Making our way back we were met by the local guide with great news. She had gathered up my belongings and said that there was a private chartered plane waiting at the airport that could take me directly to the capital if I wanted. Once at the airport, I met the pilot and co-pilot, boarded the 3-seater and was treated to a most enjoyable and scenic flight into Tana, arriving a full half day ahead of schedule. Communication with this company was excellent. I was met at the airport and asked how I would like to spend the afternoon. I had heard about a strip of stalls selling handmade crafts not far from the airport and asked to be taken there. My guide agreed to help me with the bartering if needed. His name was Lova ("Love with an A" he told me). Lova worked as a journalist when not guiding and had interesting insight into Madagascar's political and economic situations. He also had a marvellous sense of humour and an unusual tolerance for my shopping. I spent long periods of time in each booth, carefully looking over every object, playfully bargaining for the best deal, and getting to know to merchants as much as one can in a short amount of time. We spent the better part of 5 or 6 hours shopping here and I wondered how Lova remained so pleasant despite having been here so many times before with other tourists. He laughed and said his fiancée shops like I do and feels these outings are a good exercise for future happiness.
I returned to the Pavillion De L'Emyrne for my final stay. This time room 5 which was smaller but lovely and quiet. The last day we combined a city tour with some shopping in local boutiques that had been recommended. I was surprised to find the prices of the beautiful fossils, (especially the ammonites and some of the local crafts we had seen the day before), were not significantly higher in the boutiques. The boutiques did have the advantage of carrying some higher quality items and contemporary art/crafts that I did not see in the markets. However, because the boutiques’ prices were fixed, I missed having the interaction with the local merchants that I had had the day before.
We left for the airport early, giving us a comfortable margin in the sometimes unpredictable hold ups in the rush hour traffic. We arrived in good time, but the lines were long and check-in could have been confusing without my guide along.
Madagascar was a difficult country to leave. It's a country whose history is tumultuous, whose infrastructure is weak, whose people are poor and faced with extreme hardships and whose natural resources are rapidly being depleted. Yet, it is also a country rich with unique animals and plants, diverse landscape with protected areas - (some of the most beautiful in the world where the forests meet the ocean), well managed ecotourism, but most of all, the warm and charming nature of its people.
They were the most pleasant staff to speak with while remaining sensitive to my limited vacation time, my restricted budget and my interests of focus when designing this itinerary. The guides they provided me with were of the highest calibre, were excellent naturalists and showed a genuine interest in making this a most memorable trip. NWS exceeded my expectations...the guides exceeded my expectations, Madagascar's diversity in flora and fauna exceeded my expectations. For anyone who's interest is visiting rainforests around the world as mine is, Madagascar is a "must see".
If you would like our destination specialists to help organise a tailor-made Madagascar safari for you, please do get in touch!