In November 2015 we travelled to Madagascar for our HONEYMOON!! I can’t quite remember just how Madagascar came about, we had been looking at a map and shortlisting places we’d like to visit, somehow Madagascar made the list and it beat freezing at the North Pole, so we booked the trip!
Antananarivo > Nosy Be > Nosy Sakatia> Tanihely > Antananarivo > Andasibe > Antananarivo > Fort Dauphin > Manafiafy > Antananarivo
Antananarivo (Tana) is the dusty capital city sitting at 1,400m above sea level in the heart of Madagascar’s Highlands. This was a base for us as we moved about the country. We flew with and airline called Air Madagascar (aka Mad Air); we wouldn’t recommend it! For an International airline, all we can say is that it is mighty basic and incredibly unreliable! But, we got a hefty discount and survived, so maybe it wasn’t that bad. Once in Tana the adventure began.
Our first proper destination was Nosy Sakatia, an incredible little island off the North West coast of Nosy Be (off the North West coast of Madagascar!) This for me was my favourite place, we split our time between swimming with Sea Turtles, kayaking around the island, diving and eating amazing fresh local seafood. All in absolute paradise. I remember having a slight hunch when I was there that it would be pretty tricky to top this… and I was right! The bay of the lodge was a turtle feeding ground, we spent many an afternoon spotting and swimming with these gentle giants.
Quite early on we took an excursion to Tanihely, another little island, to do a spot of snorkelling. Gutted that this was the one day we didn’t take the GoPro as this place has the most incredible reef I have ever seen. 5m from the shore you were already above it, the sheer abundance of life and colour was like nothing I’ve ever seen. We saw SO many different fish, of ALL sizes, the further out you go the bigger they get, and so many shoals’ of them, so so many fish! Then later on the Sea Turtles came in to feed; I’m a big fan of the Sea Turtles. We had such a memorable experience!
The rainforests on the East Coast of the country are such a contrast to the beautiful beaches of the north. We based ourselves in Andasibe and spent the best part of a week visiting the various reserves searching for as much wildlife in their natural habitat. I fear the rare sightings of native birds was wasted on us as we saw many but we’re no birdwatchers! After a lot of trekking into deep rainforest we were rewarded with sightings of various species of wild Lemur and spent much time observing them, listening to them call to each other – they’re mighty loud! This was so special as it’s apparently quite rare to see them, let alone watch them on the rainforest floor playing with each other. I feel very privileged to have seen and explored these forests as I don’t know how much longer their habitat will survive.
Our final part of the trip was to head to Fort Dauphin on the south east of the island, from here we had a kayaking trip booked that would take us north through the mangroves and end in the paradise that is Manafiafy. We’d been looking forward to this for a long, long time and had specifically requested it as part of our itinerary… The day before the kayaking was due to start disaster struck! Michael had a dose of food poisoning, but thankfully managed to get most of it out his system and slept it off, I however was not quite so lucky, I was up all night back and forth to the toilet.
In the morning we quickly visited the (very handily located) medical centre across the road from the hotel and loaded up on antibiotics and Imodium as the kayaking would see us hours away from any medical facilities. Sadly I lasted one day of kayaking and camping as my tummy wouldn’t let up. Having to go to the toilet every half hour is incredibly energy draining! We ended up throwing in the towel and moved on to Manafiafy lodge to rest and try and shift the badness that was consuming me. After 4 days of no improvement I was rather dramatically rushed to the hospital where they wasted no time in putting a drip into me and filled me up with antibiotics! We spend the last 2 days of our honeymoon in a very basic hospital! Not very glam.
Manafiafy is a little bit of paradise on the south coast, cut off from the rest of the country by hours of unmanaged dirt roads! We had the most perfect bungalow on a private beach, everything open plan and made of wood. Lots of beauty and wonderful food. We managed a few short trips to local villages, chameleon spotting and walks on our little beach, sadly this part of Madagascar was wasted on us with my illness. It was incredibly beautiful and I wish I wish I had been healthier to enjoy and explore it more.
Madagascar is a beautiful, incredible country which must learn how to preserve its unique habitats. The statistics about burning of the rainforests is alarming, there is a consistent smog in the sky caused by the constant burning of wood. As you fly over the land you can clearly see the damage caused and the result of all the eroding, dry, red soil. The more we talked with the people we realised the destruction is primarily lack of education, it isn’t compulsory teaching to educate the kids about environment issues, they have no realisation of what they are doing to their land. With every farmer acting independently they don’t realise what they’re neighbour is doing or how they could help each other out. There is a distinct lack of communication throughout the country, their government is very private and the people feel deceived because they don’t know what’s going on. It’s interesting yet very sad learning about the political history of Madagascar. Hopefully with right education (maybe from the outside world), Madagascar can flourish into the rich vibrant country it can to be.
As a Honeymoon destination Madagascar was an incredibly beautiful country with a rich diversity of wildlife, we had a wonderful time exploring the many areas of the country. It was a really eye-opening experience to a very poor country that mainstream tourism hasn’t reached nor influenced. This was an incredibly special experience.
Duration: 3 weeks
Highlight: Definite highlight was swimming with Sea Turtles at Nosy Sakatia.
Lowlight: A whole lot of food poisoning which saw me winding up in a Madagascar hospital with a drip in my arm for a couple of days. That wasn’t so good.