the Air Madagascar check in desk in Paris, for my overnight flight to Nosy Be. Thankfully I had just escaped the snow at Heathrow, which was briskly making its way to Southern England! This turned out to be a comfortable 10 hour flight into Nosy Be, an Island just off mainland Madagascar. The service and food were most impressive, but lacked entertainment, but I was far too tired and ended up sleeping for most of my flight.
Flying over Comoros Islands, Madagascar was getting ever so close. After landing, it felt like I had arrived into someone’s back yard, a couple of wooden shacks in the evergreen. It just added to the excitement of exploring a new land. The cabin doors were opened and I was suddenly hit by the 35 degree heat – bliss! Later having enjoyed a quick stop at Nosy Be Hotel for lunch, I was whisked off back to the airport for my flight to Antananarivo, my base for the next two nights, where I stayed at the lovely and comfortable Palissandre Hotel, about a 35 minute drive to the city.
The highlight was definitely the cuisine here. I have never tasted food so exquisite at a hotel. The rooms were comfortable and there was also a lovely Spa, which I just could not resist to try out!
Next day, it was straight to work. Yes I needed to remind myself that I was here for work, so was picked up and driven to the ‘Enjoy Madagascar Trade Exhibition’, where I had the opportunity to meet various hoteliers and local suppliers. Later back to the hotel, to freshen up and have some more time in the Spa before dinner.
Days 3 – 5
After an early breakfast, my driver was waiting in the lobby for my transfer to the airport where I was booked on a flight to Diego Suarez in north Madagascar, discovered by two Portuguese sailors in the 16th Century. On arrival after my 1 hour flight, I was transferred to Grand Hotel, where I checked into my suite. I had no time to waste and had a city tour of Diego, a visit to Sakalava Bay, Amber Mountain and the 3 bays, where there are stunning beautiful white sandy beaches. They are virtually deserted and have great views of Emerald Sea. Later, I had a visit to Ramena, a small traditional fishing village.
Next day, I leave Diego Suarez in a 4×4 and make my way to Red Tsingy, about a 2 hour journey south east of Diego. The roads are tough on the approach to the canyon and ideal for the intrepid traveller! As a result of eroded canyons, the Red Tsingy is unique to Madagascar and definitely must be included in any visit to this part of the country.
My next stop was the National Park of Ankarana, in the hope that I would catch a glimpse of a Lemur or two! Surprising formations of sharp limestone Tsingy, Ankarana was created under the sea 150 million years ago, before changing due to sandstone climate change. Many unique species have evolved here, such as bats, lemurs and crocodiles. The ‘Lost River’ which resembles a gigantic Roman amphitheatre due to the loss of water, will amaze with its natural beauty.
Later I had dinner at the Tsingy Lodge, created by a German hotel proprietor, not far from the Ankarana National Park. It offers bungalows and tents with a real jungle experience. My stay was at the Relais de L’Ankarana, a very basic eco-lodge, where the electricity is provided between the hours of 6-10pm. All rooms are en-suite, but don’t expect your home comforts! This is a good base for the National Park. Alcohol is on sale here, so no need to stock up before arriving!!
After breakfast, I set off for Ambanja, a small village en-route to Ankify. There was the opportunity to visit plantations, discovering cocoa, spices, coffee and perfume plants. The smells were fantastic and overwhelming. I stopped for lunch in the company of the Woman’s Association where a lovely lunch was prepared using local recipes. They even performed a traditional dance show which was most entertaining.
I was then driven to Ankify for an overnight stay. Ankify is a coastal port, where boats frequently depart for the Nosy Be Archipelago Islands. Le Baobab Hotel was a delightful setting to rest, on a quiet beach. The hotel consists of beach bungalows and bungalows with balconies with lovely views across to the sea. This was the first opportunity I had for a swim in the sea (and a nice cold beer!) and was well worth it!
Days 6 – 7
I was very much looking forward to today…..finally getting onto a boat and the water. Destination Nosy Be. On arrival, I visited a few of the hotels on the Island, followed by lunch at L’Heure Bleue, a delightful hotel with beautiful views and comfortable accommodation. Later I visited the Ylang Ylang distillery and the botanical park of Nosy Be. The gates of Hell-town are an attraction in itself. Later I had dinner back at Nosy Be Hotel, where I decided to feast on……spaghetti Bolognese; I really did miss my mum’s pasta!!!
The final day was a truly amazing day, where I finally had my close encounter with a Lemur. Today I took the boat to Nosy Komba, an isolated Island near Nosy Be, the famous perfume Island and the mainland of Madagascar. This large mountain peaks at 622 metres, covered with dense tropical forest and surrounded by volcanic rocks, which protects it from the rough waters. At the Lemur park, I had my encounter with many Lemurs (I have the photos to prove it too!), although I passed on a meeting with a local resident snake!
The Marine Park Nosy Tanikely, located near Nosy Be, is one of the more popular diving sites, approximately 30 minutes from Komba. It offers shallow and clear waters and impressive colourful corals and fish. A wonderful lunch was provided here on the beach, before setting off to Nosy Be to prepare for our flight home via Antananarivo. I was preparing myself at the thought of getting stranded in Paris, having heard that Charles du Gaulle was closed due to snow. My flight was delayed at Marseille en route for an hour before getting the go ahead to fly into Paris, which was covered in a blanket of snow! I wasn’t looking forward to returning to below zero temperatures. I guess those flip flops and sun tanning lotion will need to be packed away for the next trip, wherever that may be!
What did I think?
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Madagascar. They told me it was unique. It was just that! I found it most rewarding, interesting and the people were very friendly. Madagascar is relatively underdeveloped and so is the infrastructure, so be sure you travel with an open mind and are totally flexible with your travel plans as sometimes schedules can change at the very last moment. You may not be staying in the most luxurious of hotels but the experience and rewards are fantastic. You never quite know what’s around the corner.
My highlights were definitely meeting the lemurs, the beaches of Nosy Be Islands and also meeting the local people in their villages and learning more about their culture and way of life. I also loved seeing the children break into smiles and laughter whenever I waved at them driving through the villages shouting out ‘hello’ in Malagasy – I guess my pronunciation did not sound quite right!!
For more details about Madagascar or to discuss a trip for yourself, please feel free to get in contact with me anytime on the Madagascar desk!