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Mad About Madagascar

Madagascar had long been a bucket list item for me. We had begun researching Madagascar the year before Covid…but of course had to put it on the back burner. I’ve been anxious to get it back in our travel itinerary, and well, let me tell you, it was worth the wait. You may know how much my husband and I love a wildlife and birding adventure. Madagascar really delivered on that front…but in many other ways as well. I am now totally Mad About Madagascar and hope I can impress upon you what an incredible destination it is.

Ring-Tailed Lemur

Touring Madagascar

You can do independent travel in Madagascar, but frankly I wouldn’t recommend it. Infrastructure in Madagascar is poor. Roads are long, bumpy and poorly maintained. Having a driver who can expertly and safely maneuver the roads is important. Secondly, the wildlife. Throughout our ten day visit to Madagascar we had two different regional driver/guides and an additional five other site specific guides. The site specific guides played a very important role in the success of our tour. Their expertise in finding wildlife, birds and plants as well as teaching us about the local history, culture and people was immeasurable. Do a tour. You won’t regret it.

Chameleon
Common Brown Lemur

There are dozens of tour companies…probably hundreds. We used a company called Fosa and booked a private ten day tour and upgraded our hotels. We also upgraded to add a flight between the long distance of Antananarivo and Morondava…saving us from a full 10 hour day of treacherous driving. Do your research to find the best fit for you.

Mad About Madagascar

Madagascar was so much better than I expected. After our first two days I thought – well we can go home now, it can’t get any better. And yet…it did. It was unexpected at every turn. So let me tell you the highlights of the things we saw, did and experienced. Let me tell you why I am now Mad About Madagascar.

Red Ruffed Lemur

Baobabs

It’s these amazing trees that I wanted to see in Madagascar. I really wasn’t prepared for all the other astonishing things…so that was a bonus. But these amazing Baobab trees were everything I had hoped for. Avenue of the Baobabs, also called Alley of the Baobabs, is not the only place you can enjoy the Baobabs. They are scattered all over the region between Morondava and Kirindy in the south. We first sighted them from the airplane.

Adansonia is a genus made up of eight species of medium-to-large deciduous trees known as baobabs(/ˈbaʊbæb/ or /ˈbeɪoʊbæb/) or adansonias. They are placed in the Malvaceae family, subfamily Bombacoideae. They are native to Madagascar, mainland Africa, and Australia.[2] The trees have also been introduced to other regions such as Asia.[3] A genomic and ecological analysis has suggested that the genus is Madagascan in origin. (Wikipedia)

Baobab at sunset
Baobabs are protected by the government
Avenue of the Baobabs

Baobab trees can grow to enormous sizes and carbon dating indicates that they may live to be 3,000 years old. Baobab trees grow as solitary individuals, and are large and distinctive elements of savanna or scrubland vegetation. They grow from 5–25 meters (16–82 feet) tall. An amazing site to see. I think every tour will take you to The Avenue of the Baobabs.

Sunset at Avenue of the Baobabs

Other Flora

Throughout our tour we enjoyed many other species of plant life. From the giant Baobab to the tiniest of fungus. Because we showed a lot of interest in plants and birds as well as wildlife, all of our guides went to great lengths to point out the beauty of Madagascar underfoot and overhead.

Wild Orchid
Bonnet Mushroom
Poinsettia
Vermillion Waxcap Mushroom
Lovers Baobab

Chameleons

I wasn’t very familiar with chameleons before arriving in Madagascar, and I have to say, I think they are my new favorite creature. These handsome docile bug eaters just hang out and mind their business in the jungles of Madagascar, all while sporting a beautiful and showy suit. I love them. Madagascar is home to over 150 kinds of chameleons and we saw many of them, both in the wild and at a reserve that is working to conserve the reptiles who are threatened from deforestation. Our wonderful guides with their eagle eyes spotted sleeping chameleons during our night-walks and camouflaged chameleons in the bright day. Additional reptiles we found were frogs, snakes and geckos. What a show they all gave us.

Just minding my business…
At the reserve this one matched my headband
Panther Chameleon
Sleeping Chameleon
Golden Mantella Frog
A BIG snake
Leaf Tailed Gecko

Birds

As loyal followers of this blog well know, travel has turned my husband and I into birders. I used to be pretty ambivalent about birds…but once you travel around the world the presence of birds becomes such an important part of each day. We love birding and our guides were incredible at helping us find more than 20 new-to-us species during our ten day tour. And one beautiful giant moth.

One thing I want to point out is, for the first time ever, we saw sleeping birds. I never have given much thought to where birds sleep. But on our night walk in Kirindy National Park, with our guide, we saw beautiful birds, sound asleep on low branches. A brand new experience for me.

Sleeping Bird
Sleeping Bird
Malagasy Kingfisher (Merlin)
Red Fody
Madagascar Moon Moth

Lemurs

Lemurs are probably the biggest attraction for visitors who come to Madagascar. The island is home to more than 50 kinds of Lemurs, a tree dwelling primate. And despite its close proximity to mainland Africa, the lemurs are found only on the island.

Nocturnal Mouse Lemur
Common Brown Lemur
Sifaka Lemur

We did not see all of the species of lemurs, but we were pretty impressed with how many we did see. I was hoping we would just see one or two but we saw dozens. From the smallest mouse lemur, about 11 inches and nocturnal, to the largest – the Indri. The Indri can weigh up to 9.5 kg (21 lb) and perhaps up to 15 kg (33 lb). We encountered many families of indri in the Analamazoatra national park, and were astonished by the screaming noise they make to mark their familiar territory. Absolutely fascinating.

Spectacular Indri Lemur

Most of the lemurs we saw, both during the day on night walk, were regional to the two areas we visited; Kirindy National Park and Analamazoatra National Park. But we also visited a private reserve near Andasibe where we saw many lemurs from other parts of the island, including the ring-tailed lemur the one most people are familiar with.

Ring Tailed Lemur
Diademed Sifaka Lemur

Culture and History

We had several opportunities during our ten day tour to engage with the local Malagasy people. Everyone we met was kind and welcoming. Tourism makes up 5% of the island economy, and most people work in farming and fishing and live a sustenance life. Everywhere we went people were toiling in some fashion. We particularly enjoyed a canoe ride in Morondava to see the fishing boats. We also waded across a shallow estuary at low tide to visit a small fishing village. Here about 1000 people live with no running water or electricity growing vegetables, fishing and boat building.

Rice Fields harvest twice a year
Many people fish
Walking to the fishing village at low tide
Sweet children in the fishing village

We also had the opportunity on our final day to do a walking tour of Antananarivo, called Tana by the locals. Antananarivo is the capital and largest city in Madagascar, home to nearly 4 million people. We visited some historic sites and walked through the very busy daily market swarming with people. This was the only place in our entire visit we were warned to be diligent about pickpockets.

Looking at the massive market downhill Antananarivo
Queen’s Palace Antananarivo
Antananarivo is sprawling and home to 4 million people

Things to Know

Logistics

There are two official languages in Madagascar; French and Malagasy. Malagasy is just one of 18 tribal languages in the country. Most people in the tourism industry speak a bit of English. All of our guides spoke excellent English.

Don’t expect to use your credit card. We paid cash for all but one transaction over our ten day tour. Even hotels and restaurants operate in the local currency of Ariary. As of this writing the exchange rate is one Ariary = .23 US cents

Safety

I felt safe everywhere I went, and I was always with a guide. The only time we were warned to be aware of pickpockets was in the city of Antananarivo – a city of 4 million people. Crime is a problem in the city so be aware. But very little of our time was spent in the city.

Though not all areas of Madagascar are prone to malaria, we did take malaria medicine while in the country. Discuss it with you doctor.

Lodging

We stayed in five different hotels during our tour. All were excellent, clean, had delicious restaurants and friendly English speaking staff. Only one did not have Aircon or wifi due to it’s remoteness.

In Morondava we had a lovely beach-side hotel
Our stay Kirindy was the most remote lodging with no WIFI and power only a couple hours a day
In Andasibe we had a really nice bungalow surrounded by the most beautiful gardens

Costs

Our tour for two people with the upgrades I mentioned above cost $5076 for ten days. Our tour included breakfast but not lunch or dinner. We ate all our dinners at the hotels and and few lunches elsewhere. Over the ten days we spent about $400 on food and drinks. We tipped our drivers and guides generously…a total for tips over the ten days was about $250. Our round trip flight from Vienna via Addis Ababa cost $910 per person.

Mad About Madagascar

My bucket list of destinations got significantly shorter after this long awaited trip to Madagascar. It was the final destination of an 8 month long journey that started in remarkable Papua New Guinea and ended in magnificent Madagascar. What a life. My Fab Fifties Life.

Peek-a-Boo

I highly recommend Madagascar. If you have considered it, ask me questions. I am Mad About Madagascar and am so grateful it turned out even better than I had always imagined.

Black Heron (Merlin)

Thank you for reading my post Mad About Madagascar and for your continued interest and support of our travels. Be sure and see last week’s post Visit Vienna Austria. And come back next week for even more of our grand travel adventures.

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22 Comments

  • Reply Heather Markel

    This is fabulous! I have loved lizards since I was a kid, and the lemurs are amazing. I can’t wait to go! Do you recommend your tour company for solo travelers? Was it private, or were other people in your group?

    June 7, 2024 at 12:52 pm
    • Reply Laureen

      We arranged a private tour so the costs mentioned weee private. There are LOTS of tour companies!

      June 7, 2024 at 6:36 pm
  • Reply Linda (LD Holland)

    I loved reading more about Madagascar. And would never have figured I would be fascinated with the Baobabs trees. Those chameleons look so cute. And love those colour changes. But the lemurs would probably be the big draw for me!

    June 8, 2024 at 9:27 am
    • Reply Laureen

      This is right up your alley Linda. You and your hubs would love it.

      June 8, 2024 at 4:26 pm
  • Reply Terri

    I have never seen a sleeping bird. Now I am fascinated. I fell in love with birding during the pandemic. I couldn’t believe how loud the birds sang even on the National Mall. Your wildlife pics are extraordinary.

    June 8, 2024 at 11:46 am
    • Reply Laureen

      Thanks Terri. I had never really thought about sleeping birds. It seriously stopped us in our tracks.

      June 8, 2024 at 4:26 pm
  • Reply galatia savva

    damn, I am mad about Madagascar now too! such incredible wildlife, and big WOW at the sight of those majestic Baobab trees! i saw soooo many chameleons in Costa Rica, they are super cute! This looks like a fantastic trip!

    June 8, 2024 at 11:59 am
    • Reply Laureen

      Thank you. We love it.

      June 8, 2024 at 4:26 pm
  • Reply Sara Essop

    I was looking forward to Madagascar earlier this year – then my trip fell through. now I’ve got serious FOMO. Hope I ca get there soon.

    June 8, 2024 at 12:02 pm
    • Reply Laureen

      It really is remarkable.

      June 8, 2024 at 4:27 pm
  • Reply Sonia

    Madagascar is definitely on our list but not schedule yet. The wildlife and landscape is such a draw!

    June 8, 2024 at 2:07 pm
    • Reply Laureen

      Better than I expected. You really should go.

      June 8, 2024 at 4:27 pm
  • Reply Sharyn McCullum

    I would just love to visit Madagascar as I’ve longed to see the Baobabs and the Lemurs for a very long time – one day!

    June 8, 2024 at 10:57 pm
  • Reply Pam

    I’ve always wanted to see the lemurs of Madagascar – they’re so cute! But you’ve shown me a lot more reasons to go. Beautiful post!

    June 9, 2024 at 8:41 am
  • Reply Val

    Wow I love this about wildlife around the globe!

    Thx for sharing my post on BPS

    June 9, 2024 at 10:13 am
  • Reply Kelly

    This is a place I yearn to visit! I would also be going there for the wildlife and baobabs. Thank you for sharing. I have pinned to read again when I get the chance to visit Madagascar.

    June 9, 2024 at 8:48 pm
  • Reply Curls en Route

    Madagascar is a dream! Very thorough and very useful!

    June 10, 2024 at 7:34 am
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