Off the main tourist trail, the island nation of Madagascar is a paradise for birdwatchers. It also offers active adventures for visitors keen to experience its rainforests and unique wildlife, as I discovered on a recently journey there.
In search of lemurs
The first stop on our tour was Andasibe. The journey from Antananarivo was long but the Mantadia Lodge was worth the drive. Located atop a hill it offers a panoramic view of the rainforest, where we enjoyed our first adventure in search of lemurs, led by two trackers who were incredibly skilled at spotting them.
There are 117 different types of lemurs, some which are only found in the rainforest in Andasibe. To see them up close in the wild, jumping from tree to tree was an amazing experience. We also joined a night walk to see the nocturnal mouse lemurs.
The different sides of Madagascar
The landscape in Madagascar is very diverse; you go from rolling hills to barren desert and even see parts that look almost like Australia, with gum trees everywhere. It was fascinating driving past villages where locals live in huts and subsist off the land.
In Antsirabe, we got a taste of city life and rode a colourful rickshaw through the wide, tree-lined streets admiring the French colonial architecture. Our next stop, Sahambavy, couldn’t have been more different, as it is home to vast tea plantations, which we visited before making our way to our hotel. It sat right on a lake edge and offered the most amazing sunsets.
Our last stop was Ranohira, where we hiked in Isalo National Park. All the hiking on this tour is possible for all fitness levels, but good shoes are a must. We saw lots more lemurs, as well as chameleons and different types of stick insects and spiders that completely camouflage to their surroundings. While the last two might sound creepy, it’s worth noting that Madagascar has no animals that will harm you and only two poisonous plants, so you’re much safer there than you are at home!
Our hike took us to two natural pools, the blue pool, with its crystal clear water, and the black pool, which may just have the coldest water I have ever jumped into.
Another first for me was experiencing the via ferrata, where you climb around a mountain hooked onto cables. That night, we stayed at the Relais de la Reine, where I treated myself to a trip to the spa. It was so relaxing after a day of hiking and physical activity.
Visiting Madagascar was the most amazing experience and I would go back in a heartbeat. Throughout the tour, our hotel and lodge accommodation was as luxurious as possible in a third world country and all the properties offered in-house restaurants with amazing food and service.
I feel privileged to have been able to visit such an emerging destination and would love to visit the West Coast next time to experience swimming with turtles, stingrays and manta rays.