Most Inspirational Moment
I have no idea why I was expecting rainforest everywhere as Madagascar is such a big country. So the dry forest at Kirindy was a joy to the senses - fresh leafy, earthy smells, crunch of the leaves underfoot, the warmth of the sun and the amazing lemurs, fossa (even if it was just at the lodge area), owls to be seen. My favourite bit was when the group of lemurs headed straight for us and had a gawp at us at very close range (touching distance) before heading higher into the trees. The fact that they actively approached humans was unique! So expect the difference of cool rainforest, tropical rainforest, dry forest, grasslands, mountains, desert/scrub and the amazing Tsingy. I loved the day hike around the Tsingy. As I have been climbing, caving and done many hikes, I was keen to do this day's walk. I was impressed that Exodus provided their own harnesses for the Via Ferrata - the harnesses provided to the other group were a bit old and tatty. The guides were very patient and helpful to members of the group who had issues with the climb or over the bridge. So everyone successfully completed the walk and had an amazing walk to remember. I was very thankful that I had my Camelpak to keep up the fluids readily as it was hot dry and sweaty work! Sunset at the baobabs was lovely - it is of course dependent on the clouds and dust in the atmosphere as how the sunset glows - but you feel like you are a world away from your worries at that time.
Thoughts on Group Leader
From the start, Sol was looking after us well. Three of us had our bags left in Nairobi by Kenya Airways so he arranged at no cost to ourselves for a taxi to pick us up and take us back to the airport to hope that our bags were on the next flight. This was Sol - always organising things and smoothing things along. He was so informative about the ethnic groups, the local industies, politics, history, flora and fauna. Many a time whilst on the bus, his dulcet tones lulled me to sleep but not through lack of interest but as he has such a calming voice. I think this say it all - Sol rushes in to get us to leave the restaurant post haste as the President of Madagascar is coming along this road and it could cause delays. We get to the ferry site, we are told we'll have to wait as the President is coming. Sol puts his foot down and states that he has responsibility for his clients and they are more important to him than the president at this moment!! We got on the ferry thankfully or would have had a delay of a number of hours and missed the baobabs at sunset! He made sure that we were looked after and if we had a request, he would try his best to accommodate this - purchasing suntan lotion in small towns, sarong shopping, stopping for Gem workshops....... Sol is a lovely gentleman who is a credit to Madagascar and to Exodus allowing us to have an amazing trip. He had a hard task to keep our group in order as we were like a bunch of frogs jumping everywhere when allowed out! He was funny, serious and interested in us as we were in his life too.
Advice for Potential Travellers
Madagascar is a huge country so distances to be covered make for long bus trips. A travel pillow is recommended. But this meant that we got to see the real lives of Madagascar - the activity on the villages as we traveled through, seeing the variety of houses in the different areas and the different farming activities. The landscape changes so much as well too -we might start at the seaside and be in rainforest by the end of the day. Don't expect a sleep in- we had a running joke by the end of the trip up with bags out and leaving at times that most holidays would never consider. But we needed to be on the road as our trip was pretty full on and a huge variety of animals and environments, that the last full day at the seaside was a free activities day was a godsend to have free time! As I previously mentioned the Tsingy and Isalo NP are hot so a Camel pak is better than just drinking out of a bottle - it stopped me from getting dehydrated as I drank 3 litres of water each walk. I had used previous reviewers information about changing money - Sol requests one the first day 200,000Ar (approx £40) for a kitty for drivers, guides etc. The airport has a number of exchange places that change euros, (post 2009 marked) USD and GBP. You have the opportunity to go back to the airport on Day 3 as well, or Day 9 we can change at a money changer in Morodava (with slightly poorer rates than at the airport) only euro or USD. I bought a few souvenirs, had an hours' massage, went snorkelling, tried to see the giant jumping rat and drank wine with my meals so I change £400. Did not change any money back but it was worth it!
Another word of thanks to our brilliant driver Dama. He was smooth and safe whilst driving us on long trips. The bus was always immaculately clean, withe bin emptied numerous times throughout the day, the floors swept daily and windows washed daily so it was a pleasure to be in. I think that this was a well thought out itinerary that gave the traveler an excellent taste of the variety of wildlife, landscape, local people and ways of life in such a compact schedule. It is an adventure that changes rapidly and keeps you marveling at the beauty of Madagascar. It is Africa but without the large game and that difference means that you have to look closer but then you enjoy what you find even more!