Travel agents are like living, breathing guidebooks. That’s why I love to travel and explore new countries that I have never set foot in. It means that I can assist clients in finding an unforgettable destination for an unforgettable, tailor-made holiday. I was invited by JENMAN African Safaris to take part in a familiarisation trip. What did I know about the eighth continent, Madagascar, besides lemurs and island living? Not much. But I was excited to discover the gems of this beautiful island getaway off the east coast of Africa. My diary is always an important part of my journeys. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I fell in love with Madagascar!
Johannesburg (South Africa) – Antananarivo (Madagascar)
My trip started off in Johannesburg, South Africa, where I met the FAM trip group of travel agents at Oliver Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. We boarded our flight to Antananarivo, the capital city of Madagascar, with great anticipation.
After a comfortable 3-hour flight from Johannesburg to Madagascar with magnificent aerial views, we landed at Tana airport. Tana is the nickname for the capital city of Antananarivo. We grabbed a taxi and 20 minutes later we arrived at the IC Hotel and were met by friendly staff who welcomed us with a refreshing drink. After a short site inspection at the hotel, we decided to head into the nearby village with our cameras. Soon we had a string of happy and inquisitive Malagasy children in tow! The people of Madagascar are polite, friendly and quite inquisitve.
Antananarivo – Nosy Be
We boarded a one-hour flight with Air Madagascar from Tana to Nosy Be. Wow, I was mesmerised by the stunning views of the beaches and ocean below! On arrival at Nosy Be Airport we were met by Cendra and her driver from Escapades. As we boarded the vehicle we were presented a beautiful flower lei and a very welcome bottle of cold water. Madagascar is a hot country with a tropical climate! Driving through coffee plantations and ylang-ylang trees, we arrived at Vanila Hotel 45 minutes later. The hotel is situated on the west side of the island. Our familiarisation group enjoyed an afternoon lunch excursion to a private beach on Sakatia Island. The highlight was tasting the local menu: fish wrapped in banana leaves, coconut treats, and paw paw salad. Swimming, canoeing and enjoying the warm water was also on the to-do list.
Dhow Trip to Tanikely Island & Mahalina Beach
I was most excited about the Madagascar dhow trip on my itinerary! And today was the day! We boarded our transfer vehicle and before we knew it, we were comfortably seated on the dhow Salama Tsara. It’s a traditional Madagasy boat. Our destination was Tanikely Island which we reached an hour later. Needless to say, we were blown away by the beauty of the island with its clear warm water, untouched coral reefs, fish and turtles. We walked to the lighthouse and spotted lemurs and birds on the way and explored the fauna. We had lunch aboard the Salam Tsara and took a 3-hour ride to Mahalina Beach where we camped overnight. Everyone agreed that dinner on the island was the best on the entire trip. The prawn, kingfish kebabs, mud crabs in tomato sauce, carrot-, cucumber- and cabbage salad and pancakes for desert were a winner.
Mahalina Beach – Sakatia Towers – Nosy Be
At sunrise we boarded the Salama Tsara and headed back to Nosy Be via Tanikely where we had another quick snorkel. Back at the harbour we said goodbye to Mohamed and his extremely efficient crew. I’d like to mention the crew member Angelot who deserves a special mention as he was the most professional and humorous member on board. I left the Salama Tsara with a heavy feeling because I didn’t want to leave it… but I know I will be back! We took a taxi to Chanty Beach for our boat transfer to Sakatia Towers. En route we stopped to visit a local market and bought local crafts. Madagascar is famous for its local craftsmanship and it’s a great, sustainable way that tourists can support the local communities.
Sakatia Towers – Iranja Lodge
Pure luxury is what Iranja Lodge is all about – and it did not disappoint me! After Anatol dropped us off at Madirokely Beach, we were met by Caesar from Legend Lodges and transferred to Iranja Lodge by speed boat. Two hours later, we reached the lodge feeling both refreshed and exhilarated. Iranja Lodge is heavenly. At sunset, the hammock on the terrace was the best spot for watching the light fade whilst listening to the nocturnal animals.
Iranja Lodge – Nosy Be – Tana
After a relaxing morning and delicious lunch, our group boarded the speed boat again and returned to Madirokely Beach. We transferred to Nosy Be airport and had dinner at the highly recommended Art Café, situated right next to Lapasoa. After being spoilt with “typical hotel food”, the burgers and beers went down very well and the music was not bad either!
Tana – Andasibe National Park
After an early start we made our way east to Andasibe National Park. The drive took four hours. En route we stopped at the Mazorevo National Park where we saw various species of gecko, frogs, chameleon and butterflies. I even got a python slung around my neck by our guide… eek! After a delicious lunch of ginger chicken (a popular spice grown on the island) we carried on driving to Andasibe National Park. We did a site inspection at the upmarket Facona Forest Lodge – and is situated 7 km from the Feon’ny Ala Hotel where we stayed. On the way back to our hotel we stopped off at Lemur Island which is on the property of the Facona Forest Lodge. We saw different species of lemur in close proximity. Lemurs in Madagascar are really as fascinating as in the Disney movie.
We also did a canoe trip in the park’s waterways – where I discovered that my canoeing skills are far from perfect! Before dinner, we did a night walk along the road between the hotel and the entrance to the National Park.
Andasibe National Park – Tana
On our way back to the capital city, Tana, we wanted to spot the elusive Indri Indri in the Andasibe National Park. Our friendly guide Sauli took us for an educational circuit in the park but sadly we didn’t spot any Indri Indri lemurs. I did get to hear their haunting call though! The park is beautiful and I spotted rare orchids and other interesting plants that are endemic to Madagascar.
On arrival in Tana we had a farewell lunch at the upmarket traditional restaurant Villa Vanila. A delicious vanilla cocktail, meat soup and a delicious dessert was on the menu. After a lovely meal we headed to the market to spend our last few Ariary that were burning holes in our pockets.
Tana (Madagascar) – Johannesburg (South Africa)
We departed for the airport where we boarded an Air Madagascar flight to Johannesburg. We left Madagascar with heavy hearts but great memories and friendships! I highly recommend Madagascar holidays and vacation packages for families, adventure seekers and those looking for anything from affordable to luxury Madagascar tours. If you’d like more information just pop JENMAN Madagascar Safaris an email.