Mad about Madagascar

On October 30, 2018 by keirobyn

[October 2018] We spent a week traveling one way from the capital (Tana) to Toliara on the South Coast.  Along the way we visited a couple of National Parks (Ranomafana and Isolo) as well as the 2nd biggest city, Antsirabe.  The country (away from the capital) reminded us a bit of Malawi, in that the national highways are simple two lane roads and they are mostly filled with people walking and bicycles. The people were a unique blend of African and Malaysian.  The island was mostly settled by Malaysians about 2000 years ago, before that there were no people on the island!  The animals, of course, are famously unique, since many of them evolved in almost total isolation from the rest of the world.

Robyn had fun exercising her rusty French – she did great!

Travel Notes

  • It’s a big country and travel is slow.  It’s hard to do much in a week.  We travelled the main national highway (RN 7) from the capital (in the middle) to Toliara (on the coast).  It was a good trip, but on the outside edge of reasonable as far as travel time.
  • Hotels, restaurants and parks are all relatively affordable.  Tourist transport is expensive.  A 1 hour flight from the coast back to Tana was about $280.  Most independent tourists rent a car and a driver, which is about $80-150 a day, and of course you have to pay for days when you aren’t really using the car and also two days for them to get back to wherever they started.  We saved on this by chartering taxi’s when we needed them, from one town to the next, which was typically about $20 an hour driving time or about $100 between cities.  Our total (car) transport cost for the week was about $400, vs $1500 if we had hired a dedicated taxi.
  • If I had more time, I would be keen to do a 3 or 4 day hike in Isola National Park.
  • We bought a SIM card for our phone, but found it a waste of time.  It continually ran out of credit after using it once.  If I were to try it again, I’d probably use my own cell phone for SMSing and local calls, while turning off data.
  • Two or three weeks with a self drive 4WD would allow you to make a loop and get a lot more places.  We did not meet anyone who was doing this, but there is a Dutch company (Explore Madagascar?) that supposedly rents the vehicles and all the camping equipment.  People say the driving and road conditions are terrible, but it seemed fine to me (for Africa).
  • The police left us alone, but petty corruption was rife- every driver we had put a small bill in their drivers license to smooth the way at the many police stops.  Near Tana, this seemed to happen every 20 minutes.

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