The next morning we had an early flight back to Antananarivo – called Tana for short- for obvious reasons! On arrival we were met by our lovely driver / guide Honoré & headed off on the drive to Andasibe – which is a fabulous area for National parks, wildlife, birds & walking.
After a few hotel / lodge inspections we only just got to Vakona’s private lemur sanctuary island before it closed for the day. This was the first place we visited where the lemurs actually come onto our shoulders to get the banana the guide had given us. It was amazing to be so close to them & they were so gentle. I had a brown lemur on my shoulder & he put his hand (or is it a paw, I don’t know!!) under mine & gently pulled it to his mouth to get the banana. It is probably wrong to be feeding them but it is a great way to get close to them. It was an amazing experience & wonderful to get so close. There was absolutely nothing to worry about.
Next morning we visited the National park & had a very muddy walk but saw the biggest lemurs, theinfamous Indri Indri. I certainly would not want one of these big lemurs on my shoulder! They make a really loud call & we were lucky enough to hear it, but not quick enough to record it.. it sounded so loud & can apparently be heard 1 km away..
Next we continued with Honoré to Manambato where we leave him to take the boat transfer along the lakes & Pangalanes to Ankanin’ny Nofy. This was a really interesting journey, the beach we left from was lovely & the locals were swimming in the warm water. Then we cross the lake to the Pangalanes that link the lakes & were originally built by the French so traders could move cargo & avoid going by the rough sea. They are a lifeline for the villages you see along the way – it was a fascinating journey.
We then had a night @ the Palmarium Lodge. All the lodges in this area are isolated & a boat is needed to get to & from them. We went into the Palmarium reserve & saw many lemurs – they were also around the lodge & going on guests shoulders for some excellent photo opportunities. The food at the hotel was excellent and in the bar they put on a dancing show with the local children & young girls. Guests were encouraged to participate & I danced with a really cute 5 year old & Maisie attempted the dance with the heavy bottle balanced on her head – without success!!
The next morning we are off again, by boat, continuing along the Pangalanes to Tamatave. Honoré is there to meet us as we continue up the coast by car to Mahambo for a night @ the La Piroque Hotel- a lovely boutique hotel on the beach. By going here we avoided having to spend a night in Tamatave & taking a domestic flight the next day. We instead headed north along the really scenic coastal road, stayed 1 night then continued to Soanierana Ivongo. From Ivongo we took the 2 hour local boat / ferry crossing across to the idyllic island of Ile Sainte Marie. This ferry crossing is used by tourists & local people – some carrying a live chicken or 2!!
Ile Sainte Marie was fabulous. We were met off the boat & did some hotel inspections. The island is really clean & there is a sense of pride that the local people have. The beaches are gorgeous & this island is especially busy June to September / early October, when the female humpback Whales come to the shallow sea canal to give birth. The males then arrive to start the mating season & the calves get ready to leave 3 months after they are born. We were not there for this but it sounds like an incredible sight. They can be seen from the shore but there are also half & full day boat trips to get closer. There are many hotels, with the most well know probably being the Princess Bora. We were lucky enough to stay here for 1 night & it was wonderful. we had an executive bungalow right on the stunning beach & we would have loved to stay longer. They have bikes free of charge for guest to use for exploring the island. The spa looked amazing- we had no time to try it out unfortunately . The swimming pool was great & they also have the wooden pier out to a decking area with double size sun loungers & a natural sea swimming pool area. We also really liked Masoandro Lodge & Soanambo Hotel. Masoandro Lodge is ideal for clients wanting to be more within nature & in a quieter hotel. Soanambo Hotel has recently been totally refurbished & is a really comfortable & modern hotel.
We were sad to be leaving this paradise island & could easily have stayed a few more days, but it was not to be.. The transfer from the Princesse Bora Hotel to the nearby airport was an experience as you go by a Zebu drawn cart. Wonderful!