For those who might be interested in the logistics of a trip to Madagascar
, here is a trip report from recent Wildland alumni Alan and Karen R. who traveled with us on a custom 21-day itinerary. We love how Alan starts out with the complexities of traveling to Madagascar and why they ended up choosing Wildland to design their adventure.
It's possible to visit Madagascar as independent travelers, without the assistance of a travel agent in the US and local tour operators in Madagascar, but we'd (Alan & Karen) have to rate it as one of the most challenging countries we've visited to do so.
Ground travel in local transport can take incredible lengths (e.g. three continuous days, if lucky, from Antananarivo to Fort Dauphin in the south) over once-paved but horrendously deep potholed roads - "shorter" trips of only 100 miles are measured in 15-20 hours. Some of the most fascinating destinations in terms of protected landscapes and wildlife are extremely hard to reach. Internal domestic air service is available but flights are frequently canceled or delayed. Sadly, personal security in terms of petty theft especially in the capital is a problem.
With that said, we chose to use a highly respected Seattle-based adventure travel agent Wildland Adventures, owned by, Kurt Kutay, a professional colleague of mine. Their Africa/Madagascar specialist, Chris Moriarty, helped design a 21-day itinerary just for us (a custom tour for two persons). Wildland deals with an Antananarivo-based local tour outfitter who supplies the in-country guides and manages all accommodation and transportation arrangements. This was a high-end choice, and there are alternative tours at a lesser cost, although those typically involve groups of 6-8 or even more travelers and much less personal attention from guides and considerably lower standard accommodations and food. We used two small-aircraft charters in situations where depending on the domestic service might have meant major delays or even miss our international departure. The trip absolutely met our expectations and we have no (serious) regrets about the expense. Wildland Adventures is one of the best in its class for higher-end small ecologically and culturally sensitive group tours. One post-trip conclusion is that we traveled a little late in the season so far as temperatures were concerned: in the south-eastern section (e.g. Mandrare) in late October the mid-day temperature was about 110F (on the same day that our home in Colorado got below zero and had 12in of snow). It's cooler in August/September but hot and the rains begin in early November, although we had almost no rain.
Although Madagascar is relatively close to the African mainland across the Mozambique Channel, it's several thousand uninterrupted miles to Australia across the Indian Ocean.
Our international route was more convoluted than usual because we were using airline "miles" for the tickets: Denver to Minneapolis to Toronto to Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) to Antananarivo, returning via Addis, Dublin, and Chicago. Around 32 hours of flying and airports each way. The map shows our internal travels. The majority of tour travelers spend more like 2 weeks and concentrate on the southern half of the island: our trip was three weeks because there are unique landforms and forest types in the north which we wanted to include. It would have been ideal to have visited forests on the western side but this would have added another week and involved serious overland travel.
Moving to Madagascar's reptiles including chameleons although many are shared with Africa the island's dozens of species are probably the most diverse in the world, from the very small leaf chameleons to some of the largest and most elaborate.
Although the rainy season beginning later in November would have brought us even more sightings, here are some neat ones. They are easiest to spot on night walks when they sleep near the ends of drooping branches where they are alerted to predators who shake the stems while trying to creep out.
Now let's talk about lemurs, there are some 130 different species of the primates, all endemic. Madagascar, with its fraction of a percentage of the world's terrestrial surface, represents 20 percent of its total primates. Here are just a few we encountered, each with fascinating habitat preferences and evolution-driven specializations in form and behavior. All are iPhone images - we must wait on accessing our long lens photos. A few obviously from a lemur reserve but most of our sightings were National Parks and private forest reserves in the north, the east, the south, and the south coast.
We hope this trip report was helpful in planning your trip to Madagascar and if you have any questions or if you're looking to design your own custom itinerary please feel free to contact us.
Keeping it wild,
PS: You might also like our Madagascar: Land of Lemurs video.