Home' Travel News : December 2014-January 2015 Contents 56 travel news December 2014/January 2015
December 2014/January 2015 travel news 57
Ninety per cent of Madagascar’s plant and animal species are endemic and therefore
the island was an exciting prospect for my zoologist mother, Carole. Personally, the flora
was of little interest in comparison to the lemurs and fossa (both of which I knew existed
here from watching Madagascar). In fact, to make the plane journey more interesting,
Paul, our travelling companion, and I watched the movie once more just so we would
be able to quote it.
In Madagascar’s capital, Antananarivo, we stayed at le Pavillion de l’Emyrne; a
charming, colonial building with high ceilings and a well-manicured garden. Tana as it
is called was attractive with cobbled streets, old churches and markets where we were
able to purchase vanilla pods. A particular favourite of mine was the old railway station,
which has been converted to house boutique stores and the stylish Café de la Gare,
which is an absolute must. Another thing about Tana, which delighted me, was that the
restaurants we visited in the Isoraka district which served the most delicious chocolate
mousse, which I made the most of, as I knew the menu might not offer such things at
some of our other destinations.
On our second day in Madagascar we drove to Andasibe-Mantidia National Park, about
three hours from Antananarivo. We trekked into the rainforest and were able to see the
Diademed Sifaka and Indiri among other species of lemur. There are in total eleven
species that can be seen in the park, as they frolicked in the canopy above. It was well
worth the walk although I was slightly on edge in the forest due to my fear of leeches.
On our last day in Andasibe, we visited Lemur Island. This is a small reserve; which
protects a number of habituated lemurs including the Bamboo lemur, the Black and
White Ruffed lemur, Brown lemur and one Diademed Sifaka. This was definitely the
highlight of the trip for me as visitors are able to feed and interact with the lemurs. The
lemurs climbed all over us and I could see that my mother had saved this visit until the
last day in Andasibe because otherwise I would not have appreciated the truly wild
lemurs which we had just spent two days trekking after in the forest. It was hard to tear
myself away from the island when it was time to head back to Tana and, as I picked
banana out of my hair, I wondered if anyone would notice if I slipped a Brown lemur into
From Tana we flew to Morondava. whose airport was interesting: it is the only time I
have ever seen a conveyor belt which goes in a straight line, the suitcases falling off
the end and piling up if the owner isn’t quick enough to claim them. This oversight pretty
much epitomized the atmosphere of this coastal town, which was warm and relaxed.
Our hotel, Chez Maggie was right up my street: whitewashed huts with thatched roofs
overlooking the beach.
However, after only one night at Chez Maggie, we embarked on a full day drive to Tsingy
de Bemeraha Nature Reserve, with our driver, Mijoro, who amused us with his favourite
Lady Gaga hits as we bounced along kilometres of dirt road and the occasional dodgy-
Tsingy literally means ‘where one cannot walk barefoot,’ an apt description of the jagged
terrain composing of eroded limestone with razor sharp peaks. The Grand Tsingy is the
world’s largest stone forest and is a sacred sight for locals, which has resulted in the
rule that nobody is allowed to point their finger whilst at the Tsingy as this is seen as
disrespectful. Believe me, this rule is harder than it sounds when trying to communicate
where to look and instead of pointing one is expected to gesture with the knuckles of
a closed fist. A tour of the Grand Tsingy with one of the park guides took us up onto
viewing platforms, across bridges and down into the crevices. Certain parts required a
harness but the route is well-built and provided spectacular views.
Once we had had our fill of Tsingy we headed to the Kirindy Forest for a night in
the hope of seeing the fossa, a cat-like carnivorous mammal, which is the cause of
substantial terror in the movie. We barely even had to venture out of our cabin lodgings
to come across fossa, which had taken to scavenging around the kitchen area. I was
careful not to get too close though, with ‘The fusa are coming!’ ringing in my ears and I
did make sure that the cabin door was firmly shut that night just in case...
For our last two nights in Madagascar we headed back to the coast to stay in Chez
Maggie once more for a swim in the sea and some delicious prawns. Before we left,
we just had to go to the famous Avenue de Baobab to watch the sun set which was a
fabulous end to the holiday.
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