Madagascar Part 1
After thirteen days on the Seychelles we boarded the Air Seychelles “Paradise-Flycatcher” A320 and flew south to Africa’s largest island, Madagascar.
Madagascar is the World’s fourth largest island and has been separated from Africa for 80 million years and now posseses some of the most unique and spectacular fauna and flora on Earth.
Prior to spending a month on the big island we had to decide whether we would do the standard tourist thing and race around to all points spending only 1-2 nights in each location OR see only half the island and spend more time at each spot. We decided to take our time and get to know each location more intimately. With that decision made, we headed off for seven nights in Andasibe/Mantadia National Park.
Any chance of a cruisey Sunday drive to Andasibe was thwarted by the arrival of the Pope and millions of people pouring into the city that day.
We were on the road early and soon out of the city, arriving at Andasibe just in time for lunch.
It rained the entire first day so we spent the day hiking through the nearby hills.
Vakona Lodge is comfortable and has a open fire each evening. Perfect for drying out and late afternoon hot chocolates.
We wandered the local rainforest trails around the Vakona Reserve and had the place to ourselves, seeing lots of endemic birds and a group of Diademed Sifaka, which were no.1 on my wish list of Madagascan lemurs.
Seeing Blue Vanga, which has to be one of the World’s nicest birds and Diademed Sifakas on one day was awesome.
We hired local guide, Luc and headed north to Mantadia NP, which is the largest tract of primary forest in the region. Eight hours of rainforest trails, slippery slopes, log crossings and great wildlife made for another sensational day.
After four days we moved to a lodge called Feon’ny Ala which in Malagasy means ‘voice of the forest’. The nearby hills are home to Madagascar’s largest Lemur, the Indri. The lodge was only meters from the national park and Indri could be heard calling all day.
We spent four exhausting days with Luc chasing lemurs and a multitude of endemic birds around the national park and the nearby Laroka Community Reserve.
After a week, our driver Deric drove us south for two days to Ranomafana National Park, which is more rainforest.
For years I’d heard stories about the terrible deforestation that has occurred in Madagascar but driving through the countryside I saw spectacular scenery of terraced rice paddies, mud brick and thatched roofed houses spanning river valleys and every available flat area of ground.
Yes, the native forest has been cut down and replaced with Australian eucalyptus trees but its not as confronting as the horrible slash and burn occurring across Sierra Leone or the Congo or Angola. Perhaps it all happened years ago and it was once like those other African nations.
Today the primary forests are still under threat but there are also numerous organisations and community groups planting hundreds of thousands of trees across the country.
After another three days in the rainforest we decided to leave two days early and head into the dry Southern half of Madagascar.
Heading south the rampant deforestation that has turned this wonderfully unique green island into a great red island becomes more obvious, with forest eventually being replaced with hour after hour of grassland and red soil.
The first stop was Isalo NP where we stayed for two nights. The further south we travelled, the poorer the villages became and before long I felt like I was in any of the Sahalian African nations like Chad, Niger or Mali.
The area around Isalo is open grassland dotted with isolated mountains of granite and sandstone ranges that travel off in all directions.
I didn’t really know what to expect at Isalo NP, as it’s surrounded by much more famous parks and I’d done my pre trip reading on those more famous parks. To my surprise, Isola was either better or just as good as the others. We did a couple of sunset drives, a hike through the canyons and stopped off at some incredible swimming holes.
We also had a great morning watching Ring-tailed Lemurs and found a roosting Torotoroka Scops Owl.
The road (RN7) is the best Madagascar has to offer and conducive to long day drives. Below are some road pictures on the journey South to Tulear and Ifaty.
Ifaty is a small coastal village nestled beside the Mozambique Channel on a dry coastal strip reminiscent of the Casamance Region of Southern Senegal.
We Checked into our beach bungalow and immediately found a local guy on the beach who could do us a fresh seafood lunch.
Despite there being plenty of beach focused activities in the area, our main focus was the unique Spiny Forest only found in Southern Madagascar, a mega Botanical highlight.
Over the next couple of days we’ll explore the forest and then head north to the coastal village of Morondava and the ‘Avenue of the Boababs’. After that we’re going searching for Madagascar’s largest predator, the Lemur hunting Fossa.
Bye for now….