Thursday, March 16, 2017

Madagascar for the December holiday

This is late.  Really, really late.  The 2,000 pics I had were too intimidating for me.  But the boys are camping and the girls are in Oman (another post for a future time), so I finally decided to get it started. 

Madagascar has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember.  A long Christmas holiday and our time in Tanzania dwindling was the push we needed to make it happen. 

Off to a great start:  clear views of Kili and first class upgrade from Nairobi.IMG_6154IMG_0540 

Three weeks and we only covered a small portion of the island. We landed in Antananarivo (“Tana”), drove to/from Andasibe, and then flew north for stops 3-7 before flying back to Tana
Madagascar Map

First stop the capital city of Antananarivo.  It was not at all like I envisioned.  Matt and I both felt like we were back in Bali: rolling hills & rice paddies. Anderson said it reminded him of Istanbul with the colorful houses on the hills. We were also surprised by the number of old French Peugeots and Citroens.  We quickly learned that the Malagasy don’t really consider themselves African…they often said things like “In Africa they do things differently”.
IMG_1804IMG_9145IMG_0568Holiday of family Brown in Andasibe, Madagascar.IMG_1404

The drive to Andasibe was beautiful and we loved our guide, Nicky.  For the next three days (and nights) we explored all of the parks/reserves around the area. We found small and large chameleons, snakes, some very cools frogs, and the lemurs…of course, the lemurs.  The night walks were fun (although a bit creepy), but our favorite may have been getting up close and personal with the lemurs at Vakona.

Then there are the Indri Indri lemurs.  So pretty and so, so loud (listen here to the recording we took of them)

Camouflage is king…can you spot them?

And while there are no venomous snakes in Madagascar that does not mean that they still won’t bite…Anderson learned the hard way (Isn’t that a cool looking snake? It is the exact snake that bit him)

Nicky was also an amazing photographer, and we were very lucky because gave us the photos he took of us while we were together.  A few are above, but there are some other great ones here.  We were sad to say goodbye to Nicky at the airport back in Tana; we wish we could have kept him with us the entire time.

And while we saw this fossa in captivity, we were lucky enough to see one dart across the road later in the week... it was just too quick to photograph.  Very lucky sighting of the elusive largest carnivore on Madagascar. 

On to Diego Suarez.  While we enjoyed the beach and the lodge we were at there wasn’t much else memorable here.  It was sort of a lay-over between our time in Andasibe and our time at Amber Mountain…we are not always the best planners and didn’t make final reservations until about two weeks before we left.  This made for a few awkward scheduling problems which resulted in our time here.  We made friends with the resident brown lemur here and had a great day on the ocean on our Emerald Sea Excursion.  It was hot though, so instead of another hiking beach day that was planned we camped out at a fancy hotel pool in town and enjoyed a Christmas Eve dinner with Captain Jack Sparrow Smile with tongue out

Christmas morning we drove to Amber Mountain Lodge.  We were looking forward to being back in the mountains after the heat of Diego.  It was beautiful here.  Hiking, lush green forests, and more lemurs and chameleons.  Pygmy chameleons!!!  We were happy.

Next it was on to Ankarana to see the famous tsingy limestone forest.  I’ve seen it translated as ‘walking on tiptoes’ and also ‘where one cannot walk’.  Either way, it was really impressive and unlike anything I’d ever seen before.  Walking across the suspension bridge over it was an amazing way to see it. 

The afternoon took us to the ‘bat caves’.  Once we got over the smell of the bat guano it was really fun to explore while trying to avoid the giant spiders and cockroaches (anyone that’s been to the Butterfly Pavilion outside of Boulder has seen these giant cockroaches).  The stalagmite and stalactite formations were incredible.

Over the past week and a half we’d seen some amazing lemurs, chameleons, frogs, and snakes, but there were some really cool bugs, too.  Seriously. 
Holiday of family Brown in Andasibe, Madagascar.IMG_1420

After all of this hiking we were ready for some time at the beach.  We were lucky enough to be able to overlap part of our trip with our good friends Hagai and Dana from Arusha at Sakatia Lodge for a few nights.  Fun for all of us!  Here Dana (13) was a great influence and got the kids interested in diving.  So proud of them.  There were also some very tame green sea turtles that hung out near the lodge.  Super fun to snorkel with them. 
We were here for New Year’s and Tierney and Dana were the only ones able to stay awake to welcome in the new year.  That was just fine with all of us Party smile
DSCN0985IMG_6565TierneyAshlynAndersonAnderson turtle

And for the final hurrah before we headed back to Tana we went to Nosy Iranja for a night of camping on the beach. What a special experience to have this secluded slice of paradise all to ourselves. 
Double bonus:  we got to see two separate pods of dolphins en route and these bottlenose let us jump in and swim with them…more accurately swim above them while they played below.

Then we had a final day+ in Antananarivo…a bit of shopping and lemur kisses rounded out our time in Madagascar; seemed a fitting way of celebrating our 7 year anniversary of living in Africa.

It was an amazing trip and I’m so glad we went.  This was not an easy trip:  roads were bad, air travel was unreliable, and the food was mediocre, but we’d all happily do it again for the experiences.  We asked the kids what the worst part of the trip was and they all agreed that it was one pizza that we had.  Our flight was delayed and we basically missed dinner, so we asked our taxi driver to help us find something to eat while we drove to the hotel at 11pm.  We found one spot open and ordered pizza.  They were already closing, but happily obliged.  When we got our margherita (cheese) pizza we kept finding fish bones in the sauce.  Not appetizing, but made for some giggles and silly faces.  I’d say if that’s the worst we can come up with after traveling for 3 weeks in Madagascar then we are winning. 

Until next time Madagascar……

We have more pics here
Don’t forget to check out Nicky’s pics here
The information provided to us by our tour operator, 8th Continent, is here.  They were amazing helping us put this trip together at the last minute.
What our calendar looked like (including links to lodges, etc) is here