Lodges, tented camps and hotels ...
Relais du Masoala – 1 night
Due to flight problems we arrived in Maroantsetra
late afternoon with no local currency and
minus my suitcase. Monique, the hotel owner,
was amazing! She took me shopping to buy
some clothes and essentials - with only 30
minutes shopping time she insisted that the
stores would not overcharge me, because we
were tourists. Monique changed some Euros
into Ariary and also gave me a hairbrush
and swimming costume (for use at Masoala
Forest Lodge, our next destination). Monique
helped to ease an otherwise, distressing
situation which made the start of our holiday
so much better. I can't praise Monique
enough and it's this type of care and
service for customers that makes this lodge
stand out from all others. The staff are
well trained - very friendly and helpful.
The lodge is excellent with very comfortable
lodges in beautiful landscaped gardens -
do take a walk along the beach at sunrise
and see the locals fishing. The food is excellent,
especially the Madagascar king prawns. A
very enjoyable stay and highly recommended.
It's a perfect base for exploring the
Masoala Forest Lodge – 4 nights
This could be paradise - pristine white,
empty, sand beaches, snorkelling right off
the beach with plenty of fish to see, interesting
walks in primary and secondary forests and
along the beach with easy sightings of lemurs
and other wildlife, and kayaking along a
dream of a coast. There are no roads so access
is by foot taking 2 days or by a one hour
open zodiac boat ride from Maroantsetra.
It’s a raised tented lodge with patio
and a separate bathroom that is accessed
from the outside with no mosquito protection
(not good if you have to go during the night!).
There is hot water in the morning and evening
but you can request it to be turned on at
other times. Power is available in the evenings
and devices are charged in the main reception/dining
area (5pm to 9pm). The food is not the best
feature here. We understand the difficulty
in getting quality food to a remote lodge
but we stayed in other equally remote lodges
and they provided much better food, more
tenderly cooked and well presented. Local
villagers provide some services and local
food, eg eggs and honey. You can get a phone
signal if you stand on the bench on the beach.
Generally walks start at 6.30am (to avoid
walking in the heat) and the night walks
at 6.30pm. There is a lot of wildlife as
the area is so remote. South Africans, Chris
and Julie are excellent, friendly, helpful
managers (the owner is also South African).
We highly recommend the kayak trip with Chris
along the coast to the hidden cove, sacred island
and river – but you do beach the kayak
many times so take your waterproof sun cream
with you – the sun is fierce so you
will need to re-apply it! We stayed for 5
Vakona Lodge – 2 nights
Excellent quality, location, ambience, facilities
and food (great confit of duck and lamb stew
– very tender). Inclusive meals are
limited choice but a good range. Friendly
staff. Excellent roomy lodges, with patio.
Hot water and power all day (occasional glitches),
unlike many of the remote lodges. Swimming
pool. Free wifi in the reception –
not very fast but it was unexpected!
The lodge supports wildlife with its Lemor
Island, a refuge for lemors that were previously
pets (a practise banned since 2001). The
lemors are very tame and jump on your shoulders/arms.
You can get some great close up photos. There's
a crocodile reserve that also has chameleons,
turtles, wild fowl and a small museum - it’s
a bit run down.
Vakona Lodge is ideally located for trips
to the larger and less touristy Mantadia
National Park (if you are in a 4 x 4 vehicle)
as well as Andasibe. Great wildlife viewing.Night
walks in the Vakona Lodge reserve at 6.30pm
Le Relais des Plateaux – 1 night
Good hotel, not too far from the airport
for early flights. Good restaurant. Happy
to provide an early breakfast – but
the service was not very quick. Air-conditioning.
free wifi in all rooms. Large swimming pool
and poolside restaurant.
Mandrare River Camp, Ifotaka – 3 nights
A luxury tented camp under tamarind trees
with excellent food and service. The sun
rises directly in front of the tents over
the Mandrare River giving breathtaking early
morning views. At night, far from civilisation,
the stars are the best you’ll see anywhere
in Africa. The 6 luxury tents have adjoining
large well decorated bathroom with quality
shampoos, soaps shower gel and mosquito cream.
There's permanent hot water and lights
from solar panel power. Electronic devices
need to be charged at the main house from
5pm to 10pm. The lodge is eco-friendly with
trees being planted to attract the birds.
All guests dine together. Aperitifs are
taken outside the dining tent or on as ‘sun-downers’
in the sisal fields, whilst watching the
sunset. Quality wines or other drinks are
served at meal times or upon request - all
inclusive. The chef provides excellent, near
gourmet food which is very well presented.
Ed is an excellent host and extremely helpful,
as are all the staff. The guides are very
informative and have a good sense of humour. Ed has been successful in befriending
the local villagers and he is supporting
the school children by providing them with
satchels, notebooks and pencils.
The long drive (3.5 hours) from Port Dauphin
is on poor roads – unmaintained tarmac
until Amboasary and then dirt tracks through
the sisal plantation, however, the trip is
well worth it!.
Croix de la Sud – 1 night
Pleasant courtyard rooms that are modern,
clean, light and airy. TV, air-conditioning,
permanent electricity, which was a great
relief after our trip to a remote tented
camp! Dinner is taken at the older, La Dolphin,
next door (same owners). Free wifi in every
room. Beware of the beggars who pester you
outside during the day.
Le Pavillon de l’Emyrne – 1 night
A once very elegant old Victorian manor,
restored with a lovely lounge and garden
sitting area. Excellent room and bathroom,
with free wifi in every room. Beautiful décor.
Very friendly and helpful staff – nothing
was too much trouble. We stayed overnight and had
an early departure at 5.15am and we were
provided a light breakfast in the room. I
wish we could have stayed longer to enjoy
They don’t do an evening meal so a
member of staff walked around the corner
with us to show us La Bousoul restaurant.
La Bousoul Restaurant
An excellent, comprehensive menu. The carpaccio of zebu and the shrimps were excellent
but the Zebu fillet was tough so we sent
it back and they happily replaced it with
another meal and gave us a free dessert and
rum drink. Excellent service.
Nature Lodge, Amber National Park – 1 night
Very comfortable, air-conditioned and spacious
wooden lodges with lovely wooden floors,
a cool concrete bathroom and a patio
having excellent views. Power 6pm to 10pm
in the lodges. Excellent dining room, lounge
area and terrace overlooking beautiful gardens
with the hills in the background. Excellent
menu and quality food.
Relais de l’Ankarana – 2 nights
In the middle of nowhere, very basic spacious
concrete semi detached lodges with staff
who are willing to please. Power in the lodges
from 6pm to 10pm. Good food considering the
remoteness of the hotel and the facilities
Constance Lodge, Tsarabanjina – 5 nights
A hidden paradise!
Tsarabanjina is a 2 hour boat ride (40 nautical
miles) from Nosy Be but the trip is well
worth it. The welcome couldn’t be warmer
as visitors are greeted by the staff waving
on the shore. The 21 individual lodges are
fairly standard but with luxury toiletries,
power and hot water 24 hours. They are set
into the trees, some with hammocks, overlooking
their own beach frontage of white sand and
turquoise blue sea, with your own deckchairs,
umbrella and table, which is set up every
morning. There are a lot of sandflies but
they do spray the beach daily and you are
provided with coconut oil for protection
(we didn’t use it as we sat in the
shade on our terrace mostly). There are many
activities - kayaks, catamarans, water skiing,
snorkelling, scuba diving, hand-line and
deep sea fishing, and walks around the island.
The snorkelling is excellent and there is
a daily trip with a biologist off this or
the other islands in the archipelago, which
makes it very interesting. There are lots
of birds including the Madagascar sea eagles
and reef herons.
The restaurant and bar, with its sand floor,
are very comfortable with views over the
sand and sea. There’s an excellent
cocktail menu and the hotel makes its own
rum (three different varieties). The food
and cooking was excellent – buffet
breakfast and lunch with a choice of 3 main
dishes for dinner. Lots of fresh fruit and
fish. The wine choice was limited and fairly
expensive. You can ask to have a special
intimate dinner on the beach or on the ‘hill’
(at extra cost). There is free WIFI in reception,
bar and restaurant
The staff are the most helpful and friendly
you'll ever meet. The island is very
unique and pristine. In 1992 it was the location
for Girl Friday, a BBC TV programme and book
by Joanna Lumley and you can see the book
in the bar (it’s worth a read whilst
you’re there). The hotel and lodges
were built in 1994. Falling to sleep every night with
the sound of the waves crashing on the sand
was bliss. (I wish I could return soon).