Madagascar – Part 1 Arrival and Andasibe

It took us a long time to nail down our travel destination.  Some of my research on destinations has already been documented here and here, so I will try not to bore you with that.  In the end, after spread sheets, travel agents, and saving some cash, we could not be happier with our decision to embark on a Madagascar journey.  It was everything we hoped for and more.

The trip is certainly not for everyone.  Those who hate flying and have a fear of small planes, I might suggest another destination.  We flew from JFK airport to Madagascar’s Antananarivo airport with a stop in Johannesburg, South Africa. I believe the total came to over 16 hours of air time.  We flew South African Airways, which was wonderful, everything was on time, the food was decent, we had personal seat back tvs, and we got as much tiny bottles of South African wine as we wanted.

South African Airways free in-flight goodies.

South African Airways free in-flight goodies. Our neighbor had an orange pack and we almost asked for it, but he promptly put his orange socks on, so we let it go.

Aimee's vegetarian in-flight dinner on south African Airways.

Aimee’s vegetarian in-flight dinner on south African Airways.

South African Airways Wine

Some yummy in-flight South African Wine. Love the message on the bottle.

On arrival in Madagascar, we were picked and swept away by our lovely tour guide Lalani (spelling?) from Zà-Tours and a driver named Tony for a 3 hour drive to our first destination of Perinet, or Andasibe.  Let me first say that if you plan to travel to Madagascar, you will need to get yourself a driver and a guide.  Driving there is interesting with no traffic lights or stop signs anywhere, I’m not sure renting a car would have been an option.  The drive from the capital Antananarivo (or Tana) to Andasibe was beautiful.  I am so happy we decided to do this because we got to see so much of the country and the people right at the beginning of our trip.  You could really get a sense of the country from the three hour scenic journey.

Drive from Tana to Andasibe

Drive from Tana to Andasibe.

Once we arrived in Andasibe, we drove straight to our hotel for the evening, the lovely Vakona Forest Lodge where were able to enjoy the rain forest part of region.  After unpacking in our charming room, we went right on our first nature walk as soon as it got dark to get a glimpse into the nocturnal wildlife of the region with Lelani and a local guide who spoke pretty decent English, was brilliant, and appeared to be about 15 years old.  Within a few minutes of walking, we spotted chameleons and our first lemur of the trip.

Vakona Forest Lodge

Vakona Forest Lodge

Madagascar Chameleon in Andasibe.

Madagascar Chameleon in Andasibe.  FYI, headlamps make great lighting for nocturnal photographs – no flash needed here. 

Once we finished our walk, we went back to the hotel for dinner, which we pre-ordered before our walk.  The food here was good, and seemed to have some nice authentic Malagasy dishes along with some great options for me as a vegetarian.

Traditional Malagasy Dish of dry-fried zebu

Vakona Forest Lodge dinner – Traditional Malagasy Dish of dry-fried zebu and soup along with some awesome local beer – THB or Three Horses Beer.

The next morning we woke up very early for another nature hike in the area with our brilliant young guide to hopefully see and hear the famous and rare Indri Lemur.  I mentioned earlier that this was the rain forest region of the country, and we certainly experienced that with some rain during our hike.  Luckily we were over prepared with rain pants and jackets which allowed for us to do some serious hiking and enjoy the rain in the rain forest which seemed fitting.

Rain in the rain forest.  Andasibe, Madagascar.

Rain in the rain forest. Andasibe, Madagascar.

We were fortunate to not only see some adorable bamboo lemurs, but we also got to see and hear the Indri Indri.  The Indri lemurs are magical creatures.  They are about the size of a small child and fly from tree to tree with faces of a teddy bear.  The call of the Indri lemur is one of its distinctive characteristics.  Until you hear it in person, you dont understand the power behind it.  It sounds like a fire truck, a fog horn, and a monkey had a baby.  You can hear what it sounds like here.

Indri Lemur - Andasibe Madagascar

Indri Lemur – Andasibe Madagascar.

Bamboo Lemur. Andasibe, Madagascar

Adorable Bamboo Lemur. Andasibe, Madagascar.

After our hike, we were ready for some more delicious THB before heading back on the road back to the capital, Tana for the next portion of our trip. Continue reading about our Madagascar travels in part 2 Lemur Island

Ice cold THB