Fast Fascinating Facts about Madagascar
Rainforests and the incredible animals.
Parc National de L’Isalo is one of the country’s most spectacular regions, perfect for overnight hikes, rock-hopping along cool canyons and spotting lemurs. It’s best to visit during the cooler months (April to October) when the bizarre patchy podiums and periwinkles are in flower on the rock faces and walking is more comfortable.
Tribute to Ancestors
The Sakalava people used to bury their dead in caves high up on cliff faces. Spread across 152,000 hectares, the Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve has amazing forests, lakes and mangrove swamps, home to a variety of rare and endangered birds and lemurs. With gorges, rivers, and Ancient cemeteries Tsingyis a must visit.
But Madagascar isn't all just animals and conservation.
Madagascar Soul History
There’s a lot of history going on down as well. Ambohimanga is one of the summer palaces of the old Malagasy royal family. Antananarivo, or Tana, has a distinctively French flavor: The city is built on three levels.
Dominating the city is the Queen’s Palace and associated Royal Village or Rova. Now a national monument, it was once the residence of the Merina Dynasty which, in the 19th century, united all Madagascar for the first time.
There are the museums d’Andafiavaratra and the archaeology museum. On the lowest level is the market said to bee the second-largest in the world. The birthplace of the Malagasy state. Ambohimanga is known as ‘the blue city’, ‘the holy city’ and ‘the forbidden city’. The citadel was an important Merina stronghold and its main gate is an enormous stone disc; 40 men were needed to roll it into position.
Or else you can check out the old pirate colony island of Ile St Marie. Its dense vegetation and the difficulty of navigating the lagoons which surround it made it an ideal base for pirates and, later, a colony for convicts.
There are many clove plantations and several historic sites, including Madagascar’s oldest Catholic church. It’s the perfect destination for those who just want to relax. You can snorkel, sunbathe and overindulge on coconut rum punches.
Feel and Taste Madagascar
Buy cinnamon, vanilla and coconut oil from the local children, sip fiery ti-punch and sample the most delicious freshly-caught seafood or sit under a palm tree on a white sandy beach. There’s whale-watching in July and August, and the amazing spiny forest along the road just north of Mangilly is well worth a look.With coral reefs just offshore, sea breezes whispering in the casuarina trees and a relaxed tropical ambiance, who wants to go home?
Malagasy soothing tunes (myspace.com/tambatra) by our conttributor glamorous soul sister from Madagascar (myspace.com/tambatra myspace.com/tambatra1)
Getting around Madagascar
Check this out. Air Madagascar, serves numerous destinations throughout the country, which is a good thing considering that many roads have huge potholes and are impassable in the rainy season. Flights are still relatively inexpensive and they offer a 50% discount on domestic flights to passengers using the airline to travel to Madagascar.
The taxi-be, which is quick and comfortable, and the bush taxi, which is cheaper, slower, makes more stops and generally operates on cross-country routes. Fares should be agreed in advance. It is a flat fee. Alternatively, you can go via bus bonus a flat rate is charged irrespective of the distance traveled. Alternatively, take the House-pousse – the rickshaw.
If you are feeling adventurous, you can grab a stagecoach. A few covered wagons continue to take passengers. Otherwise, you can hire a car or motorbike. You will need a national driving license, and remember they drive on the right-hand side.
Or you can catch a train! Only if you have a lot of time. The Malagasy railway network dates from the colonial period, so breakdowns are frequent, a line may be closed for several weeks.
However, there is nothing to beat messing around in boats. Madagascar has a strong maritime tradition. Ferries sail between the islands. You can travel between coastal villages in dugout canoes known as Pirogues or Lakana. You can also hire Dhows and larger cargo boats.
And if you want to bareboat, a “guide” is usually included in the price of the yacht charter. He will cook, guide you, and protect the boat. A yacht charter to Madagascar is a bit of a “Robinson Crusoe” adventure. Once you embark, you cannot provision again and must live off the fish and seafood you will catch for yourself (or with your guide). So get a good one.
Madagascar is a great place to tour by bike and staying in small towns and villages along the way gives a real sense of what the country is all about. A mountain bike or heavy-duty tourer at least is required as the roads can be in poor to terrible condition.
Generally, there is little to no traffic, which makes cruising a great escapade. The people are amazingly friendly and you will be greeted with crowds of children shouting ‘Vazaha’. There are little or no facilities for cyclists, so be prepared to camp rough (ask if it is somebody’s land and never too near a family grave) or sleep in very basic guesthouses. Though you will generally be invited to stay in people’s houses. Bring a spare tire, puncture kit, chain, brake/gear cable, derailleur, and all the tools you need.
Remember that the law is that the ‘tour’ operators have to have a contract with you with all the details on it including the route. The police do check on this and it protects the tourists.
All visitors must have visas, except for citizens of some African countries. Proof of return ticket is required otherwise a deposit must be paid before arriving in Madagascar, which is equivalent to the cost of a flight to the country of origin. And if you come from Africa, you must have a yellow fever vaccination certificate.
- Currency -Malagasy Ariary (MGA) Us dollars needs to be declared on arrival. There are currency restrictions
- Electrical Power is 127V/220V, RUNNING AT 50Hz.
- Languages Spoken : Malagasy, French, English
- Time Zones – GMT/UTC +3:
- Country Dialing Code +261:
- Hot and subtropical climate, colder in the mountains.
- Rainy season: November to March.
- Dry season: April to October.
- Monsoon season is December to March.
.. And when you've had 16 tracks of Malagasy hospitality, the last thing you'll be feeling is lonely - except perhaps when you arrive back home.