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Madagascar

 
Author elsslots
Admin
#1 | Posted: 14 Nov 2022 10:52 | Edited by: elsslots 
Let's kick off this Madagascar topic with an itinerary for review.

I plan to visit Madagascar in June 2023. I am already prepping to get the itinerary (somewhat) right, so I can book my flights (will use miles, have already booked the first leg). Hoping to find someone that has looked into a Madagascar itinerary before and can make further suggestions. Have already read the Bradt guidebook, this overview of where to see which lemurs and some helpful websites. I liked this quote from Bradt: "The type of person who can afford the trip is often the type least suited with the Malagasy way of life".

So, as always, my goals are:
- See all 3 WHS
- See TWHS that are up for nomination shortly (there is 1, a church on St. Marie)
- See other TWHS that sound interesting
- See some good mammals
- Add in a few more things that give a feel for the landscape and culture of the country

Will use public transport as much as possible. Maybe rent a car + driver for a few days as well.
As the roads are bad and public transport slow, I try to move around not too much and stay an extra night here and there to relax.
The journey starts with a short visit to Reunion, as it is an easy combination and provides another tick.

D1. Flight from Amsterdam via Paris.
D2. Arrival in Reunion. Overnight in St. Louis (3n).
D3. Hike to some Cirque viewpoints among the Pitons of Reunion (WHS)
D4. Heliflight over the main area (optional splurge, scenario B)
D5. Flight with Air Austral to Tamatave in Madagascar. Overnight in Tamatave.
D6. Minibus to Sainte Marie island. Overnight St. Marie (3n)
D7. Explore island, visit the TWHS church that is nominated for 2024 (seems to be of very little interest).
D8. Explore island's natural surroundings.
D9. Minibus to Andasibe. Overnight Andasibe (maybe only possible to reach Tamatave in a day, then stay there)
D10. Visit Andasibe NP for its Indri lemurs.
D11. Continue to Antannarivo by minibus. Overnight Antannarivo (3n)
D12. Visit WHS Ambohimanga and TWHS Upper Town
D13. Day to organize further transport, and possibly visit TWHS Industrial Site of Mantasoa (by car).
D14. Minibus to Morondova (10h).
D15-18. Arrange short tour from Morondova to Tsingy de Bemaraha WHS (4n including logistics buffer)
D19. Back in Morondova. Visit Avenue de Baobabs.
D20. Minibus back to Antanarrivo. Overnight (2n)
D21. Buffer day in Antanarrivo.

From here, the scenarios diverge:
Scenario A (budget one):
D22. Minibus to Fianarantsoa.
D23. Move on to Ranomafano and overnight (2n).
D24. Visit Ranomafano Park (Rainforests WHS)
D25. Back to Antanarrivo (9h minibus).
D26. Flight back Antanarrivo - Amsterdam via Paris.

Scenario B (mid-budget one):
Same as A, but with car + driver. Will then reach Ranomafano day earlier.

Scenario C (expensive one):
D22. Drive to Ranomafano.
D23. Visit Ranomafano Park (Rainforests WHS)
D24. Drive southwards to visit Anja Reserve for ring-tailed lemurs.
D25. Further south to Andringitra Park.
D26. Visit Andringitra Park (also a location of Rainforests WHS, interesting scenery but hikes may be too tough)
D27. Back northwards, stay and visit Antsirabe
D28. Back to Antanarrivo
D29. Flight back Antanarrivo - Amsterdam via Paris.

Regarding costs, I am estimating 1700 EUR for scenario A, 2600 EUR for scenario B and 3600 EUR for scenario C. All without international flights and with good mid-budget hotels for a single person / food / transport / entrance fees / visa.

Author mrayers
Partaker
#2 | Posted: 15 Nov 2022 10:09 | Edited by: mrayers 
Ok... here is a start, but I will be able to add more later. Most of my touristy-type activities took place before covid, so I am not 100% sure of the current status of some of the more remote destinations, though I can check...

D5: I will have to ask around about the status of Air Austral to Toamasina (Tamatave). I don't think it has restarted yet, but by next June, it may have. Also, I am not sure if visa-on-arrival was ever available at Toamasina, so that needs to be confirmed. When flying into Antananarivo, visa-on-arrival is definitely the way to go. The two times I did that this year it was actually faster getting through passport control that way than it was for people who already had visas. You would need cash of $US 45 or EUR 40, for the visa but those prices may have changed with the recent slide in the Euro

D7 I have not been to Sainte Marie, and I agree the church doesn't sound very interesting. The coasts are usually hot and the east coast can have heavy rainstorms (usually not too long). If you were going to skip something from this itinerary, this might be it, but you would probably be a better judge than I of the likelihood of the church getting inscribed.

D10 You might consider two full days for Andasibe-Mantadia, as I don't know how certain it is to see Indri in one day. (I have never tried for them yet)

D12 Basically any taxi in Tana can take you to Ambohimanga, though it's like 45 minutes from.the city center if there isn't traffic and then later take you Haute-ville. On my two visits to A'himanga there was one English-speaking woman working there as a guide, but that was in '03 and '06. English getting much more common around the capital now, so I don't think you would have trouble getting a guide at the Site. One hour at the Site is plenty (but I rather like it, for a small Site). There are always plenty of guides hanging around the Rova in Haute-ville who can show you the sights. So you shouldn't need to arrange anything in advance for that day.

In June, the weather on the plateau is beautiful, it can even get a little chilly at night.

D14 If the direct bus to Morondava is running, it would almost certainly be longer than 10 hours, 13-14 would seem more likely. However, I just asked someone, and was told that there isn't a direct bus at the moment, but that is "unofficial." In such a situation you would need to overnight in Antsirabe.

(continued in the following post...)

Author elsslots
Admin
#3 | Posted: 15 Nov 2022 11:55 | Edited by: elsslots 
Thank you, mrayers

mrayers:
D5: I will have to ask around about the status of Air Austral to Toamasina (Tamatave). I don't think it has restarted yet, but by next June, it may have. Also, I am not sure if visa-on-arrival was ever available at Toamasina, so that needs to be confirmed. When flying into Antananarivo, visa-on-arrival is definitely the way to go. The two times I did that this year it was actually faster getting through passport control that way than it was for people who already had visas. You would need cash of $US 45 or EUR 40, for the visa but those prices may have changed with the recent slide in the Euro

Air Austral does offer this route for booking on its website, so I thought I was clever. Flying there instead of Tana saves another day of driving. Will look into the visa issue, there's no Madagascar embassy in NL so visa-on-arrival certainly is preferred.

mrayers:
D7 I have not been to Sainte Marie, and I agree the church doesn't sound very interesting. The coasts are usually hot and tge east coast can have heavy rainstorms (usually not too long). If you were going to skip something from this itinerary, this might be it, but you would probably be a better judge than I of the likelihood of the church getting inscribed.

I think we need to look more into the likelihood indeed. According to this jan 2022 news item, it will be part of an Upstream Process. I have time to monitor it until June 2023, and indeed will skip the island when inscription does not seem likely.

I've now also determined that D28 (late evening) is the day of my return flight. Any later, and I ended up in the high season with expensive flights. Now managed to get a bargain by using miles.

Author mrayers
Partaker
#4 | Posted: 15 Nov 2022 12:12 | Edited by: mrayers 
(... continued)

D14(b) Depending on how opposed you are to flying (I am too,) you might be better off by taking a one-way flight to Morondava, and doing the overland portion, with stops, on the way back.

D15-18/19 The Tsingy is going to take more research... There used to be an option to go halfway from Tana, then switch to a basic river longboat to get closer, then back to 4x4 for the rest of the way, however that was 20 years ago and I don't know if it is still possible. I will have to check on the preferred number of nights to do Tsingy from Morondava, to have a good experience. If you are going from Morondava to Tsingy and back you will pass through the grove on the Avenue of the Baobabs in both directions, and it can also be easily done as a day trip from town. It's not any sort of official protected area (unless something has changed) and if you enjoy photography, it can be worthwhile to be there more than once, with different lighting.

D20 Don't go all the way back to Tana, unless you have some other reason to.... Stay in Antsirabe instead.

D23 Ranomafana is a worthwhile stop, good for lemurs, though the forest is fairly thick so good views are not always easy.

D24 don't know much about Anja Reserve, will have to check (you should also see Ring-taileds at Tsingy)

D25 Andringitra is a very pretty park. Visits can be arranged in Ambalavao with reasonably short notice. There is a bit of driving and walking to do before you get to the park entrance, however I don't remember the trails in the park as being very strenuous, but that depends on which trail you use, I suppose. I also don't remember seeing much wildlife there, but that may have been just poor luck.

Another possibility. This would require a round trip domestic flight, but if you can work it, it would be a nice addition. Fly from Tana to Toalagnaro (Fort-Dauphin) at the southeast corner of the island. That is a fairly isolated seaside town with its own character. Andohahela National Park is nearby and it is interesting because it has two distinct halves. The eastern side is wetter and is already in the Rainforests WHS. The western side is more similar to the dry western forests biome, and I think it is part of the dry forests T-site (you might know better than I do). The famous Berenty Private Reserve is also nearby. I have not seen it, but it is fairly similar to an East African lodge, I believe, probably priced accordingly (I am not sure if it is open for day visits, or if you need to stay there. This would be a good place to see lemurs at close distance, in the event that you have been having trouble (Ring-taileds and Verreaux's Sifaka, primarily) as they are more habituated to humans (though, in general, lemurs are not very afraid of humans). There are a few scattered remnants of Spiny Forest in that part of the country , and If you have any interest in Botany that is worthwhile to see. The southern end of the island is rather distinct from the rest of the country, though it frequently suffers from severe droughts during El Nino years.

Misc.
- June is a fine month to visit. May is also very nice, as the countryside is a little greener, though some of the dirt roads can still be quite muddy
- I don't know how you feel about long flights (I really hate them) but if you would like an alternative, the flights with a stopover in Addis Ababa are condiderably less expensive than the flight to Paris and each segment is more tolerable. Most are overnight layovers, but the Ethiopians include a hotel voucher with the ticket price, and shuttles to and from the hotels, so I found that to be a nice option.

Edit: I checked the Air Austral site before making the first post. The flight to Toamasina was listed but every date I checked in December came back with "No flights available"
Edit2 "Will look into the visa issue, there's no Madagascar embassy in NL so visa-on-arrival certainly is preferred." I will ask someone here sometime before the end of the year. It certainly would be better if you could make that flight work...

P.S. A link to one of my early Web sites once appeared in the print version of the Bradt Guide (~2005 edition) ;-)

Author elsslots
Admin
#5 | Posted: 16 Nov 2022 07:52 | Edited by: elsslots 
mrayers:
D14(b) Depending on how opposed you are to flying (I am too,) you might be better off by taking a one-way flight to Morondava, and doing the overland portion, with stops, on the way back.

I am now leaning toward that option. According to recent reports on the Tripadvisor forum, it easily takes 13 hours to travel between Tana and Morondava. On the way back (by road) I can then stop at Antsirabe.

mrayers:
Another possibility. This would require a round trip domestic flight, but if you can work it, it would be a nice addition. Fly from Tana to Toalagnaro (Fort-Dauphin) at the southeast corner of the island.

It is tempting (and coincidentally Solivagant suggested it too), but I think it would be "biting off more than I can chew". Especially when the St. Marie island detour still is 'needed'.

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