Exceeding Expectations in Madagascar

Ross Bartholomew

01 Mar 2019

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NWS client Ross takes his first trip to the "red island"

Madagascar exceeded my expectations. I visited Madagascar in October/November 2018 with my girlfriend and two adult children. We arrived in Antananarivo in the afternoon and stayed at a hotel near the airport because we were flying to Ifaty the next morning. It was nice to rest after over 34 hours of travel time to get there.

We met our guide and driver in Ifaty and started our journey immediately. We went directly to a botanical garden where we got a great introduction to the spiny forest. We then stopped in town to stock up on drinks and snacks, and after a short rest at our hotel on the beach, we went to the spiny forest of Reniala. Here, along with some fantastic baobab trees, we also saw a short-legged ground roller.

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The next day we began our drive on the “Lucky 7” to Zombitse-Vohibasia National Park. We made numerous stops along the way to take photos. At Zombitse-Vohibasia we walked through the forest where we spotted a family of Verreaux’s sifakas. As we continued our drive to Isalo we watched the landscape slowly change as we left the spiny forests and baobabs behind.

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We stayed a few days at Isalo. We hiked up the mountains one day and up the canyon to waterfalls the next day. Beautiful scenery and interesting animals were seen on both hikes. We saw ring-tailed lemurs, sifakas, owls, paradise flycatchers, chameleons, frogs and strange insects. We stayed there three nights and were treated to some beautiful sunsets. Our meals were good everywhere in Madagascar but they were particularly good at Isalo. We liked one dish so much they prepared it for us the next night even though it wasn’t on the menu that night!

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Ranomafana and the surrounding area was fantastic. We saw many types of lemurs, birds and reptiles, including a leaf chameleon. We went out at night and got to see mouse lemurs and a dwarf lemur along with frogs and sleeping chameleons. We also visited the Kianjavato Lemur Project, where we learned more about conservation in Madagascar and the challenges facing the people and the environment.

Although it was a long drive to the national parks of Andasibe and Mantadia, we enjoyed every minute. Our guide was fantastic answering our questions and helping us better understand the Malagasy culture and natural history. Of course we stopped often to take pictures.

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The wildlife at Andasibe and Mantadia was amazing. There were many different lemurs and birds. During our hikes we felt like we were the only visitors there, only occasionally encountering other visitors. Our guide picked up that we really wanted to see a leaf gecko. He spent quite a while looking for one and even took us to another area on the way back to the hotel to try to find one but we had no luck.

The next day while we were hiking in Mantadia our guide secretly had another guide looking for leaf-tailed geckos (he didn’t tell us this). On our way back to the hotel we made an unscheduled stop and hiked through the forest for about 20 minutes where we found a mossy leaf-tailed gecko the other guide had found while we were in Mantadia.

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We barely scratched the surface of Madagascar’s unique biodiversity and only spent a brief time with the wonderful Malagasy people, but Madagascar has become a very special place for me. Before this trip I thought this would be my one and only visit to Madagascar, but it remains high on my list of places to visit and I plan to go again.

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