We truly love everything about Madagascar. The endless fields of golden grains and the colourful terraces with all kinds of vegetables, different greens separated by red soil. High mountains and deep valleys, there is so much to see everywhere. Small streams dancing through the lands and than those houses that remind you of the French colonial times. Everywhere you'll find small brick ovens made by locals to bake red clay bricks they make from the soil.
That soil is very fertile, you can grow almost anything here. Madagascar is a true veggie-walhalla: carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages, lettuce, sprouts, courgettes, aubergine, green beans and many different kinds of fruits. It's heaven!
Unfortunately the Malagasy cuisine is not very creative. No fruity breakfast and vegetable main course.
In almost every town there are some good restaurants where you can get a vitamin boost on your plate but mostly it's fried and very salty accompanied by white French bread or pizza. They do know how to make a French bread though, crispy on the outside fluffy on the inside!
Meat, if you like meat you will be so happy here. Zebu meat, the most tender steak you've ever had. Ducks, geese and chickens who have just been walking around the back yard all day. You can taste the happiness.
So who would have ever thought we would enjoy meat so greatly.
Madagascar has been independent from France since 1975, but there is still a lot that reminds you of France. Driving through this country feels like driving through France from time to time, the hills, the houses and the baguettes.
In the centre of Madagascar there is a enormous plateau with an altitude of 1600 meters. Here everything is cooler, greener and more humid.
The dry south has a lot less to offer the people and the poverty-rate is clearly very dependent on what nature brings.
In general there are many accommodations but we haven't found any self catering options except for campsites which may have a communal kitchen.
Would have been amazing to buy a lot of that colourful vitaminstuff and make something fantastic with it...
Antsirabe is a nice town about 170 kilometres from Antananarivo. Here you can find a lot of colonial architecture from the past. There is an old railway station which unfortunately is no longer in use and some other impressive buildings. The hotel des Thermes is nice to pay visit, faded glory but with a little imagination you can see what it used to be like and coffee at the bar is good.
Along the road 34 to the west there is lake Tritriva, a beautiful 160 meters deep lake with a story attached. The ranger at the entrance of the area will tell you all about it.
We stayed two nights at 'hotel Antsirabe', in the centre of town. The hotel was very good and we paid about € 16.00 per night for a huge double room with a private bathroom. Oh and the wifi works!
Dinner at Zandina is recommended, fantastic pizza and the zebu of course is tender as a baby's bottom ;-) here you can add vegetables too which were very tasty.
Also Cecile et Angel is great for (again) pizza, this time by the meter!
At about a 100 kilometres further south, is this slightly smaller town but just as interesting. The market and the great streets to walk through.
We stayed at the Grand Hotel in the middle of town for two times. It's reasonably priced, we paid € 11.25 per night and the wifi is the best of whole Madagascar.
Our second stay wasn't very comfortable for there was a quite noisy family in the room above us that woke us up at 5 am and continued until we decided to go.
We didn't find many restaurants here, but at the L'Artisan hotel there is a restaurant which we can rate as ok. The complex looks good too and has a nice view.
A small town with a lot to offer, a silk factory, a paper factory, a embroidery and last but not least: the biggest zébu market of the country. On Wednesdays you can find it in the middle of town.
You can find a lot of hotels here, we stayed in La Recidence Betsileo, named after the original tribe of this area. The French owner doesn't speak a lot of English but he tries very hard. We have a fantastic evening and decide to stay another night. The food in the hotel-restaurant is amazing! Zébu a la Bourguignon... DELICIOUS! And the next day we have duck, so tender... ohh. For veggies I would recommend to find another place, the French cuisine is not really known for its fantastic vegetarian meals. For the room we paid € 11.00 and the meals where about € 5.00
There is also a smaller park nearby called Community reserve Park Anja. It is maintained by four surrounding villages and it has a very nice group of black ringtailed Maki's and some reptiles like cameleons and snakes.
They offer different walks, with a mandatory guide. The entrance fee was A10.000 (€ 2.80) but the prices for a guide are quite high. We paid A36.000 per hour. The park is small and limited but the Maki's make it worth while. The are a little used to people so eventhough they ignore you they don't mind being photographed close by.
Andringitra National park can be visited from Ambalavao and is not suitable for day trips. The park is too wide and too far from the main road. Unfortunately we had to skip this, but we'd love to hear from anyone who has been there!
Ranohira is a small touristic town, of course being next to a big tourist attraction it must be. There are some hotels with restaurants which are not all that good. We preferred to spend some time at the small square in front of hotel Berny. There is a small cafe where locals gather. Lots to see.
When we first arrived we wanted to go to Isalo National Park the next day. We met two girls from Belgium and France to share a trip with, but hearing the weather forecast (HOT) and reading about the park made us decide not to go. The price of the day trip is for Malagasy understanding quite high (€ 80.00) and we thought we could always go on our way back, because we would pass this town again.
Our hotel Berny is a little disappointing and the town isn't too special either, so the next day we move on.
On the other side of Isalo, you can find a few 'sapphire' towns, famous for it's gold and gems like sapphires that are found here. Don't get any brilliant ideas, the people here are watchful like maffia... including guns.
On our way to Tulear we also pass an amazing butterfly valley, with as you may expect, thousands of butterflies in many different colours. Whoah... this is unbelievable!
The last part of the road up to Tulear is very bad and takes us forever but when we finally survive the pothole-hell we are in heaven...
We decide to drive on to Mangily Ifaty, a town about 35 kilometres north of Tulear. There used to be a bumpy dirtroad after Tulear that took 1,5 hours to get there, but since the Chinese have a
cotton plantation in the area the road has been improved big time. The new tarroad only takes you half an hour from Tulear to Ifaty.
The town is small, it has a few small bars and restaurants and a lot of friendly locals.
Arriving at the beach we are exited, the sea is like silk and the sky is totally blue. Oh... it's like a dream.
We stay at La Bella Donna bungalows, it's a relatively new place with beautiful luxury cottages on the beach. We are very well taken care of by the owner and his sister in law, a real holiday feeling! The cottages are amazing with a big bedroom and a nice bathroom and it's right on the beach. We love it here, we could have stayed a month! So we wholeheartedly recommend you to come and experience the peace and serenity this place offers.
Interested in staying at this little piece of paradise? Check their website here!
This big island is the poorest in the world, 80% of the people live of less than one Euro a day. Although the houses look solid and there appears to be enough to eat to feed the world there are many people who never see more than a 1000 Ariary note (€ 0.28).
Children are often burdened with the task to beg for some money, of course, who doesn't feel sorry for a child with ragged clothes and a dirty face. We don't give money to kids, there are so many other ways to do good, teaching them English words and bring pens and notebooks to hand out. The clothes you don't need anymore... there are a thousand people you'll meet who would love a 'new' t-shirt.
In Madagascar there aren't too many choices to get around. There are taxi brousses, the small busses with as many people as possible and all kinds of luggage. The drivers aren't always adequate and we've seen a lot of these by the side of the road, not always on four wheels...
In the towns there is the tuktuk (motorcycle), rickshaw (bike) and pousse-pousse (runner), the prices are very low. The pousse-pousse and rickshaws are very cheap, we felt so sorry for being transported by a guy running on his bare feet all day. On the other hand, that is their job, they won't make any money if you do not use their services. So we recommend to agree on a fair price (anything between 600 and 2000 Ariary would be reasonable within a town centre) and afterwards pay the price and give something extra if you please in the form of a tip. By agreeing on a higher price just because you feel sorry, you'll disadvantage other locals on the long term.
Of course it's always great to feel free so we chose to rent a car. Cars in Madagascar almost always get offered with a driver. In some cases you get the chance to rent one on your own. We managed to rent this cute Renault 4 from 1975 and it was fantastic! There are a lot of old Renaults in Madagascar so we did a great job blending in with the locals and we got a lot of extra smiles for that!
The roads in Madagascar have improved a lot since the installation of the last president and that's about the only thing he did right, according to the people.
Lucky for us, because with the (lack of) suspension in our Red Cute we wouldn't have liked the old roads to much. There are still a lot of unexpected potholes and areas that haven't been improved yet, but they're getting there. Don't think that you can speed at these roads though, you won't make it over 50 km/h average. So relax, enjoy the ride and especially the breathtaking view!
Before and after every small town there are policemen waiting to check your vehicle. Some let us pass right away and some stopped us to see just who is in that red Renault. We've had compliments but also complicated situations. Some can be a pain in the arse... After the 'gem-towns' there was one officer who was convinced we had sapphires with us (which is not against the law) so he wanted to check all of our baggage. We didn't try to ask him (in our bad French) if searching our bags was even legal, but we did watch his every move very carefully, prevent anything gone missing. He kept saying 'safir safir' it was so funny we had to stop ourselves from laughing. Eventually he didn't find any stones, so we could go. Slightly disappointed he gave us back our papers and waved his hand forward.
Another officer kindly asked us for something to drink pointing his thumb to his mouth... and some said we could go when we said in English we didn't speak any French. Ne parlez pas Français? Nope. Ok, bon voyage. Merci! Haha lol.
The Malagasy people have no car, some have a bike, a cart with zebus or a pushcart. Everything else goes by foot. And why use your arms if you have a head on which you can carry anything, a basket with 20 kilos of potatoes, two meter long timber... anything. If you don't have the cash you need to be clever.
Currency: 1000 Malagasy Ariary = € 0.28
In total we've spend:
Transportation: € 608.75
Accommodations: € 200.75
Food and drinks: € 346.50
Entrance fees: € 15.00
Other: € 0.00
That brings us to a daily budget of: € 83.65 for two persons including everything except international flights.
In these past weeks we did not economise on anything. We did everything we wanted, we stayed in hotels with a double room and private bathroom and ate in good restaurants. We are convinced we could have managed with a much lower budget.
Tips are very important in Madagascar because it tells them 'you did well' and it's extra money to live from. Give a tip secretly, you don't want it ending up in the boss' pocket.
Here are some examples of products and prices in euro:
Large baguette in mini market: € 0.30
Pizza in lunchroom: € 3.00
Coffee latte in a lunchroom: € 0.80
Bottle of wine in a supermarket: € 5.00
Beer (650 ml) in a cafe: € 0.80
Bottle of beer (650 ml) supermarket: € 0.70
Coca Cola in restaurant: € 0.50
Main course in local restaurant: € 1.50
Main course in hotel-restaurant: € 3.50
Liter gasoline: € 1.07
Simcard with 5 Gb data: € 20.00