UK Tour Operator
Excellent service and organisation for our trip. Chris Osborn was also a fantastic help when we had the flight and baggage problems.
Madagascar Tour Operators:
Tropic Tours and Travel
Excellent organisation of our tour. Jean-Jacque, our driver was excellent, so helpful and interesting - we enjoyed his company and conversation.
Le Paradise du Nord
They managed our tour in the north. Frank was an excellent guide and was with us for the total duration of our tour of Amber Mountain, Tsingy Rouge and Tsingy d'Ankarana - his is very knowledgeable.
Our guides were amazing in spotting things that you wouldn't expect to notice including some really minute and well camouflaged creatures. They really made our exploration such a wonderful experience. I can't speak highly enough of them.
Helena at Tsarabanjina made our snorkelling such an interesting experience. During our trips to a different site each day she identified the fish and sea creature and she would dive down to collect species to show us (carefully returning them after).
Our journey to Madagascar was fraught with troubles and we were very fortunate to get there to connect with the flight for our first destination.
We got in our taxi at 5am and arrive in plenty of time for our 7.15am flight to Paris to connect with our 12.05 flight to Madagascar. Paris was covered in fog so the announcement tells us, but Air France decided to board the plane to be ready for the first available slot out of Heathrow. We wait in in a hot plane for a few hours and then taxi out toward the runway. Next in line for take-off we are relieved to be on our way.
Then the problem starts… A passenger has, seemingly, had a heart attack, so 15 minutes takes us back to the terminal where we await the arrival of the ambulance 10 minutes later, which was not too prompt considering they were responding to a suspected heart attack. Medics boarded and to cut a long story short, it seems that the wait in the hot plane had triggered a ‘faint’ and the man said that he had taken no breakfast and that it had happened before. Off the plane he went with his partner and her child and off goes the luggage.
11.40am take off at last - but alas too late
for our flight connection we fear, even if
it had been delayed by the fog! Upon arrival
at 12.25 the board shows our onward flight
just departing. The next flight is in 2 days.
Off to the Air France transfers desk we go
to spend the next 2 hours whilst they say
that they can get us on an alternative route,
from Orly airport via La Reunion, if Air
Madagascar pay, but of course, Air Madagascar
refused. (Surely, Air France should have
transported us on their flight to La Reunion
on the basis that it was their responsibility
that we missed our flight and they had some
empty seats so it would have been zero cost
to them?) Eventually, our tour operator,
World Wildlife, said they would re-route
us and fight it with Air France later.(A
very big thank you to Chris who was an amazing
Time was now short to get from Charles De Gaulle airport to Orly to catch the flight to Le Reunion then for a change of flight to Madagascar. So off we go to claim our baggage but disaster! Only one suitcase could be found and it wasn’t mine! The Air France lady in the offices said that she will find it and put it on the Air Austral plane to Madagascar that evening.
We arrived at Le Reunion at 8am and were the only passengers in transit so they opened the customs check just for us (5 staff)! It was too early for check in so we sat in the airport lounge for 3 hours and a kind lady gave us a boarding pass when possible.
The flight arrived in ‘Tana’ 15 minutes late which left us 45 minutes to get a visa (only available at the airport), collect our one suitcase, check to see if my suitcase had arrived (which it hadn’t) and check in for the onward domestic flight. There was no time to exchange any currency (only available in Madagascar). But at least we were on the flight to start our holiday in Maroantsetre and Masoala National Park, albeit without my suitcase.
11 Nov 2011 (Fri) : Depart UK
Fly with Air France from London to Paris (0715/0930) to connect with the Air Madagascar flight to Tana (1205 arrive 0310 next day). (This didn’t happen – see above)
12 Nov (Sat) Maroantsetra
The plan was to be met and taken to a nearby hotel for a rest and a shower, before returning to the airport in time for the onward flight to Maroantsetra (didn’t happen – see above). Flight to Maroantsetra (1320/1535), gateway to the great rain forest of Masoala Peninsula, a mecca for naturalists and wildlife enthusiasts. On arrival met and transferred to the Relais du Masoala for 1 night.
13 to 16 Nov (Sun to Wed) Masoala Forest Lodge
Breakfast then boat transfer to the Nosy Mangabe island. Visit of the reserve where you can spot the white fronted brown lemur, the black and white ruffed lemur as well as a multitude of frogs, gekoes, birds…. Picnic lunch provided. (Unfortunately, it didn’t happen due to a lack of communication between Masoala Forest Lodge and Tropic Tours) So we went direct to Masoala Forest Lodge
Continuation to the Masoala Forest Lodge for 4 nights. The boat trip takes around 2 hours (40 km). The Masoala Forest Lodge is set behind golden beaches in a small clearing in the vast rainforest, at Tampolo.
The Masoala peninsula is the largest and wildest track of rain forest remaining in Madagascar. Here you should find the sub species of Black-and-White Ruffed Lemur called the Red Ruffed Lemur only found here on the peninsula. There are many endemic bird species here and in recent years the Madagascar Red Owl and Madagascar Serpent Eagle were spotted here after a gap of almost 50 years.
Masoala Forest Lodge
The nine double “African Safari” tents are positioned on thatched wooden decks, behind the hardwood trees lining the shady beaches, providing privacy, with the sea on the doorstep. There is no electricity. The lodge is lighted by paraffin lamps. The tents are fully netted and furnished (incl.mosquito nets), providing the full experience of sleeping under canvas in the wilds, without any of the discomforts associated with camping. Every tent has its own ensuite bathroom with cold water (hot water in the morning and eveings).
Meals - The catering is of wholesome “Swiss–Malagasy rainforest-cuisine”, specialising in the fresh local produce. The communal dining and social area is a traditional Malagasy structure of wood and palm thatch, overlooking the sea.
Activities - The lodge offers a variety of different activities and excursions. Besides guided forest walks with game and bird watching by day or night, there is guided sea kayaking, snorkelling, whale watching and fishing. Excursions by boat, on foot, or by kayak to other special places on the peninsula are also available.
17 Nov (Thur) : Tana/ Andasibe
After an early breakfast took the boat transfer back to Maroansetra and then transfer to the airport in time to fly back to Tana (1010/1225). On arrival, met and transferred by road to the world famous reserve of Andasibe – Mantadia.
Two night stay at Vakona Lodge, an upmarket lodge located just one kilometre from Andasibe, within the Analamazaotra (or Indri) Special Reserve, part of the Mantadia-Andasibe National Park.
Accommodation is in traditional-style Malagasy bungalows scattered around a small lake and
surrounded by forest. There are 10 family bungalows and 14 double rooms – each with its own verandah, and en-suite bathroom with hot running water. A central dining room overlooks the lake and there is a swimming pool with sundeck. From the lodge well marked trails lead to the primary forest and there are other activities such as horse-riding and canoe rides on the lake to ‘Five Lemur Island’.
Highlights of a visit here are the night time walks to spot the nocturnal lemurs and other animals, seeing the habituated groups of Indri Indri, and hearing their wonderful ‘whale-like’ calls as the mist lifts off the rainforest canopy in the early mornings.
18 Nov (Fri) : Andasibe
Morning visit to the secondary forest of Andisbe and afternoon visit through the primary forest of the Mantadia National Park. Six different species of diurnal lemur species to be found including the Indri Indri, the black and white ruffed lemur, the diademed sifaka lemur, the common brown lemur, the grey bamboo lemur and the red bellied lemur. Lunch at Vakona Lodge. Both sites are among the most well known for bird watching in Madagascar where you can spot different endemic birds as the couas, vangas, ground rollers, asity birds, green bull, king fisher, jery, newtonia…
Night walk within the Vakona lodge reserve for spotting different nocturnal species as the mouse lemur, the greater dwarf lemur, the hairy eared dwarf lemur, the eastern woolly lemur, as well as endemic species of reptiles and batracians
19 Nov (Sat) : Tana
In the morning, visit of the Vakona private reserve including its small island for lemurs and the crocodile farm. Lunch and then transfer back to Tana for 1 night at Le Relais des Plateaux.
20 to 22 Nov (Sun to Tue): Mandare River Camp
Early morning transfer back to Tana airport, to connect with the flight down to Fort Dauphin (0620/0735) then a 3½ hr drive to Mandrare River Camp for 3 nights.
Located near the Southern tip of Madagascar, the Mandrare River Camp offers both nature and culture, in a stunning location. This is a true luxury camping experience, with strong attention to local culture and ecotourism. From Fort Dauphin continue eastwards to the giant sand dunes of Lac Anony and on still further into the spiny desert to your camp on the banks of the mighty Mandrare River. (the route has changed as we were told that the planned route is no longer accessible so we went west to Amboasary and then north to the camp).
The camp is set in the shade of Tamarind Trees, a strand of deciduous gallery forest in an area predominantly covered by spiny forest and sisal. Awake to the sound of the local Antandroy tribe singing as they fetch water from the river, or the morning calls of the Coucal and Crested Drongo.
Set in the grounds of an old colonial plantation house, the camp is just 3km from the village of Ifotaka and opposite the sacred ancestral forests of the Antandroy Tribe. The lodges are right on the river's edge so you can sit back, relax and watch the many goings on in and around the Mandrare River, the lifeblood of this otherwise dry region.
The six tents are generously spread out high up on the shady river bank, all with views across the tranquil water and the mountains beyond. In the evening a trip to the water’s edge with a pair of binoculars or with our astronomy telescope quickly reveals that there is no light pollution here. Being hundreds of km’s from the nearest big city, the stars fill the night sky and you can spend hours gazing up to the heavens in awe.
23 Nov (Wed) Fort Dauphin
Breakfast at the lodge, then head back to Fort Dauphin. Stop at Andohahela to visit the park where you can still enjoy discovering different endemic species of fauna and flora. Picnic lunch provided.
Transfer to Fort Dauphin in the afternoon and spend 1 night at the Croix du Sud Hotel.
24 Nov (Thur) : Antananarivo
This morning fly back to Tana. (1215/1330) Upon arrival met and transferred to the Le Pavillon de l’Emyrne,for 1 night on a bed and breakfast basis. Dinner at a local restaurant.
Le Pavillon de L'emyrne is a delightful boutique hotel in Isoraka, in Antananarivo’s historic Upper Town, and the first non-smoking hotel in Madagascar. It has a welcoming, efficient and helpful staff and management team who make it a real pleasure to stay here.
25 Nov (Fri) : Diego Suarez/ Jofrre Ville
Very early morning, transfer back to the airport for the flight to the coastal town of Diego Suarez (0700/0855). On arrival met and taken to Nature Lodge (1night), near Amber Mountain National Park for lunch and afternoon walk in Amber Mountain National Park.
26 Nov (Sat) : Ankarana – Amber Mountain
After a morning in Amber Mountain National Park transfer by road to Ankarana, via Tsigny Rouge. Stay 2 nights at the Relais de l’Ankarana Hotel.
27 Nov (Sun) : Ankarana
Full day visiting the reserve. Walk across the ‘hanging bridges’ and to the ‘Tsingy rare’ for an amazing experience of the extraordinary limestone. Visit of the bat caves. Possibility of spotting birds, lemurs, and reptiles.
28 Nov to 3 Dec Tsarbanjina
After an early breakfast drive to Ankify through Ambanja. On the way stop to discover the tropical plants and trees, cafe trees, cacao- trees, cashew nuts trees, etc. Transfer by boat to Tsarbanjina, for five nights.
The Constance hotel is a small beach Lodge on a private island of Tsarabanjina off the north West Coast of Madagascar, 40 miles from Nosy Be. The island was made famous a few years ago when Joanna Lumley was 'Castaway' for a week in 1992 on the island and filmed by the BBC.
The Tsarabanjina Hotel has been built on a 22-hectare island with lush vegetation and crystal clear water in the Mitsio Archipelago. There are 18 comfortable A-framed chalets situated under the palm trees on 2 beaches either side of the island. The sand is white and the water crystal clear with fantastic snorkelling only yards from the shore, where you can see lovely corals, fish, sea fans and even turtles. The emphasis is on relaxation but for the more active there are plenty of things to do: windsurfing, water skiing, catamaran sailing and volleyball. There are daily trips to islands and snorkelling excursions, excellent scuba diving and deep-sea fishing. The restaurant and bar areas are on yet another beach where you can watch the sunset, have a game of backgammon and the barman mixes great cocktails. The food is high quality French cuisine, there is an a la carte menu at dinner with delicious seafood and a large buffet at breakfast and lunch. The house speciality, an exquisite banana or spiced rum is the perfect way to round off the evening.
Friday, 2nd Dec – my birthday dinner on ‘The Hill’ (unfortunately, a massive storm came so we only had time to eat half of the starters before rushing for cover). We had the most fantastic king prawns.
3 Dec (Sat) Nosy Be – Tana - Paris
A day at leisure before leaving at 15.30 to transfer by boat and road to Nosy Be airport, in time for the return flight back to Tana (1945/2050) and connecting flight back to Paris (0010/0905) arriving next day.
4 Dec (Sun) : Arrive Home
Depart Paris at 1325 arriving back into Heathrow at 1345.