Last minute departures
- Wildlife & Polar
- Types of Holiday
Popular Walking holiday
Try a host of different activities in glorious Turkish surroundings.
This is a small group adult holiday. The group is usually between 4 and 16 in size, with an average of 12 like-minded clients booking individually, in a couple or as friends together.
Download the detailed trip notes for everything you could possibly want to know about this trip, including detailed itinerary and full kit list
I was in a group of twelve on the 4 September 2014 trip, led by a very popular Malagasy guide (favourably referred to in many reviews) whose very long name was conveniently shortened to "Sol". Weather at this time of year turned out to be mainly very good - not over-hot in the later stages of the trip. Unfortunately, our first few days in the rain forest were pretty damp - it rained non-stop. This did not prevent us seeing any of the wildlife but some of the initial photos inevitably reflected the difficulty of taking them.
Occasionally, as in the Kirindi reserve, the lemurs are habituated to humans and, if you sit quietly, one troupe will come and mingle - especially if you give them some water. (Don't touch their tails!) Others stick to the high trees and are often frustratingly difficult to photograph because so many branches and twigs get in the way.
After the rain forest we flew back to Antananarivo ("Tana") and, thereafter until the last day, all travel was by road. Apart from splitting the group into four 4WDs for the Tsingy excursion, all driving was in a smallish bus. The bus was reasonably comfortable and air-conditioned but we rarely felt the need for the A/C as long as the fan was on. There are a lot of long driving days but the roads on the circular part of the tour are all pretty good and, if you want to see the country properly, there is really no alternative. Sol made sure we had plenty of stops so the experience was fine for most of us - if not all.
The road up to the Tsingy was a different matter and was in serious need of improvement. It will probably get this before too long - graders were already in evidence and tourists will wonder what the fuss was about within a couple of years. Ferry crossings were slow and inefficient but provided a good opportunity to chill out.
The worst length of dirt road is probably between Tulear and the hotel north of Ifaty. This requires a lot of patience and will probably not be upgraded anytime soon.
Hotels were, as indicated by previous reviews, surprisingly good and pretty clean for the most part. For those who cannot get away from their phones or tablets Wi-Fi is available at most of them - if only in Reception. Electricity is sometimes rationed (e.g. 7-10pm only) and room lighting usually leaves a lot to be desired. One "tented" camp was a bit basic but perfectly acceptable. Meals were good - although menus were not particularly varied. If you like Zebu steak and chips you will enjoy this trip a lot. That said some of the fish is excellent and I had one meal of lobster which was greatly enjoyed. Desserts are mainly fruit so it is difficult to over-indulge too much.
As regards health issues I was lucky - being on antibiotics for a pre-holiday infection. I suspect this protected me because everybody else had tummy troubles during the first week, although nobody seemed much under the weather for more than a day or two. Few mosquitos were in evidence - even in the rain forest. I took great care to smother myself in DEET throughout the trip and only relaxed the regime when we returned to Tana at the end - when, inevitably, I suffered several bites.
The Tsingy is a strange area of pinnacles and extremely sharp rocks. It is well worth seeing and the climbing element is worth experiencing (not for the faint-hearted but not onerous). We had no problems but it is probably worth making sure that your insurance covers helicopter evacuation (assuming a helicopter is actually available - which may not be the case). To my surprise the scenery on our later circular route did not vary very much - rolling brown/yellow hills with scrub and lots of little square houses. (I had been expecting mountains but we only saw them from a distance in the south). Others have commented on the "slash and burn" approach to agriculture and the deforestation evident, with all the wildlife under threat and confined to reserves. Whilst there is a lot of truth to these observations I felt that most of the scenery we saw had probably not changed much for many years. That said, the change will probably accelerate in the near future so now is a good time to go. Baobabs are nearly everywhere on the west coast and you will get baobabbed out!
Tana has some interesting areas and the older buildings on the central escarpment (where the wealthy live) could almost be from an old European town. The lake in the centre of the city is a disgrace - being widely (and openly) used as a latrine and the smell is offputting.
Baobab alley was good - although the locals tend to congregate there a lot (some with herds of Zebu) and there were comments to the effect that they spoiled the pictures! Sadly we didn't get a decent sunset there. Others may be luckier.
I think now is a very good time to see Madagascar. Tourism, whilst increasing, has not yet taken off and one does not get pestered to buy souvenirs to anything like the irritating extent one does in so many other countries.
I think I would still recommend seeing Ethiopia first but this was a good and enjoyable trip and can safely be recommended.
The day-long trek in Isola park (including a swim in a natural pool) was exactly the right length and gave us a morning in a shady canyon and a hot walk in the afternoon finished off with a nice swim. I wouldn't say this was inspirational but the scenery was occasionally spectacular and it was a very enjoyable day.
Sol was excellent - always smiling, always helpful, always well-organised. He well deserves the accolades he always gets!
If you want to take photos of lemurs in the tree tops you will obviously need an up-to-date camera with plenty of zoom capability. (I found 20x was sufficient for the most part but could have done with more.) The nocturnal walks also demand flash and anti-shake technology. A waterproof camera could well be useful in the rain forest.
Walking around in the cities (especially Tana) is dangerous - not so much from attention by the locals but because there are a lot of cars and they all seem to be parked on the pavement/sidewalk so you have to venture into the road risking life and limb. Take care! There is no particular problem outside the cities.
Depending on when you travel it is probably worth taking water-proofs and/or a folding umbrella.
Mosquito nets are often provided - but not always when they are needed (like in Tana). It is still worth taking your own wedge net.
The exchange rate means that changing the recommended £400 at the outset means you get a brick of notes. After you have contributed to the tips kitty you will need somewhere to carry this securely. There are very few places where reliable ATMs can be found (e.g. there is a good one in Tulear) so doing a large change at the airport on the first day is the best way.
There are still surprisingly few places to buy souvenirs. You will find a few stalls around Baobab alley and at Kirindi but the only other good opportunities are at stops at shops after Andisirabe and in Tulear (where there is a shell market).
More excursions are available than are advertised. On the last day (north of Ifaty) you will need something to do unless you like mooching around. In season, whale watching is possible (we were unlucky) but there are also snorkelling trips, wind-surfing and visits to the "Spiny Forest". Bear in mind that transport has to be organised for these. Cost for the day is unlikely to exceed £30.
Save your plastic water bottles for the local kids during the driving days - but throw them to people rather than attempting to give them to specific kids. We nearly had an accident when a kid decided to run alongside the bus in order to get hold of a proffered bottle and nearly fell under the bus wheels.
The morning gorge walk on Day 10 started early and was surprisingly cold before the sun came up. we didn't take Sol's warnings seriously and regretted it. Take a pullover and gloves.
I understand that there may be an issue with the number of days for which a park ticket is required but the time spent in the ferry queue on the day after the Tsingy would have been a better time to take the river gorge cruise, rather than having to get up early for it the day before.
I enjoyed the variety of scenery and the wildlife, particularly the lemurs.
The group was quite small (9 of us) and we seemed to gel well with one another.
I enjoyed the food which was more adventurous than that I had in Borneo last year with another company.
The lemurs ! That's what I looked forward to and I was not disappointed. I particularly enjoyed Lemur Island early on in the holiday, as the lemurs were habituated to humans and were virtually 'all over us'.
I enjoyed the Tsingy and the walk in Isalo equally.
He was a good leader. Always appeared cheerful even though he possibly didn't feel it.
Most things went smoothly and he dealt with issues as they arose.
The trip notes prepared us for most eventualities such as the rough roads and long drives and problems with hot water/power- I was grateful for that preparation.
If anything, I was surprised at the low-ish temperature in the east of Madagascar and could have done with taking a couple of more warm garments.
Grace Lodge had its charm and the owner was delightful-a heater in the restaurant would have made the meal there a bit more enjoyable.
Excellent! Perinet, Mantadia, Isalo & Tsingy Bemahara are all home to many species of lemur. The most common are the Ring Tailed Lemur, the Sifaka & the Indri.
Lyndal Montgomery - Sales
There are a couple of days that are fairly long - the distance is not that great, but the roads can be slow & winding. However, the beautiful & ever changing countryside more than make up for this. The drive up to Bekopaka is also lengthy, but again, the scenery, the ferry boat trip & the reward of the amazing Tsingy Bemaraha NP at the end makes you forget the bumpy journey!
Aurelija Selvestraviciute - Customer Operations
All hotels have reliable electricity and a European adaptor is required.
Lyndal Montgomery - Sales
Personally I would say you definitely should take them. There aren't swarms of mozzies but they are present and malaria is much more likely in Africa rather than other places. I took Malarone but some people on the trip had Larium (very strong) or Doxycycline (milder). I didn't feel any side effects but I appreciate it's different for everyone.
Yes, there are lemurs everywhere and lots of different species - don't worry about that!
I found it safe and as long as you use the same common sense you would at home, you shouldn't have any problems. In saying that, there were riots when I was there so the city tour got cancelled for everyone! I did a mini version with the leader in a car, didn't get out and walk around much, but where we did felt completely safe (and saw no rioting either!).
Binoculars are worthwhile, if they are a decent pair. Our leader had good ones though which we passed around.
Food and drink
Food and drink were generally cheaper than the UK. The only thing I recall being pricey was wine, as it's imported from South Africa. I ate all the local food and had no problems. A couple of people did get a bad stomach for a day or so but nothing serious and fairly common when eating in a new enviroment.
We do mention in the trip notes that Tsingy isn't suitable for those with vertigo and claustrophobia. Some people were slightly worried by that but it was also the highlight for a lot of people, myself included. You don't have to be majorly fit, just willing to push yourself a little and won't have any problems. Everyone in our group did it and had no problems. There is nothing that is dangerous, as I say, you just need to be willing to push yourself a little!
Lyndal Montgomery - Sales
Staff member Lyndal Montgomery took a trip to Madagascar recently and you can read her article here.
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**More 2015 dates to be released soon**