Madagascar is the land of “mora mora,” meaning that everyone takes life slow. This national attitude can prove quite challenging because it means that, invariably, plans that you think you've made don't quite materialise, promises and bookings made turn out to be “definitely maybes” and time is often wasted waiting for things to happen. So it might come as no surprise that even during the planning stages, things didn't exactly go to erm, plan..
A group of us on a birdwatching forum began planning a trip to Madagascar in February 2012 for October 2012. The plan was to do it on a very tight budget, so overlanding between sites, rather than flying. One group had 4 weeks, so would go out two weeks in advance and do the north of the island and then I and another guy would join them in Tana for the second half. However, these plans went south in August after I returned from Mana Pools, when I looked again at the itinerary and got advice from some experts at Bird Fair, including Deirdre Vrancken at Birding Africa.
This highlighted that, after initially setting our priorities as "doing a few good sites in depth", the trip had descended into a "race round the island to see as many endemics as possible". The itinerary had changed and one key site I wanted to do, Andasibe where Indri and Diademed Sifaka can be found, had been moved to the first half of the trip in favour of adding in Kirindy and Berenty to the southern half. I worked this out and it appeared that, of 14 days we'd only have 4 1/2 days actually at the reserves and the rest would be spent traveling. I tried in vain to tell them that the itinerary wouldn't work as it was (it was one day over the time we had for one thing) but it fell on deaf ears. For example the trip to Berenty involved a 5-day detour for one full day at the site. Another loony plan was to drive back from Ranomafana on the 3rd to catch our flight back at 12.40 PM the same day- a 9 hour drive at least! We would have had to travel through the night in order to do that and on the roads in Madagascar night driving is definitely not something that should be attempted.
So I decided to bow out and searched around for other providers, wishing the group well in their endeavours. I looked at local guides, local operators and also international operators. A couple of people recommended Jenita Jaozandry and I was able to speak to one of these guys who is a vet in the UK. Feeling reasonably confident that he was trustworthy and could deliver my trip to my very tight budget we agreed the following itinerary:
Day 1:21/10-arrive in Tana,drive down to Andasibe(3h),followed by a nocturnal walk. Overnight Indri lodge.
Day2:22/10-all day visit of Andasibe. We'll have a quite long hike to get to the place where we can see the helmet vanga and lemurs. Overnight camping.
Day3:23/10-we continue our visit around Andasibe and visit the lemurs island at Vakona Forest Lodge, overnight in Moramanga (just 20km from Andasibe and on our way up to Tana and the south).
Day4:24/10-Travel to Ialatsara, followed by night walk overnighting at Lemur Forest Camp.
Day5:25/10-Morning in Ialatsara, drive to Ranomafana followed by night walk.
Day6:26/10-All day visit in Ranomafana and night walk.
Day7:27/10-half day visit of Ranomafana and drive to Anja, visit Anja and back to Ambalavao for overnight in Hotel Boungainvillier.
Day8:28/10-Early drive to Isalo, followed by visit of Isalo, Overnight in Orchidee hotel.
Day9:29/10-Morning visit of Isalo followed by drive to Zombitse with short visit. Drive on to overnight in Ifaty Bamboo Club Hotel.
Day10:30/10-Early morning visit of Ifaty spiny forest; Afternoon free to enjoy the beach, snorkeling etc. Overnight Bamboo Club hotel.
Day11:31/10-Early morning drive to Toliara to get boat transfer to Anakao. Then spend the rest of the day in Anakao Beach. Overnight hotel Longo Vezo.
Day12:01/11-Visit the island of Nosy ve for nesting tropic birds and snorkelling, Overnight hotel Longo Vezo.
Day13:02/11-Drive to Tsimanapetsotsa followed by visit of this park drive back to Anakao. Overnight hotel Longo Vezo.
Day14:03/11-Drive back to Toliara to connect with evening flight back to Tana, visiting the arboretum.
Day 15 04/11 - flight home at 12.40PM.
Edited by kittykat23uk, 21 November 2012 - 10:45 PM.