Thoughts on Group Leader
Our leader Bodo was absolutely fantastic. Our every need was met, we arrived on time for everything and her nightly briefings explaining tomorrow's timings and activities were fantastic. There were some more 'difficult' members in our group but Bodo dealt with each situation professionally and calmly. She did a brilliant job of sharing her beautiful country with us. Most of us also fell ill with some variation of a 'dodgy stomach' at some point over the trip and Bodo was lovely throughout and very caring.
Advice for Potential Travellers
Age-suitability/fitness - please consider your own level of fitness and agility for the sake of yourself, your leader and the rest of the group. In our group of 11 we had two people, not a couple, in their 70s - one spent most of the holiday with vomiting and diarrhoea, and the other fainted one hour into a beautiful flat trek in our first national park, from standing up for too long. Not to sound unkind, but these two scenarios were not fair on the guides, group leader or the rest of the group. The trek in Ranformana is pretty treacherous in parts, and there are some challenging climbs and difficult descents. Our leader Bodo was brilliant though and arranged for the younger fitter folk to be taken ahead by the guide, to save us having to stop every 10 minutes (literally) for a water break for the elderly and unfit out-of-breath group members. In Isalo, it was blisteringly hot (35 degrees plus, in the shade) and dry when walking in the canyons, again we had to stop every 100m to stop the older people from fainting. Whilst I understand that activities need to be inclusive, it was annoying to have spent the entire previous day on the bus, only to finally go for a trek at a rate of 3km in 3 hours. Again, I really don't mean to sound unkind, but these holidays are not cheap and have been much anticipated after a long spell of not travelling during Covid. So when you miss seeing the lemurs ahead you because it takes so long for the group to get going, it's beyond irritating. So taken together and in my opinion, you don't have to have the fitness of an Olympian but this trip is much better suited to younger people, or older people with a sound level of fitness/stamina who can keep to a decent pace on the walking/searing heat days. Additionally, and perhaps this is a generational thing, the two older group members were also the ones who insisted on taking pictures of the wildlife by shoving their phone within inches of the chameleon/spider/gecko every single time, often shaking the leaf or tree which they were perched on in the process. Not only is this selfish and doesn't let other group members see, but it's also far too intrusive to the natural world and by the fifth day of this, it caused a bit of a rift within the group. You don't come to the Southern hemisphere to have your view of a chameleon blocked by an iPhone. Food - only breakfasts are included in this trip, unlike other Exodus holidays. Meals are generally OK although very basic. Expect a lot of zebu & chips, chicken & chips, and very simple (non-filling) breakfasts, typically a hot drink, a very small amount of fruit, a thin omelette and hard bread. If you are vegetarian, there isn't much choice beyond pasta & veg, noodles & veg or couscous & veg but this is a reflection of life in Madagascar though, and not at all due to the standard of hotels, Exodus or efforts of our leader. A sense of camaraderie and a willingness to engage with others in the group is essential, as without this the long days on the road feel twice as long. There was a small group of us with this ethos who got on really well, and it made these journeys much more pleasant.
If you have any particular optional activities you would like to do on the free afternoons in Anako, I'd advise maybe asking the leader to call ahead and find out if they are available. I had budgeted some money for a scuba dive at the end of the trip, only to find out the day before that it was no longer an option, which was disappointing. Be aware that only breakfasts are included in this holiday, unlike other Exodus trips. As breakfasts are not buffet-style or especially filling, you will need to include more money than you think for meals and drinks.