Eleven hour flight from Paris. Arrival around midnight. The airport is pretty crowded, even though no other flights have arrived or are leaving. Taxi to the city, half an hour, empty streets. The hotel I had called the week before to make a reservation is closed, or at least I can’t get anyone to let me in, despite some shouting and banging on the door. After trying a few more places I am glad to finally get stay at the hotel Raphia, which turns out to be an excellent choice anyways.
While Antananarivo doesn’t have any major tourist attractions it is an interesting place to wander around a bit, provided you don’t mind crowds, dust, holes in the sidewalk, beggars and chaotic traffic.
The Tsimbazaza zoo and botanical garden outside the city is a quiet and pleasant place to get a break after seeing the city.
Taxi-brousse to Antsirabe. Taxi-brousse are private cars and minibuses operating on a non-fixed schedule, and due to the lack of alternatives the main form of transport. Arrival around lunch.
Antsirabe used to be a classy colonial retreat, though nowadays all I notice are the somewhat to many pousse-pousse, small rickshaws. Lots of tourists, nearly all of them from Madagascar.
Breakfast at Helena’s Salon de Thé which offers interesting interpretations of concepts such as croissant and pain au chocolat.
Taxi-brousse to Fianarantsoa, beautiful trip. Arrival in the late afternoon. Hôtel Moderne. Nice rooms, nice restaurant and helpful staff.
Shaky two hour trip to Ranomafana National Park, back to Fianarantsoa in the afternoon.
After waiting a few hours for the last running passenger train in the country to be fixed, I get on a taxi-brousse with some other impatient travelers like me. Another three hours later we finally leave.
Beautiful but rough trip. We arrive in Manakara close to midnight.
Nice beach, though the ocean is a bit rough and the sharks unfriendly.
Short flight with a great view on the Pangalanes, a semi-artificial system of canals parallel to the ocean extending from Manakara all the way up to Toamasina.
At midnight a once-in-seven-years one-month-long circumcision ritual of a local tribe is opened. No special visual effects, but an interesting atmosphere nevertheless.
The patron of the restaurant La Route des Epiciers is able to organize a pirogue, a type of wooden boat widely used in this area, for a day for some French people and myself. We paddle 12 kilometers to the south, where the canal widens into a small lake. Picnic at the beach between the lake and the ocean, then back home.
Next morning I try to find a motor-pirogue to Nosy Varika. I soon realize that few people here speak French. Finally I do find someone who intends to leave this evening. Though later on he decides that his boat is still too empty, so we won’t leave until tomorrow morning.
Twelve hour journey abourd a two by ten meter motor-powered pirogue, along with a dozen bags of salt, some chickens, people, all kinds of baggage, mail and various other things.
In Nosy Varika I’m pointed to the nearest (and only) hotel, La Petite Oasis, which has a few simple bungalows.
Finding transport from Nosy Varika onward turns out to be difficult. I decide to continue by foot, after resting a day.
Eight hour, forty kilometer hike to Masomelka with a guide I hired for the day. Get a ride with a delegation of the World Food Program agency which happened to visit the village that day all the way to Mahanoro by boat, jeep and ferry.
The only taxi-brousse to Toamasina is broken, so I get on a pick-up truck to the next bigger village to the north, Vatomandry. There we barely manage to catch up with the last taxi-brousse to Toamasina. Five more hours. Hôtel Generation.
Toamasina is one of the nicer cities in Madagascar. Which doesn’t mean much, but nevertheless.
The Musée Regional de l’Université de Toamasina has some traditional tools and instruments on display.
The zoo/botanical garden near Ivoloina just outside the city is small but really nice. Lots of lemurs, both free and in cages.
Half hour flight to Nosy Boraha, also known as Île Sainte Marie.
Hôtel Orchidées on Nosy Nato, a tiny island at the south tip of Nosy Boraha. Nice bungalows.
I rent a mountain bike from the hotel Soanambo. The road turns out to be pretty rough, and it takes me over six hours to cycle around half the island, but it’s really worth it.
Next day I have a closer look at Nosy Nato. The island is so small you can walk around it in two hours, but you can easily get lost in the interior.
On my last day on Nosy Boraha I go diving, competently organized through Il Balemottero in Ambodifotatra.
Flight back to Antananarivo.
The hotel Saka Manga organizes one day jeep tours around Antananarivo. Visit to the village of Ambohidratrimo on one of the hills surrounding the Antananarivo. There are several old tombs here which are still being used for various ceremonies. For lunch we stop at a small crocodile farm near Ivato. Guess what’s for lunch. They also have a nice zoo with all kinds of reptiles.
In the evening I get back to the airport, my flight back home leaves around midnight.