I had a wonderful trip to Madagascar last year when I visited many of this island’s fascinating areas, having the opportunity to see national parks & inspecting lots of the hotels & lodges. The trip really helped me to plan & book the perfect trip for many of our clients during last year. However, Madagascar is a huge island, so no matter how intense my first trip was, I did not cover even half of the island. Therefore, I headed back again this year- this time for 18 days and learnt even more.
On this trip I went up to Maroantsetra & Masoala National park, then did the southern route by road staying at Ranomafana & Islao- ending this part of the trip at Ifaty & then over by speed boat to Anakao. I was then lucky enough to end the very hectic trip with 3 nights at the absolutely spectacular Anjajavy Hotel.
As I had a long trip, 18 nights which would take a client approx 5 weeks to do, I will break the blogs down into separate parts- so you can have a break!
First stop – Maroantsetra & Masoala
Masoala National Park is a really special area to visit being one of the countries largest protected region. Getting there is not very easy but definitely worthwhile. The only option – unless you want to be in the episode of the BBC’s “World’s Most Dangerous Roads” – is to fly from Tana or Tamatave to Maroantsetra. The schedule is not great however with direct flights currently only operating twice a week. It is necessary to have at least the first night in Maroantsetra as the sea transfer to Masoala has to be early in the morning- the sea can get very rough- so the earlier the better. I had a particularly rough 2 hour crossing & would not recommend this trip to anyone that gets sea sick. But arriving @ Masoala was well worth the wet ride!! It is a beautiful area & the National park is full of wildlife. 2 or 3 nights would be ideal to stay here, but the length of stay is going to be dictated by the domestic flight schedules in & out.
Clients that ask me about this area are usually hoping that they will get the chance to see the elusive Aye Aye lemur. However, they are extremely difficult to spot – they are nocturnal & Masoala currently does not allow night time walks. En route to Masoala I did visit Nosy Mangabe as it is possible to camp on this island but it cannot be guaranteed to see the Aye Aye- some people have camped for a week & left disappointed.
On my arrival for a 1-night stay in Masoala, I visited many of the lodges that are located on the stunning beach coast. The popular choices are the Tampolo Lodge & the Masoala Forest Lodge. My personal favourite was the newly opened Petite Masoala. It is located next to the park entrance – which is really convenient & they have 6 beautifully designed, very spacious bungalows.
Masoala has a lot to offer with stunning beaches & a huge amount of wildlife – please just do not build your hopes up too high on seeing an Aye Aye..
Then I head back to Maroantsetra for a night before flying back to Tana. I really liked the Relais du Masoala. They have individual bungalows & across the little lakes bridge you can walk to the beach & watch the local fishermen come back from the days fishing & watch the children enjoy swimming in the sea. The hotels food was great & they had a swimming pool.
The Southern Route: This is a really popular choice for clients as it minimises the number of domestic flights required- as you only need 1 to get form Tulear back up to Tana. It certainly helps with not having to work around the domestic flight schedule as we travel all way down by road. Some of the roads are really windy but I have been on worse in Costa Rica. Time being of the essence I only stopped off in Antsirabe to see the hotels we would use but I would recommend that clients break their journey here to Ranomafana. My favourite places would be Café Couleur & for clients interested in plants, they will love Chambres des Voyageurs.