Safety What to take When to go Health Travel Accommodation



We heard Tana could be dangerous after dark, but that's probably the same as any capital city in the world. Other than that, basic common sense will suffice. Bear in mind the average daily wage is about 2 Euros, so be careful flashing that wad of one million Malagasy Francs you get when you change 100 Euros at the bank !

What to take

See my other 'what to take' advice pages, take as few clothes as possible. Most places do laundry or sell T-shirts. It does get cold in the mountains so a fleece is useful. Also a waterproof cape or cagoul as we had showers most day.

We both have Opticron 10 x 42 binoculars - the 'High Resolution' and Sequoiah models. On this trip I also took my Opticron Piccolo Telescope with 30x WA eyepiece and a Cullmann Video tripod. I should have used the tripod more for photography, as it is pretty dark in the rainforest but some of the trails are wet and steep - especially Mantadia.

We used Birds of the Indian Ocean Islands by Sinclair and Langrand - some of the colours on the plates are eccentric but it covers all the species fairly well. The Bradt visitors guide to Madagascar Wildlife was useful as well.

The Bradt travel guide to Madagascar is far superior to the Lonely planet which still referred to French Francs !

When and where to go

We decided to go in September/October which is the start of the Spring when the Lemurs have just had their babies and the Whales are just departing south. However it was very windy in Fort Dauphin and Ifaty. Late October would be ideal but you may miss the Whales by then, but you would get some of the migrants such as Sooty Falcon. As you have to fly to Tana, a trip to Perinet/Mantadia is easily done by car. This is a rainforest reserve in the hills about 3 hours east of Tana, and it is well organised for accomodation and local guides. We then drove on to Toamasina on the east coast and flew the short distance to Ille St Marie for a beach holiday. Here you can sun-bathe, snorkel, scuba dive or just relax on the beach. We then flew to Fort Dauphin and then about two hours by car to Berenty. It is possible to drive here from Tana but it would take several days, as the roads are in poor condition. Here the landscape is very different, with dry desert like conditions. There is a little spiny forest here, but Berenty is more famous for it's riverine gallery forest and groups of Ring-tailed Lemurs. We then flew on to Tulear and a one hour drive to Ifaty which has a larger area of spiny forest. Ask for Moosa who is a local guide who lives on the edge of the forest. It is also possible to go diving or snorkelling here. If we had longer here, I would have done a day trip to Tulear for the Red-shouldered Vanga. With another week to spare we could have driven back to Tana via Isalo and the weird tsingy limestone scenery and Ranomafana Reserve for some more Ground Rollers, but maybe that could be a future holiday !


Malaria tablets are recommended although we hardly got bitten at all. Gina didn't bother taking anything, Tony took Chloroquine and Proguanil as Malarone proved to be way too expensive. Most hotels had mosquito nets and we were careful to wear long sleeves at dusk. A few leeches at Mantadia but they were easily flicked off. Stick to bottled water and avoid ice-cream.


We flew Manchester - Paris - Tana with Air France. Very efficient going, but chaos coming back with 3 hour queues to check in at midnight. They were rebuilding the terminal at the time and the plane got delayed by 1 hour to let everyone on.

A big thank you to Voahangy Rakotovaovahy or see the website Cortez Expeditions for making all the arrangements. Everything ran very smoothly apart from in Tulear where the Mangily Hotel failed to collect us from the airport - see below. We paid for everything up front in Euros by bank transfer from England, with no problem at all.


We stayed at a wide range of accommodation varying in price and quality.

The Royal Palissandre in Tana was clean and centrally located, very good food.

Vakona Lodge in Perinet was also very nice but a bit awkwardly located, unless you have a car, in which case it is ideally sited midway between the Perinet and Mantadia reserves.

The Neptune in Toamasina had excellent food but was a bit run down, the pool is right on the main road and not very private.

Princess Bora on Ille St Marie was the most luxurious and did good pizzas for lunch.

Berenty was disappointing - you are right in the reserve which is good, but the rooms are like 1960's army barracks and the food is a fixed menu with nothing for vegetarians.

Le Dauphin in Fort Dauphin need to sort themselves out. We stayed in the annexe which was in the process of being built - and has been for two years. The pool was drained and looked like it is never used. You have to walk down the road dodging beggars and souvenir sellers to get to the dining room, reception were positively unhelpful and wouldn't even call us a taxi, and we had to ask several times for basics like towels which isn't really on for a supposedly luxury hotel. I would strongly recommend investigating the new Air Fort Services accomodation at the Reserve de Nahampoana a few km outside Fort Dauphin. This is the old botanical gardens and a very peaceful location full of Lemurs - they have just started offering rooms. However you may have difficulty in getting a transfer to Berenty, as they are in direct competition with the De Heaulme empire.

Hotel Mangily in Ifaty were very laid back - in fact so laid back they failed to meet us at the airport as arranged. The hotel is a group of huts on a dune above the beach and so consequently were full of sand, as the shutters didn't close properly. However the food was good and home-made, but breakfast was a bit stingey. About 30 minutes walk to the spiny forest from here.


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