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Travel to Madagascar with lemurs and chameleons

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Travel to Madagascar National Parks to spot lemurs, chameleons, lizards and frogs with beautiful views of baobabs trees, mountans and farm rice fields

Where do we find Madagascar?

map madagascar

Map of Madagascar

map madagascar

Info about Madagascar

Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world and lies east of the African continent. The island has a length of 1580km, a width of 580km, a coastline of almost 5000km and is surrounded by 250 islands. The highest mountain Maromokotro reaches 2875m. Madagascar has different landscapes. In the east on the Indian Ocean the steep coasts are covered with tropical rainforest and shrubs. Here you can also find marshy lagoons, but also man-made parts. In this region it rains at least 240 days a year. Halfway through the south, mainly dry plains can be found with low mountains and beautiful rock formations. On the southeast coast it rains frequently. The rugged west consists mainly of large plains with loose stones, eroded pieces, sedimentary layers and limestone plateaus. The center of Madagascar is characterized by high plains (from 800m to 1500m) with mostly dry grass, which creates a wonderful savannah feeling. This part of Madagascar is also littered with red rock formations. Madagascar owes its nickname 'the red island' to this. There are also typical agricultural terraces on the mountain walls all over the island, which always results in very beautiful panoramas.

Because of the remote location of Madagascar there is unique fauna and flora on the island that is found nowhere else in the world. The best known animals are the different types of lemurs (lemurs) and half monkeys, which look like real stuffed animals with their big eyes and beautiful fur. Madagascar is also populated by countless species of chameleons, lizards, snakes and unique insect and bird species such as the Steltral. Tenreks are unique mammals that display strong similarities with shrews and hedgehogs. In terms of appearance, other tenrek species look more like moles and otters. The fossa or ferret cat is the largest native predator. Furthermore, the non-endemic migratory grasshopper causes enormous grasshopper pests and causes great damage to the crops.

The elegant traveler tree and robust baobabs are the most typical trees on the island. The sunset on the Alle Baobab in the west of Madagascar is weekly a top attraction. The silhouettes of the baobabs form a nice contrast with the setting sun, which always produces beautiful photos.

The population is very poor and superstitious. Holy places (such as tombs) may not be entered or photographed. Ignorant tourists can get into trouble in certain places because of this.

Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world with a very weak economy. Climatic cyclones, extreme drought, locust plagues and a poorly functioning government also ensure that there is little progress. The largest economic activities are agriculture and the dangerous mining of precious stones. The best known agricultural products are coffee beans, cassava (cassava), vanilla and rice. The most important export products are coffee, vanilla, shellfish, sugar, cotton and chromite minerals.

Tour in Madagascar with its unique fauna and flora

Madagascar, both young and old have seen the funny animation film about this African island. We wanted to perceive the unique fauna and flora with our own eyes and booked a three-week-trip at Le Voyageur, a local tour operator that provides fully organized tours, tailored to your preference.

19 September 2019

Flight from Amsterdam to Antananarivo, the capital in Madagascar

We get up in the middle of the night and drive towards Amsterdam for an early morning flight to Paris. Yesterday, the KLM ground staff was on strike, but thankfully are back and running again today.

After a short transit in Charles De Gaulle Airport awaits a 10-hour flight with Air France that will take us Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar. The aircraft of Air France is an older model, with a little less leg space and smaller TV screens. The range of films and TV-series is rather limited and the service on board regular. When we want to drink something between the usual meals service we have the serve ourselves. Except for wine, there are no spirits available (gone, our cheeky gin-and-tonic moment). Peanuts or crackers we can also forget about. The only spark of hope is the meal itself; that's surprisingly better than any other flight-dish.

Around 22.15 local time (1 hour later than in Belgium) we land in Madagascar and start the classic agony that easily takes up an hour. First, we need to go through a 'medical check'; passengers with fever or other symptoms of Ebola are inevitably rejected. Then we line up to purchase a visa (35 EUR per person), followed by passport control, to finally pick up our luggage. In the building, we don't come across any restrooms, so people with a small bladder be warned!

Once done with this malaise, Njaka of Le Voyageur greets us with a broad smile in the entrance hall. He shows us the office at the airport that offers the best exchange rate, where we change 400 EUR into Malagasy Ariary. Hurray, how quickly we became millionaires!

We are pleasantly surprised when we see the car with which we will cross the island, as it turns out to be a spacious and high 4x4 Hyundai Terracan.

Half an hour later, Njaka drops us of at the modern Ibis Hotel, where after a smooth check in, we dive into bed.

20 September 2019

Tour in Antananarivo the capital of Madagascar and visit the palace of the former kings and queens

This morning we haven't got any plans, so we stay in bed for as long as possible and take a seat at the breakfast table around 09.00am. The buffet is rich, provided with different kinds of bread, cereals, hot dishes, pancakes with Nutella, various egg dishes, fresh fruit, etc. Well taken care of, and excellent service.

We go back to our room to relax a little afterwards, and then we go to the supermarket across the street to buy enough water to make it through the next few days. We are pleasantly surprised by the large number of products available; especially the meat in the cooling looks very tasty. PS: Ultimately, this is the only solid supermarket that we find during our trip.

The short way back to the hotel, we're immediately followed by a few begging children. My advice; try to ignore!

At 13.30pm Njaka picks us up at the Ibis hotel. We head to the former royal palace which is located north of the capital. The road there is an experience in itself. Most of the (sandy roads are of poor quality and excessively used by cars, busses, trucks, motorcycles, cyclist and pedestrians. Traffic rules don't seem to apply here. Everyone penetrates through the traffic mass and vulnerable road users really drive at their own risk! The horn as well, is used excessively.

We drive through dusty streets with poor households and typical small shops, but despite the great poverty most Madagascans seem happy and have a smile on their face.

We pass some rice and vegetable fields, where everything is still done by hand and the people burn the candle at both ends. Here we see our first zebu (a cow with a large fat hump), which is said to taste better than average beef. A must try!

After an exciting ride through the busy residential areas of Antananarivo we arrive at the Palace of the former kings and queens of Madagascar. The buildings are not really a palace to our western standards, but the guide seems to be truly proud of these 18th and 19th-century settlements. We listen attentively to his explanation. The arrival of the French settlers in 1895 also meant the end of the kingdom, and since 1960 Madagascar is an independent republic with a president as head of state. Fun and educational, if you have some time left, but not a must-do.

Around 17.30pm we get back to the hotel, and in the absence of fun or qualitative restaurants we have dinner in the hotel restaurant. They've included zebu steak on their menu, so we take the opportunity and try it out immediately. It tastes very good and is a little different than a classic steak. The total bill for our four long drinks and two main dishes is about 35 EUR.

madagaskar antananarivo

Pictures - photos of Antananarivo the capital of Madagascar

21 September 2019

From Antananarivo to the Vakona Forest Lodge in the rainforest

After a tasty breakfast in the presence of an entire professional football team from the top class of Tanzania, we pack our stuff and get picked up at 8.30pm at the entrance of the hotel by Njaka. Today we only drive 140 km to Ambanja, but due to the bad roads it will take at least four hours!

First, we visit the centre of Antananarivo, with its numerous market stalls and exuberant visitors. The Madagascans are full of life, and make the best of the few resources they have at their disposal. We also make a blitz visit to the old train station that serves as a central orientation point of the entire island and to the 'Palais de la Reine' that's built on the highest peak of the main town.

Then it's time to leave the hustle and buzzle of the noisy and smelly Antananarivo, but of course don't mind, because in the end we're here to relax and enjoy the unique animals and beautiful nature.

During our trip, we pass several villages which all are very similar with their wooden stalls along the side of the street and women who are doing the washing in streams and rivers next to it. Afterwards, the clothes are hung on branches or rocks to dry while the children play in the water. A cosy family happening!

Njaka hadn't lied. The roads are in terrible condition and we slalom between the many pockmarks in the roads. Sometimes there aren't any alternatives than bumping our way through; this way we get a real 'African massage'.

Just after noon, we arrive at a small exotic park that keeps various chameleons, geckos and snakes. The cage of the chameleons is filled with various types. One of which considered a poisonous green, the other rather brown with a slight panther print, but our favorited is one characterized by almost all colours of the rainbow. Our local guide is so friendly to present the animals some tasty bugs on a stick, so that we can witness their ultra-long and fast tongue in action.

In the cage of the geckos and snakes we're allowed to touch and hold them in our own hands. The feet of the gecko's feel a bit like suction cups, as they cling to our fingers. How fun!

After lunch, it's another 40km or an hour drive to Vakona Forest Lodge, our final destination in Andasibe. The hotel is probably the most expensive and most chic in the area and the rooms look pretty good, but a heavy, musty smell dominates and everything feels a little clammy. Obviously, we're in the rain forest, but pleasant we can't call it! Giving the fresh temperature, colder than in Antananarivo, jumper and trousers are definitely not a luxury.

At 17.45pm we are picked up for our night walk. Guided by our experienced guide Bary, armed with the necessary flashlights we walk into the darkness in search of nocturnal animals. We see a large chameleon and the smallest gecko of this region, which is only a few centimetres long.

After a while, the guides begin to nervously walk back and forth as they spot a mouse lemur (the smallest primate of Madagascar), but was quickly out of sight. In full force, they search for the 40-gram weighing creature and ultimately our guide locates the little animal. With a dozen of tourists (vaza in the local dialect) we try to get the best sight of the little being. The mouse lemur is a little uncomfortable, but remains on its branch and keeps an eye on us with its bright little eyes. Such a cutie!

Around 20.00pm we get back to the Vakona Forest Lodge. In the beautiful dining area with crackling fire, we relish another delicious zebu tournedos and not much later dive into our bed. Tomorrow we need to be fit for our long walk in the tropical rainforest.

madagaskar vakona forest lodge

Pictures - photos of the Vakona Forest Lodge and surrounding rainforest in Madagascar

22 September 2019

From the Vakona Forest Lodge visit the Analamazoatra Park to spot lemurs

Last night it rained, which is no surprise, as it rains here 240 days a year. Also in terms of temperature, it still isn't time for shorts and t-shirts.

After a quick shower, we take a seat at the breakfast table. The buffet at Vakona Forest Lodge is rather limited, but fortunately we can order eggs.

At 8.00am, Njaka picks us up and we drive to the entrance of the Analamazoatra Park (45,000 Ariary per person), where travel guide Bary awaits us with his broad smile. Armed with our raincoat, a large umbrella and plenty of water we are ready for an adventurous journey through the Malagasy bush. Hopefully we will encounter different types of lemurs.

It doesn't take long until we see a group of grey lemurs. They are seated quite high in the trees, but because they jump from one to the other branch, they are clearly visible. A little later we see two (non-hazardous) boas in the foliage.

After a while, we hear the distinctive siren sound of the Indri Indri, the largest lemur in the world. Their call is heard up to three kilometres away, and given that fact, our guide can easily locate the animals. We walk down the ultra-narrow paths through the jungle and sometimes we really must get off track to get to the Indri.

When we arrive, appears we're not the only vaza in the jungle. We're at least 15 tourists gaping at the fluffy and seemingly huggable lemurs. It's buzzing with activity and everyone is trying to conquer the best spot for the most impressive photos. Some tourists that are standing just below the lemurs, must also be careful to not have any unpleasant surprise dropped on their head. Funny animals, those Indri Indri!

Meanwhile, a group of brown lemurs accompany us, which apparently is unusual because each species has its own territory. Our lucky day!

As cherry on the cake, we get to see the diademed sifaka. Unfortunately, these animals a somewhat restless and draw back rapidly in the high foliage. We did however had just enough time to shoot some unique pictures.

In the meantime, we're approaching noon and it's clearly less lively in the forest. Time to head back. We are totally filthy; sweaty and our clothes are full of mud stains, but we're so glad to have seen these unique animals in their natural habitat. Highly recommended!

After a nice lunch with a panoramic view of the forest and the water, we head back to Vakona Forest Lodge which also has a private sanctuary with lemurs. The animals walk around freely on an island of which they can't get off. A sort of semi-captivity.

Via a short crossing with a canoe we get to the island, where the receiving committee eagerly awaits. A group of brown lemurs and two black-and-white lemurs don't really consider the rules of politeness and in no time, sit on our arms and shoulders. Some animals are so bold that even come to sit on our head. In the meantime, they are fed some nice pieces of banana. Funny, and very commercial, but a good alternative for people who don't have time or feel like the long jungle walk. Stay away from the island, however, if you don't like cheeky impudent lemurs!

On the other side of the river (and unfortunately not accessible for tourists) we see a number of diademed sifakas playing around. They roll on top of and over each other in sweet delight. A little calmer, but no less interesting these two red lemurs. Such elegant animals with a nice thick tail and high-huggable factor.

After a short walk, we bump into a handful of small bamboo lemurs, that are taking a nap at eye level very close to the hiking route. Again, resulting in great images!

Before we realize we are back at the starting point. This time the lemurs don't pounce as before; they know all the bananas are gone and patiently wait for the next visitors. Smart animals!

All in all, an entertaining but also very commercial activity that takes up less than an hour. Definitely recommended to increase the number of types of lemurs on your must-see list.

Last but not least, we visit a crocodile and reptile farm, also operated by Vakona Forest Lodge. We spot several crocodiles on the edge of the water that still are digesting their heavy meal of yesterday. In other words, they do not move a muscle! Next to that, we see some chameleons, geckos, snakes, turtles and ducks. An amusing ending of this tiring day, on which it didn't rain a drip.

madagaskar analamazoatra park lemures

Pictures - photos of the Analamazoatra Park to spot lemurs in the rain forest of Madagascar

23 September 2019

Drive to the Palmarium hotel for to spot the indri indri lemur and other animals

Last night, it again rained solidly and all trees and plants were watered to stay healthy, green and abundant to continue growing.

After breakfast, we leave Vakona Forest Lodge and navigate to our next destination in Akanin' Ny Nofy; a ride that will take up all of our day.

The route to Manambato only includes 132km, but it takes a short four hours to get there. In the meantime, we enjoy the beautiful green countryside and the local population who are already out, cultivating their fields, washing their dirty clothes in the river or simply have a chat with the neighbours.

We make a short stop to take some pictures of several young men who with a few zebus and lots of noise give shape to a rice field, as well as to buy a 'Pomme Canelle', a local tropical fruit, available on the many markets present.

The last seven kilometres of our country route are a real adventure. The dirt road is that bumpy and in poor condition that it takes about three quarters of an hour. We are totally shaken when we arrive at the lake of Manambato.

At the waterfront, we enjoy a (regular) lunch and at 14.00pm we take the fast speedboat that takes us to Akanin' Ny Nofy (freely translated 'nest of dreams') in about 45 minutes. The trip over the lake, but especially along the Panga Lanes channel is very idyllic.

The boat drops us of at the Palmarium Hotel, according to Njaka the best hotel in the area. When we walk to our bungalow, we see the first Indri Indri lemur with baby hanging on a tree trunk. It's surrounded by a group of photographers who with their fancy equipment try to shoot the ultimate picture. The guide tricks the lemur to jump to another tree by feeding her tasty snacks. The photographers can't get enough of it, and so can't we, evidently.

The bungalows at Palmarium are very spacious and have lots of windows with front shutters, which, unfortunately contain some gaps. We don't want to think about it too long and just go with the flow, but there are probably some insects and annoying mosquitoes. Each bungalow has a private terrace with hammock and view over the lake.

Since our evening excursion doesn't start until 5.30pm, we decide to spend the remaining time on our terrace. When we get out of the bungalow we are greatly surprised. there is a lemur chilling on our own terrace; to be specific, a black-and-white lemur. Is that why we have spent hours hiking through the wilderness searching for these animals, while they just sit on our terrace!? It doesn't know shame or fear and patiently poses for our pictures. There are also some brown lemurs that search rapprochement, but are scared away by their black-and-white nephew. This spot clearly is its territory

At 17.30pm we are ready for our next trip; the quest for the Aye Aye lemur that can only be found in the dark. We thought this was a boat excursion, but after half an hour we are dropped on an island where we cross the beach and go through a forest. Solid footwear and a good flashlight are therefore crucial.

On arrival, the more or less 30 passengers are divided into two groups on the spot and then enter the rainforest. After a few minutes walking we halt at a place where they have left bait for the Aye Aye lemur. The animals are fond of fresh coconut. For a while we wait in the dark, but the Aye Aye sent his cat. We walk a bit further to another place foreseen of bait, but neither there we see the lemur.

Meanwhile, the local guides nervously start walking from one to another group, so that we no longer know which group we belong to. We just keep following the first person in front of us and wonder whether they've ever lost some guests in the darkness with their chaotic way of working.

Three times right! The next place we finally meet the Aye Aye in person. It's actually an ugly little thing, scraping the flesh of its coconut with its long middle finger. Everyone's camera works in abundance, while at the same time we all try to conquer the best place. When the night lemur has satisfied its tummy, it disappears in the darkness. Everyone starts to run about, and soon we return to one of the earlier locations. But here too, we see an Aye Aye feasting its supper. As a final flourish, we get a glimpse of a small wool lemur, the second species lemur found on this island.

On the way back to the boat, we bump into the group of photographers of this afternoon. They seem to have hired a separate boat and travel guide and their trip appears to proceed much smoother. It's much quieter and more organized. They also have tricked one of the Aye Aye lemurs that shows itself from its best side resulting in great photos. Of course, we take advantage of this coincidence and last opportunity to photograph the nocturnal animal.

Once we are back on the boat, they don't even carry out a headcount and straightaway head to the Palmarium hotel. We are happy that we can tick off the Aye Aye lemur on our must-see list, but on the other hand it's a rather commercial mass affair, that's everything but professionally organized.

Around 19.30pm we get back at the Palmarium hotel, where we walk into the dinner room to enjoy our pre-ordered menu. Then it's time to make the necessary preparation for tomorrow and make way to the bungalow, as the electricity generator is irrevocable shut down at 11 and the domain remains in full darkness.

madagaskar palmarium hotel lemurs

Pictures - photos of the Palmarium hotel to spot lemurs in the surrounding rain forest of Madagascar

24 September 2019

A walk around the domain of the Palmarium hotel to spot lemurs, geckos, chameleon and frogs

Yesterday evening and last night it rained again, but this morning we are pleasantly greeted by the bright sun. From about 06.00am most of the lemurs get active and carry quite a bit of noise with them. Speaking of authentic wake-up calls!

The breakfast buffet at Palmarium doesn't consists of a buffet, instead we're served at the table and get a nice sandwich, cheese and some homemade jams. For those interested, they also serve an egg of your choice. More than enough to make it through the morning.

At 8.30am we're expected at the reception for a guided walk on the Palmarium domain. In fact, we do not really need the guide because everywhere we look there are lemurs sitting in the tree. On the domain are seven types to be found: five pure-bred and two unique mixed species.

We start the walk with a lot of information about plants, but soon we're distracted by the many lemurs that jollily jump from one to the other branch or just chill hanging upside down in a tree branch. These animals weren't born yesterday and know that the guides have bananas with them, and therefore willingly pose for our lens in exchange for a tasty snack.

We are observing the brown, black and black-and-white lemur, but also the two mixed-species. They all look very cuddly and are all super easy to approach. When the guide places a piece of banana on our hand, they take it very gently with their legs to eventually snatch it away. The guides can also replicate the loud sound of the black-and-white lemur perfectly, this spectacle we can watch for hours!

Of course, top of the bill the Indri Indri lemurs show up. One of the mothers gets tempted by the banana and comes down the tree with her little one. All attending visitors oust to get their best possible shots and videos of the Indri Indris. Now, the other lemurs are significantly less interesting and, as it were, seem somewhat lost. A little sad, really!

After everyone has taken a good number of photos of the lemurs we walk deeper into the forest. Frankly, this hike is a bit disappointing. Our guide doesn't even make the effort to find other animals. Except from a large spider, a chameleon, a small gecko and some mini-frogs, we spot nothing else, not even any other lemurs. It turns out more like 'a walk in the park'.

Just after noon, we get back to the main building. In the meantime, it's naptime for the lemurs and the Palmarium domain is calm and serene. After lunch, we decide to follow the example of the lemurs and also take a little moment for ourselves in the hammock on our terrace.

While the lemurs spontaneously came to visit us on our terrace yesterday, this afternoon they comfortably stay in their trees. So, we decide to look for them on the domain ourselves. However, without banana or other luring goods, they are a lot more difficult to spot. In the end, we see a number of brown lemurs and a group of five black-and-white lemurs in a tree feasting some ripe jack fruit.

Even though we passed on our order for dinner this afternoon, we're waiting on our food, for over an hour. While at the same time, others that came after us are served already or even immediately. When we ask the waiter where our food is, he disappears to the kitchen and in no-time comes back with our two plates. Undoubtedly a mistake or misunderstanding, but in the meantime, our food is lukewarm!

madagaskar chameleons lemurs frogs

Pictures - photos of frogs, chameleons, geckos, lemurs, carnivorous plants in the rain forest of Madagascar

25 September 2019

From the Palmarium domain via the Pangalanes channel back to Manambato

At 5.15am we're wakened from a deep sleep by the very recognizable sound of a black-and-white lemur on the roof of our bungalow. We jump out of bed to have a look, and yes; there is our big friend accompanies by other brown lemurs sitting on our terrace. As if they came to say goodbye. Great ending to our stay on the Palmarium terrain.

After breakfast, the boat that takes us back to Manambato over the picturesque Pangalanes channel, expects us at 07.00am. Next, we get ready for a wobbly drive along the poor dirt road back to civilization. We drive through Ambanja and eventually return to the capital. The drive to Antananarivo takes up a total of eight hours. Who wants to see the main attractions of Madagascar clearly must be willing to spend a lot of time driving or take a (unreliable and relatively expensive) domestic flight.

Tonight, we spend the night in our acquainted hotel. Home sweet home!

madagaskar Pangalanes channel manambato

Pictures - photos of the drive to Manambato via the Pangalanes channel in Madagascar

26 September 2019

Drive to the Plumeria hotel in Antsirabe

Njaka lets us sleep in a little, as we don't make way to our next destination until 09.00am. Today we're off to Antsirabe a large and centrally located city that's characterized by its many French influences.

It's buzzing in the capital, so it takes a while before we get out of the maze of cars, busses (taxi), mopeds, cyclists and pedestrians. A sigh of relief when we leave the thick layer of smog behind us. That is not to say that our lungs from now only breathe in pure air, because some of the vehicles in front emit a great percentage of black smoke. Meanwhile in Europe, we argue for a better environment and low emission standards!

During our trip, the landscape slowly becomes less green and we pass especially sand and terracotta colours; Madagascar isn't called the red island for no reason.

Around noon we make a short stop for lunch in a small town where the inhabitants specialize in the making of nice decoration pieces or kitchen amenities made from aluminium. Great for the enthusiasts, but there is not much else to do.

Since Antsirabe is 'only' a 4-hour drive (169km) from Antananarivo, we get to our final destination at 15.00pm. We'll spend the night in Hotel Plumeria, a relatively new hotel with modern rooms, a large bed and a posh bathroom.

We quickly drop of our baggage in the room, and then Njaka shows us around 'the town of water'. We visit a workshop where they make miniature pousse pousse (rickshaws), bush taxis and other means of transport by just recyclable material. Then we get taken to a room where a group of ladies in very dire circumstances sew Malagasy Symbols on cotton tablecloths. Apparently, it takes two weeks to finish such a tablecloth. Wow, patience is a virtue!

Finally, we're demonstrated how they make beautifully polished spoons, jewellery, figurines, dice, etc. from the horns of the zebu. Here, too, just recyclable material is used. The Madagascans clearly have a great talent to make full use of everything around, and really don't throw anything away. Everything we carelessly throw out in the rich West, here is given a second life that even provides some extra income.

After, Njaka drives us through the city and we see some of the sights such as the old station built in 1897, the cathedral and the Thermal Hotel, in faded splendour from the French colonial period.

Antsirabe also features some natural hot springs used by both locals and 'vaza'. A doctor visit to be 'granted' access to the springs is required. We tell them 'thanks, but not thanks'!

There are several good restaurants in the city, but we stay away from the hassle and opt for the easy option; dinner in hotel Plumeria. Very tasty and that for a reasonable price.

madagaskar pangalanes kanaal manambato

Pictures - photos of the drive to the Plumeria hotel in Antsirabe Madagascar

27 September 2019

From Antsirabe to Morondava with its unique baobab trees

Today, we're sitting out the longest stretch of this whole trip. At least 10 hours we'll drive to complete the 510 km that separates Antsirabe from Morondava. In Antananarivo, we had the option to take a domestic flight to the west coast city, but Air Madagascar hasn't got the best reputation in terms of punctuality. It often happens that the (relatively expensive) flights are delayed for hours or sometimes even cancelled all at once. That risk we didn't want to take, and this way, while driving, we get to see heaps more of the beautiful Malagasy scenery.

Around 07.30am we get into the car and drive in the first instance through a fairly arid and mountainous area that is brightened by bright green rice fields. Again, resulting is some unique photos.

This region is a lot less inhabited and there are very few heavy trucks on the road. This is the first time during this holiday that we are completely immersed in nature and can enjoy a quiet moment. What a blessing!

Njaka's been driving 80 km/hour the whole time, so we think we can easily shorten the distance by a few hours. False assumption! When we've completed a quarter of the course, the road turns into its familiar poor condition and our speed is drastically reduced.

Halfway we make a stopover for a quick lunch in Miandrivazo, the only town of significance that we'll encounter today. Afterwards we hop back in the car and resume our passage to the west. Meanwhile, the temperature has smoothly risen above the 30°C in this 'hot' part of Madagascar.

The whole way through, the landscape is dry. Gradually disappear the mountains and make way for Savannah-like panorama. Also gorgeous, but after a while it gets a little boring. Spotting a lion or giraffe between the long yellow grass occasionally, would definitely make it a great lot more exciting!

Njaka starts to show signs of fatigue and decides to take a stretch break on the edge of a small village. We haven't even disembarked yet, or we're already surrounded by at least 15-children trying to sell all kinds of things, but especially ask for 'chocolates'. Luckily, we bought a huge bag of sweets in Miandrivazo, so we happily hand out and share. The children would also like some pictures with the 'vaza' and try to determine whether our skin really is white, and not white paint. A very humorous experience.

After this short interlude, we bet our last leg of today. First, we drive back through the arid mountains and then get back to a more inhabited and greener area. There we swap our peaceful tranquillity for busy markets, many pousse pousse and bush taxis that take our pace considerably down.

In the end, we arrive just in time to see the sunset in Morondava at 'Allee The Baobab', the most popular and most famous tourist attraction of Madagascar. We search for a strategic location to catch some of the magical pictures of the baobabs against a backdrop of the setting sun. Our reward for sitting out the 10h drive!

Another 15 minutes or so until we arrive at the Select Hotel, a relatively new hotel that hasn't yet been included in the standard offer of travel organization Le Voyageur. A little bit of a gamble, but the rooms are spacious, provided with a king-size bed, nice bathroom and, above all, well-functioning air conditioning. Not indispensable in this warm region. The only downside is that the hotel is situated on a busy street. Light sleepers may therefore suffer from the noise of passing traffic.

madagaskar baobab trees morondava manambato

Pictures - photos of the drive to the unique baobab trees in Morondava Madagascar

28 September 2019

A visit to the Kirindy Forest Reserve to spot the fossa and lemurs

At 7.30am Njaka awaits us at the entrance of the hotel to take us to the Kirindy Forest Reserve. The ride of 46km mainly takes us along a bad dirt road and will therefore take up about 2.5 hours.

First, we pass through the 'Allee The Baobab', but at this hour of the day there aren't any tourists with expensive cameras yet. Quietly, we drive along the bumpy dirt road and come across a number of tiny red brown villages with thatched cottages. It's hard to comprehend, that there are entire families that really live in such dire circumstances. The Madagascans however, don't seem to mind or simply don't know better, as they always appear happy and in a great mood.

Around 10.00am, we arrive at the private domain of Kirindy, a dry forest of about 1200 ha that's located in a threatened natural area. In Kirindy you'll find eight types of lemurs, of which we can only see 2 today, as the other species are nocturnal animals. Although, obviously, we're also here for the fossa (ferret cat), the largest predator of Madagascar who regularly hunts on lemurs.

Together with our guide, we've only started our forest-hike, when we get called back to the entrance. One of the fossas has made its appearance in the surroundings of the restaurant, his favourite hunting domain where he can easily steal tasty snacks.

We follow the animal for a while, but must always keep adequate distance as the fossas evidently are reasonably aggressive and don't know fear of people either. A little further down, there are two males in the shade, resting from their last hunt; apparently, they caught a chicken and ate it straight away.

Now that we have been able to tick the fossa of our must-see list, we once again get into the forest that looks extremely dry. The trees have a grey colour due to the load of dust and the ground is strewn with dead leaves. To us, this does not seem to be the ideal environment for lemurs who are fond of fruits and succulent leaves.

The guide knows best, and identifies exactly where he can spot the animals. Soon we spot a group of seven brown lemurs. We take out our camera and start taking pictures volonté. In contrast to the previous natural parks we are virtually alone and now get the chance to observe the lemurs in all peace and quietness. The brown lemurs make their characteristic growling sound and the group includes a mother with her child (born literally last night).

We walk a bit further down the dry forest and there our guide spots the white sifaka, a lemur species that we haven't seen before. It's a group of five animals, which are pretty active for this time of the day. They jump quickly from one to the other trunk and it's a real challenge to film or take pictures of these acrobatics. Thankfully, they're not shy at all and we can come reasonably close to the animals. Great!

After a couple of hours wandering around the park, we slowly make way to the entrance. And, as a nice shut-off valve of this morning we end the walk with the presence of a huge chameleon.

Before we're going back to Morondava we enjoy a delicious lunch in the domain of Kirindy Forest Reserve. In the meantime, we overhear a conversation between a group of Belgians who have just arrived and will spend the night here. According to their information, the rooms are rather on the small side, not too clean and there are 'visitors'. We assume that they speak about spiders, cockroaches and or other vermin. Yak, that sounds anything but positive!

On the way back, we have more time to stop and take photos of, among others, the baobab amoureux (a baobab with a split trunk from which the two parts are intimately intertwined), a (non-toxic) snake that crosses the dirt road and the many children who eagerly run towards us, especially when we start handing out little sweets. In no time, all the children of the village circled around us waiting with open hand.

Finally, we return to the 'Allee The Baobab' and we use the drone to make some loops around the elegant trees. Yes, again some amazing images.

Once back in Morondava, Njaka takes us to the coastline. There awaits a little surprise; it's high tide and the ocean reaches all the way to the quayside. The beach is fully engulfed. There goes our only chance to go for a romantic beach walk!

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Pictures - photos of the Kirindy Forest Reserve park to spot the fossa and lemurs in Madagascar

29 September 2019

Return from Morondava to Antsirabe with a stopover in Miandrivazo

As the baobab trees and Kirindy Forest were our only activities on the west coast of Madagascar, we drive back to Antsirabe today, from where we go further south. Unfortunately, the island isn't (yet) provided with an extensive road network, so we are forced to take the same route.

Le Voyageur recommended us to split up the way back in two parts and stay in Miandrivazo for a night. This to prevent not having to spend another full day in the car. In the end, we're on a holiday, and are not competing any races or race against the clock. As suggested, we followed!

Around 09.00am we leave Morondava and for the last time enjoy the imposing baobabs along our route. After a while we leave the inhabited world to exchange the bright green rice fields for an arid savanna-like landscape, where we only sporadically go past settlements like tiny thatched cottages. When we insert a short photo stop and hand out sweets to some children in reach, we are surrounded by inquisitive hands before we know it. No idea where they all come from in such a short matter of time!

At the end of the ride, the landscape becomes a little hillier, but the surroundings remain mainly barren and sand-coloured. In the meantime, the temperature has risen to 36°C and the wind feels like a warm hair dryer.

Around 13.30pm we approach Miandrivazo and check in at Hotel Princesse Tsiribihina; probably the only accommodation in this city that you could consider a hotel.

We're a little shocked when we enter the room. It's rather small and the bed with a width of 1.40cm doesn't meet the Western standards either. It's going to be a though night.! Sadly, the room doesn't have air conditioning either, and electricity generator only works a few hours per day. However, there is a swimming pool with sun loungers, but no parasols, and quite frankly we don't feel like burning alive in the radiant sun, 36°C.

For our salvation, we go to the restaurant. Here we find some comfortable armchairs and sofas and they even have Wi-Fi. This way we can catch-up with the Belgian news and get in touch with the home front.

At the end of the day, we enjoy a beautiful sunset and then we slide our feet under the table for dinner. We fill and satisfy our bellies with a good ready-made duck.

We hang a little longer in the restaurant, but at the end of the day there's no escape then going to our steaming hotel room. For a minute, we're considering to leave open the windows and let some fresh air come in, but that also isn't option, as it attracts the mosquitoes. Thankfully we have a mosquito net to protect us from these unwanted leeches.

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Pictures - photos from the return trip from Morondava to Antsirabe with a stopover in Miandrivazo in Madagascar

30 September 2019

Drive to Antsirabe with overnight stay at the Plumeria hotel

A horrible night, in an awkwardly small bed and room that was way too hot. Thankfully, we only had to stay here for one night. After a refreshing shower, most of the misery is forgotten and at 09.00am, we're back on the road on our way to Antsirabe. Even at this hour of the day it's already 32°C.

For hours and kilometres, we drive by long desolate mountain landscapes covered in high dry grass. Every time we take a turn, we're spoiled with another breath-taking panorama. This is a very different Madagascar than the noisy, busy cities where the smog and exhaust gases are attacking our lungs.

Somewhere halfway the route, we take a pit stop to have lunch in a local restaurant. The bill for two main dishes and two soft drinks is exactly 20,000 Ariary (about 5 EUR); our cheapest meal of the whole trip!

As we approach Antsirabe, the houses become significantly larger and streets a little busier. The barren landscape will once again turn into bright green rice fields, which are mostly constructed in a terrace like-shape on the sides of the mountain. Always resulting in great photos.

Just before 15.00pm we check in at Hotel Plumeria in Antsirabe, where after Njaka drives us to a nearby crater lake. Nice to see, but not very impressive. Finally, we make ourselves comfortable on the mini-terrace that belongs to our room to enjoy the last rays of sun of today. Delightful!

Just like we did on our last stay we have dinner in the restaurant of Hotel Plumeria. The zebu steak is absolutely delicious and the staff super friendly. Definitely recommended!

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Pictures - photos of the Rit to Ranomafana with overnight stay at the Plumeria hotel in Madagascar

1 October 2019

From Antsirabe to Ranomafana in the south of Madagascar

We leave Antsirabe this morning, under a radiant sun. Next on the list is the southern part of Madagascar. We drive through a rugged mountain scenery, but less dry than the previous days. We also regularly pass through villages with the usual market stalls, where it's always buzzing with activity.

In this region, many mountain slopes are used for the construction of picturesque rice terraces. On the way, we're spoiled with splendid panoramas, the pictures however don't turn out as nice, as there's too much haze in the air. Or would it be smog?

Around 11.00am we arrive in Ambositra, a city known for its beautiful wood carvings. We go on a guided tour in a working studio where some of the craftsmen show their expertise. It's impressive, how precise and quickly they can work. Afterwards, we're obviously taken to the 'souvenir' shop, where all merchandise is offered. Nice for the admirers, but wooden Christ' and Mary Magdalena carvings aren't really our thing!

We hang about in Ambositra and have lunch, where we're at the same time presented with some local folk dances and entertainment. Great interlude.

Soon after, we continue our ride to Ranomafana National Park. The landscape during the whole route remains the same; it's not until the last two hours, that we get back to the lush and green environment.

Just before 17.00pm we arrive at Thermal Hotel near the Ranomafana National Park. When we enter, we're greatly surprised; the room is spectacular and huge. The bathroom is that spacious, that we could easily invite the whole village to our lavatory. Super hotel!

We can't enjoy the space for too long, as we're expected in the lobby at 17.15pm for our night walk. Njaka presents us with our guide Elysé, a real expert who will lead us today and tomorrow through the rainforest. He grew up here and like no other knows where and how you can spot the animals.

We haven't even left yet, or Elysé takes out a banana and rubs it out against a tree bark. We wait for about a minute, and almost directly after appears the first mouse lemur. A small ball of fluff of about 40 grams with large sparkling eyes. So cute! The animals are that fond of bananas, they almost immediately get lured by the smell of it. A great simple, but also very efficient trick to get to observe the animals from up close.

Afterwards, we walk a bit further along the track and watch several types of chameleons, some small frogs which seem to be made of elastic and a small boom slang (type of snake) which very strongly looks like a branch.

After an hour of walking, we end our evening tour and Njaka drops us back of at the Hotel, where straight away, we take a seat on the dinner table. The menu is unfortunately very limited and we can only choose between two dishes. We are a bit disappointed, but it's definitely made up for, as it tastes unbelievably good.

Around 20.00pm it begins to storm and we get to deal with some solid downfall. Hopefully we'll be spared this weather tomorrow during the walk. Let's wait and see!

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Pictures - photos of the Ride to Ranomafana in southern Madagascar and the mouse lemurs, frogs and camelions

2 October 2019

From the rainforest in Ranomafana to the Betsileo Country Lodge in Ambalavao

When we open the curtains this morning, we see a thick layer of mist hanging over the rainforest. That does not augur well, but we have no other choice than just do the walk.

At 7.30am, together with Elysé and his spotter we enter the rainforest of Ranomafana. Hopefully, we'll get to photograph the golden bamboo lemur, the main attraction of this location. Unluckily, it starts to rain, but fortunately, the temperature is still t-shirt proof and the dense forest ensures the necessary shelter.

From the reviews on the internet we could deduce that this would be a challenging hike, as we read the paths would continuously go up and down. And nothing of that was lied about or exaggerated. After a few minutes of walking, sweat is already dripping of our faces, while Elysé and the spotter hop and walk up like mountain goats, without making any effort. Frustrating!

Ranomafana is one of the most visited national parks of Madagascar. Therefore, we are understandably not the only vaza in the rainforest. Each couple or group has its own guide, making it so that we sometimes nearly stand on each other's head.

Especially when we after a while come across a little group of golden bamboo lemurs, ousting the tourists on a square meter to get the best position for the greatest picture. The animals are hidden behind branches and leaves so that they are very hard to see or difficult to photograph. The animals uninterruptedly hop from one to the other branch, which makes it like a little game, guessing which will be the most strategic place to shoot from. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose!

For a while we hang out at the golden bamboo lemurs until Elysé excitedly tells us to follow him. A very rare large bamboo lemur is spotted in the surrounding area! We hurry to get to the spot as quickly as possible, but this is far from easy we now no longer follow the paths, but run right through the rainforest. Dangerous to get yourself stuck or stumble over something. In addition, the rain of last night and this morning make everything super slippery. To make matters worse there are heaps of leeches that occasionally don't mind an exotic snack. Fortunately, they don't carry scary diseases, such as the ticks do, but it's obviously not preferable walking around with a bloody hump on your arm.

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Pictures - photos of the rainforest of Ranomafana to spot lemurs, camelions, frogs, etc.

In the end, we get to the place to be and start searching for the right spot to photograph the animal from its best side. Again, not an easy task, as this one too, is hidden very well and only shows its cute head sporadically. According to Elysé there are only two copies of the great bamboo lemur (father and son) within this territory. So, we're super-duper lucky when the second lemur shows itself.

Finally, Elysé takes us for one last time through the rainforest to admire the Milne Edward's sifaka. We observe the group of four animals within a relatively short distance and get the chance to take great amount of nice pictures.

Irrevocably our tour through the rainforest comes to an end and at around 12.00pm we make way to the parking lot, soaking in our own sweat. What a hell of a hike, but an even greater adventure and experience!

During lunch, we take the time to recover our weary body and find our regular energy level. Once back to normal, we get ready for out next trip we step into the car to drive to our next destination in Ambalavao.

Halfway, when we're driving through the city of Fianarantsoa, it suddenly starts to thunder, storm and rain heavily. We pass a school of teenagers, soaked to the bone, but subsequently don't lose their smile. The Madagascans are such unbelievable positive people, amazing!

In Fianarantsoa we witness the damage and problems such a rainstorm or havoc can cause in a short period of time. The streets are overflown and the flowing water causes a small prolapse of the earth. After about an hour, it stops raining and get to see a little dash of sun that lightens the landscape with a beautiful warm glow.

Just before 17.00am we arrive in Ambalavao at Betsileo Country Lodge, a beautiful farm in French style featuring a small swimming pool. After a warm welcome, we can choose our bungalow, and guess what; we opt for the largest and most luxurious room.

After we've rinsed off all the sweat from this morning and relish a proper shower, we go to the restaurant for dinner. Here too, the choice is limited, but the dishes are delicious.

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Pictures - photos of the rainforest of Ranomafana to spot lemurs, camelions, frogs, etc.

3 October 2019

From Ambalavao to the Tsaranoro Valley with overnight stay in the luxurious Tsara Camp

Today, Njaka grants us another sleep-in, as we'll not leave until 10am. We even have time to enjoy the radian sun at the swimming pool after breakfast. Relaxing with a little book in hand, is sometimes as much needed!

On Thursday, there's a big zebu market in Ambalavao, we therefore make it our first stop of the day. When we get out of the car, we're directly surrounded by several children begging or asking the vaza for sweets, money or pens. In the meantime, we've become so familiar with this ritual, that we just make our way to the market.

According to Njaka, today is a fairly quiet day, but we see a lot of large and small zebus traded on the market. On average, the zebus are sold for about 1,000,000 Ariary (250 EUR) per animal. A bargain if you'd ask us, but for the Madagascans it's a real a fortune.

Then we drive to the Anja reserve, a community project of which the entrance fee (15 EUR per person) is handed entirely to the local population. With this money, they can continue and extend their striving work and activities.

The Anja reserve is a small domain that's known for the presence of ring-tailed lemur. Excited and full of expectations we enter the camp with our local guide. Fortunately, the trail today it totally flat and the walk will only take up to 1.5 hours.

We've only left when several birds of prey already circle above our heads. We also admire a large chameleon that poses elegantly for our photo. Really not a bad start!

After a few minutes, we encounter the first group of ring-tailed lemurs. However, it's a hot day and already late in the day, resulting that most of the animals are taking their siesta high above in the trees. We take what we get, but then another spotter comes to signal another group of maki's a bit further on the track, that's much better visible.

And yes, there he is! King Julien in person, lazing on a tree branch surrounded by the rest of his family. As usual during this period of the year, the group also counts some females with their little ones. One of which less than a month old. The baby is very active and pushes its luck, climbing the branches on its own strength. Its balance is still not 100% on point and it wobbles a bit back and forth. Fortunately, mama's always around so it can quickly jump on her back. How adorable!

The cherry on the cake is yet to come. When we walk towards the exit we bump into a third group of ring-tailed lemurs, quenching their thirst on the riverside. They are very active and should make a short walk to cross and return to the forest. What a delight, one by one they pass our lens before they disappear in the woods. The group even includes a mother with her twins. A better ending to this short walk we couldn't wish for.

After a quick lunch at the edge of the Anja reserve, we go to the Tsaranoro Valley. We drive between two mountains, also known as 'the gateway to the South'. From here, the landscape changes again. The mountains are higher, barer and rougher. It's a very dry and hot region, enabling the grass to have red as its dominant colour. It results in some beautiful panoramas that are hard to capture in a picture.

Today we only drive about 68 km, but due to the poor Malagasy roads, it will take u another while. Especially the last part provides a great, free 'African massage'. Our 4x4-wagon even struggles to cross the steeper slopes.

The Tsaranoro Valley is a huge meadow between the impressive mountain Tsaranoro and the enormous mountain range of the Andringitra National Park. We are literally in the middle of nowhere surrounded by beautiful nature. Hotels here aren't present, just a few tents that due to the limited availability should be booked, long in advance.

Providentially, Le Voyageur managed to obtain a reservation in the most luxurious Tsara Camp. We sleep in a kind of safari tent, but build with it, there is a bathroom with outdoor shower. We even have a well-functioning toilet! Of course, the electricity is limited and only available between 06.00 and 08.00am and between 17.00 and 22.00pm. We are amazed when we hear that the restaurant features Wi-Fi, but unfortunately, we fail to login. Oh well, this will not keep us up today.

After check-in and drop-off of the luggage in our tent, we settle in the comfortable chairs on the terrace and enjoy the impressive scenery.

Our fixed 3-course menu, that's included in the price is served at 18.30pm. Tasty, but certainly not the best, ever. The dessert just consists of fruits, something we wisely pass, as we don't want to harm our intestines again.

At 22.00pm the electricity automatically shuts down in the entire camp and we have no other choice than get into bed early tonight. Sleep tight!

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Pictures - photos of the drive from Ambalavao to the Tsaranoro Valley, with overnight stay in the luxurious Tsara Camp

4 October 2019

Walk in Tsaranoro to spot ring-tailed lemurs

We awaken with a view on the imposing granite Tsaranoro mountain, from top to toe bathing in the sunlight. That softens the inconveniences of last night a big deal. Our hard-uncomfortable mattresses, combined with the heat in our tent caused a restless night. Not the ideal sleeping conditions!

The breakfast buffet in Tsara Camp is rather niggardly. When we arrive at 7.30am, the majority has already been taken. Except for two overripe bananas, a few pineapple slices and some super-thick pancakes, there is nothing left. Even the tea and coffee pots are empty. We'll try to satisfy ourselves with a jam sandwich and let go.

At 08.00am we start our walk with a local guide and strangely aren't allowed to choose ourselves, but get someone assigned from the village. The lady in question speaks just a little French, is very difficult to understand and on top of that not inclined to give a lot of explanation. Fortunately, she's accompanied by a trainee who speaks and understand quite a bit of English and is much more social and helpful.

We visit a village where the ethnic groups Bara and Betsileo live together. The Bara live in small mud-brick houses and the richer Betsileo in larger brick-built houses. Or was it vice versa?

We see how a girl of seven years old grinds the rice by continuously hitting the inside of a ton with a wooden pole. In the west, we call this child labour, here they say, 'helping out the family'. It's just how you look at it.

We're invited in one of the mud cottages. Furniture they do not have, just a burning charcoal fire where the lady of the house does her cooking, a few little stools on which the men sit and several mats that serve as mattresses. After only a few seconds the smoke from the coal fire penetrates our eyes and we start to crave fresh air. It's so hard to believe that people in the 21century still live this way!

Via a narrow path, we're guided to the small forest. On our way, we come across some tombs in which the Bara and the Betsileo put their dead ones at rest temporarily. After 4 or 5 years, they then submit the dead ones to their allocated definitive tomb in the rocks.

Once in the dry forest we pass through a lot of ascending and descending over trails with rocks and other irregularities. Meanwhile, the guide, but especially the trainee provides us with some more explanation about the different medicinal plants and trees that we encounter. Pharmacies here are absolutely unnecessary, all the remedies against malaria, syphilis and stomach complaints, are taken from fresh adjacent nature.

Finally, we come to a part of forest that belongs to the territory of a family ring-tailed lemurs. Luckily, some of the creatures are reasonably visible, but others, just as they did yesterday enjoy an afternoon siesta. It's still very warm (31°C).

Then we climb all the way to the top of the dry forest to get to a glimpse of the viewpoint where we get a beautiful sight of the spacious environment. On our way back to the village in the valley, we come across some of the photogenic chameleons, lizards and a serpent. Shortly before noon we arrive back at Tsara Camp.

With hindsight, we are a little disappointed in this walk as it really was meant to be a type of obstacle course, of which we hardly noticed anything. To be honest, we expected to see more lemurs and other life, but that can, of course, also be fault of the less motivated tour guide which actually did little effort to spot the animals.

From the Tsara Camp there's another Chameleon Hike you can do. Here you go up a super steep trail, is a lot more tiring and takes up the whole day. Rather a track for more trained hikers and not suitable for recreational trekkers as we are.

This afternoon we relax. We snooze, read, and chill in the comfortable chair with a fine drink at hand. At about 14.45pm, it starts to storm and pour down cats and dogs. The temperature suddenly decreases a whole lot and at some point, we can't even see the surrounding mountains through the dark clouds. We are particularly glad that we didn't opt for the total day-hike. Those hikers certainly will be soaked to the bone!

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Pictures - photos of the lemurs and chameleons in the Tsaranoro Valley, with overnight stay in the luxurious Tsara Camp

5 October 2019

Drive from Tsaranoro to the Isalo National Park in Madagascar

When we get out of the Tsara Camp at 8.00am, we are witnessing a real migration. One of the nearby villages arranges a market today and it attracts people from all surroundings. In the arid, sandy landscape, we see a ton of colourful dots. Fascinating!

After 1.5 hours bumping on a dirt road we will come back to the Route National of Madagascar. From now on Njaka can go full speed (ca 80 km/h) again, so we drive further south toward Ranohira, the gateway to Isalo National Park.

Initially, the arid landscape is especially dominated by the rugged Andringitra Mountains, but gradually the rocks disappear from our sight for us to drive through by a flat savannah-like area. Such a pity, there aren't any lions here, because this would be their ideal habitat.

A little further, we become witnesses of a serious accident. A flipped over bush taxi lays across the width of the road, and doesn't leave any space for anyone that needs to pass. Nothing left to do than wait until the little van is taken of the route and the injured people be removed and taken into the ambulance. In the meantime, all the inhabitants of the village around it have come to see what just happened. So here, too, they know the phenomenon of disaster tourism!

The last 50 km of our trip today, we drive on ca 1000 meters' height through an endless and empty landscape. We occasionally see a little cottage, but that's it. Just when we begin to wonder, what in the name of God we're doing here, we drive into a cute little town called Ranohira.

After the lunch, Njaka introduces us to Hery, our guide for the next two days. He tells us about the possible hiking options in Isalo National Park and explains what we will see. Sounds very promising!

Afterwards we drive for about 12 km through some unbelievable scenery that is a bit reminiscent of the state of Colorado in the United States. Beautiful sandy rocks that depending on the sunlight differ in colour. We stop nearly every 50m to capture this incredible countryside and our camera is working overtime.

When we enter the nicely decorated lobby of hotel Le Jardin du Roy, we're literally blown away! The building looks like a combination of an English cottage and a medieval castle with high ceilings and an impressive chandelier. We are warmly and get handed a welcome-drink and a refreshing tissue. Then we walk through the beautiful garden with large swimming pool, sun loungers and parasols to our room. Even though, the room is more like a cottage with a king-size four-poster bed, an XXL bathroom, a mansard room with an extra bed and a private terrace with a view of the large garden and horse meadow. Fantastic! This is far beyond our wildest expectations and we'd never thought that such luxury resorts would even exist in Madagascar.

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Pictures - photos of the ride from Tsaranoro to the Isalo National Park in Madagascar

A little before 17.00pm Njaka picks us up to watch the sunset at The Isalo Window', a rock hole that takes away a little of a photo frame. More impressively, you can see the sun set it in. We look for a strategic place, but as more and more people find the place, the more people unabashedly take a stand right in front of us. In the end, it's again buzzing with activity, an activity in which everyone tries to conquer the best possible spot, but really just stand right in front of each other. A pretty hilarious scene!

From 19.00pm onwards, the doors of restaurant Le Jardin du Roy open and we take place in a nicely set table. A little surprised we are, when appears that the restaurant doesn't serve à la carte, but only offers a choice of three starters, three main meals and three desserts. No problem, we're not that difficult and opt for a tasty zebu steak. The price is very decent for such a high-class hotel! For only two alcoholic drinks and two main dishes we owe 69,000 Ariary (about 17 EUR).

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Pictures - photos of the hotel Le Jardin du Roy in Madagascar

6 October 2019

Hiking in the Isalo National Park to spot ring-tailed lemurs

We get up early. Today on the program we have a reasonably long walk and now the morning sun is shining, we want to take some pictures of the impressive scenery around and on the way to the Isalo National Park. Thanks to our wide-angle lens we gain some fabulous panoramic shots.

Around 08.00am we pick up our guide, Hery in Ranohira and together we drive to the entrance of Isalo National Park, the second largest and one of the most visited national parks of Madagascar. On the parking, we therefore see that a few other tourists have already arrived, but really busy it fortunately isn't yet.

First, we walk along the beautiful vaulted rock formations and in the meantime Hery enthusiastically begins to tell us about the local fauna and flora. Then we dive into the dry forest and encounter a group of ring-tailed lemurs. Jackpot! Again, we shoot photos àt volonté of our new favourite animal. Since we don't get enough of these cute creatures, we stay here for a long time and inevitably get behind schedule.

Once we have said goodbye to the lemurs, we go down to the bottom of the canyon and walk along the small stream in the direction of Blue and Black Pool. Another walk we can't complete without making any effort. It's full of obstacles, various pebbles, rocks and narrow ridges. The views of the exuberant green vegetation that we get in return, however, is the more than worth the effort. At the bottom of the canyon are no

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Pictures - photos of the Isalo National Park in Madagascar

Still we hike, climb, balance and repeat for over an hour, when we arrive at the Blue and Black Pool. Swimming in these natural and fairly deep waters is definitely possible, but most of the 'vaza' keep their clothes on and from the rocks look how the local youth splashes around and enjoys the water. Amusing!

After a beneficent rest at the Black Pool, we make our return along the same road and walk towards the picnic area. Here most tourists bring their own packed lunches, however we opt for a delicious zebu brochette. Made locally on the improvised fires available. It's not cheap to Malagasy standards. For an appetizer (greens), the zebu skewered and a dessert (pineapple and banana), we pay 30,000 Ariary (7.5 EUR) per person. A soft drink is 5000 Ariary. But the setting is unique and in the meantime, we financially support the local population.

We are still nibbling away our zebu when Hery asks us if we want to see a boa. What kind of question is that; of course, we want to see a boa! The beast contentedly lays on a trunk on the ground near the picnic area where, among other things, we can admire a few large chameleons.

In the meantime, the white, cute, little sifaka shows its head, and again all the cameras work overtime. The white sifaka is also called the dancing lemur. It only jumps on the back of its legs, and when it moves sideways onto the ground floor; he swings his two front legs in the air at the same time. Very funny! On the other hand, it's also a sad story. According to Hery the rest of his group left this territory and thereby this animal alone.

Our attention is then withdrawn by a group of ring-tailed lemurs who've also started noticed it's lunchtime. They begin to eat leaves and fruit of the trees and uninterruptedly snack away. Sometimes, they need to find balance on extremely thin branches and lose their gravity, but when they do, they just hang upside down and continue whatever they were eating. Resulting in hilarious images!

Then we're done for the day and around 15.00pm Henry takes us back to the parking lot. We are sweaty and tired, but also happy and fulfilled.

In Le Jardin du Roy we quickly jump into the pool and enjoy the pleasant afternoon sun with a view on the surrounding sandy rocks. A man does not need much to be happy!

madagaskar isalo national park

Pictures - photos of the Isalo National Park in Madagascar

7 October 2019

Beautiful sand rocks, walking branches, snakes, lizards and scorpions

As usual we start the day with an early breakfast. Another rather incomplete service, because unlike many of our previous hotels, at Le Jardin du Roy they don't feature a buffet style. That makes the offer rather limited because the plate of freshly sliced fruit and glass of fruit juice we pass on, out of respect for our intestines. Though, we're served some delicious chocolate bread, rolls and croissants, but unfortunately there is no cheese or yogurt on the table and we only have choice of two types of jam. They don't even ask if we'd like some eggs with it all. A small disappointment.

Today on the program; our last activity of this tour in Madagascar. Tour guide Hery promises that it will be an 'easy walk' on the plateau of the canyon. First, we walk to the top via the carved steps in the rocks, but once we have arrived, there are no large height differences to cover and we stand on a large, dry arena with here and there some trees spread out.

While walking Hery tells us, among others, about the Bara-tribe's traditions and how they buried their death's in the crevices of the rocks. On this location, it's quite unlikely we'll encounter lemurs, but we do see some walking sticks of such 20 cm, two snakes, a number of lizards and a mini baby-scorpion of less than one centimetre in size. The absence of lemurs is more than compromised by the beautiful views on the canyon and the eroded sandy cliffs with their varied colour palette.

At the end of the plateau, it's time to descend to finally arrive at a natural water pool with a little waterfall. There's even a small beach, but unfortunately no cocktail bar! Many tourists wisely make use of the opportunity to jump in the water and rinse off their sweat. We, however, keep our clothes on, as we know that in Madagascar parasites may be present in stagnant water. No risk!

Then we return to the trail and trek the same route in the opposite direction. This way, we see the same rock formations yet again from a different angle and in a different light.

The total hike takes up about 6 km and is perfectly feasible for people in a lesser condition or those with a lower stamina. Around 12.00pm we get back to the car park and hang around in Ranohira for lunch.

Since it's forbidden to fly drones in the Isalo National Park, we play around with it around the terrain of Le Jardin du Roy. This way we still obtain some great pictures and videos of the beautiful surroundings and colourful sandy rocks.

The rest of the day we unwind and nap at the brink of the refreshing pool. How relaxing!

madagaskar sand rocks walking branches snakes lizards scorpion

Pictures - photos of the sand rocks, walking branches, snakes, lizards, scorpion in madagascar

8 October 2019

Enjoy Le Jardin du Roy and return to Antananarivo with a stopover in Fianarantsoa

For as long as possible we want to enjoy all the facilities of Le Jardin du Roy, and can convince Njaka to stay a little longer and don't leave until 10.15am. Now, we have some time left to relish in the last rays of sunshine at the swimming pool, just before we dive into the Belgian autumn and winter.

Afterwards, there is no escape and we hit the road again, heading back to the Antananarivo. It's nearly impossible to reach the capital in just one day. That's why we bridge this distance of this long and boring drive over three days.

We drive the exact same route as we got here, along the Route National No 7. Now, however in opposite direction, resulting in some new view points and other spectacular panoramas of beautiful Madagascar.

Once we have passed the picturesque surroundings of Isalo National Park, we make a 50km passage along the desolate savanna highlighting high and dry grass. Fun at the start of it, but after a while we've seen it all and start to niddle-noodle. Afterwards, we finally get back to a more attractive landscape and drive along rolling arid hills. At last, we're once again greeted by the green and spread out rice fields; it feels a bit like 'home-coming'.

Since we don't immediately encounter any restaurants that are 'vaza-worthy' (read: restaurant of which our stomachs and intestines will be resistant), we complete the drive in one go and survive on chocolate biscuits.

Along the way, we'll make a few short stops to take some additional photos and hand out sweets to the children, but much else interesting doesn't happen today.

Around 16.30pm we arrive in the big city of Fianarantsoa, which, just like Antananarivo consists of three levels; a lower town, a middle part and upper city. Njaka first drives all the way to the top, where we witness a viewpoint with view over the whole city that is lit up by the low sun. Then we drive to Zomatel Hotel Located in the busy and noisy centre of the town. We fear the worst in terms of noise, but after all discover it's not that bad. The room is larger and more taken care of than we expected, but, of course, can't compete with our previous stay in Le Jardin du Roy.

As the hotel-restaurant doesn't open until 19.00 and we just ate some biscuits this afternoon, we make way to the dinner table with our hysterical hunger. A large group enters just in front of us causing serious delays and chaos in the kitchen. How unfortunate! We wait for more than three-quarters of an hour on our appetizer and subsequently our main dishes are served separately with 15 minutes' difference. Not ideal, of course, but fortunately the zebu steak tastes delicious.

madagaskar fianarantsoa

Pictures - photos the return trip to Antananarivo with a stopover in Fianarantsoa in Madagascar

9 October 2019

From Fianarantsoa to Antsirabe

At breakfast, we're assigned to a table with an awfully dirty tablecloth. We ask for another table and may sit on the adjacent one, of which the cloth has slightly fewer stains. Hygiene and cleanliness is in the Zomatel restaurant apparently less important! The breakfast itself is well cared for, but regrettably without eggs and except for a jar of jam, there are no other spreads.

At 8.30am we start our second phase in the direction of Antananarivo. A lot of today we'll spend in the mountainous area and dive from one to another village with bright green rice fields in between. The reddish clay soil returns in the landscape and causes a beautiful contrast. Most of the photos we have taken on the way here already, but better safe than sorry, we get our cameras out and take a few more. We just can't get enough of these beautiful panoramas!

For the second time, we come across a little truck and bush taxi that are refrained from the road and lay on their sides at the edge of the track. The passengers of the bush taxi quietly wait for the next piece of transport with all their luggage. At first sight, we don't see any injured, but ambulance or police to help and support any victims isn't even present.

We lunch again in hotel restaurant L'Artisan in Ambositra. The vocal and dance group that was here last week, today is performing again. As if we had a deja vu!

During the second part of the ride, the blue sky makes room for dark clouds, which will inevitably will result in a serious downpour. A pity, with the disappearance of the bright sunlight the landscape appears a lot less appealing and rather grey.

Around 16.00pm we arrive in the busy Antsirabe and for the third, but final time check-in at Hotel Plumeria, which by now had become kind of our home base in Madagascar.

madagaskar antsirabe

Pictures - photos of Fianarantsoa to Antsirabe in Madagascar

10 October 2019

From Antsirabe to the capital Antananarivo in Madagascar

On our last day in Madagascar we get up super early as it's about a four-hour drive to Antananarivo and, very last-minute asked Njaka for a small detour to a lemur park 22km south-west of the capital.

At the departure at 07.30am the temperature comprises a scanty 16°C in Antsirabe and there are quite a lot of clouds. Not preferable for shorts and t-shirts! The landscape in this region neither is as spectacular as the last few days and we pass more and more larger towns and cities, which are always buzzing. Not much of an exciting ride, so we don't even stop to take panorama photos.

Around 11.00am we approach the capital Antananarivo where the traffic is dreadful and you'll need the eyes of a chameleon in order to observe and be able to see the other road users coming from all sides. We even get a little headache of all exhaust gases and other filth in the air. Such a revolting, sickening city!

At last, we arrive at the lemur park around 12.30 (40,000 Ariary per person, including guide). It's a private domain where seven lemur species live together on a limited area of 5 ha. The animals don't really live in captivity, but can't leave the domain because, on the one side, they're bordered by a small river and on the other side, by a high wall. With some food, the lemurs are lured by the staff so that they become better visible for the visitors. As a result, we have the impression that we are walking in a zoo, but it's a must-do if you'd like to see several different lemur species in a short period of time and from close by.

During our hike of 1.5 hours through the small domain we see both the crown sifaka, the Coquerel's sifaka (dancing sifaka), the brown lemur, the mongoose lemur, the black and white lemur and the ring-tailed lemur. Only the bamboo lemur is missing on our list. For a last time, we take out our camera and take a couple of interesting pictures of these unique animals.

Afterwards, we drive through the busy traffic to Hotel Relais des Plateaux, which is located close to the airport. Here we can make use of a dayroom and spend our last hours in Madagascar.

Here we also say goodbye to Njaka, our loyal driver who has assisted us excellently in the past three weeks. We even get a little emotional! A final group photo and then it's a definitive end.

We enjoy an aperitif by the pool of Relais des Plateaux, take a refreshing shower and eat our latest zebu steak. At 22.00pm it's time to load the suitcases in the transfer van and drive to the airport in 10 minutes of Antananarivo, where we, at 1.00am at night board for our 10.5-hour flight to Paris.

The film selection from Air France, still isn't very fascinating, but fortunately we are tired enough to sleep a few hours. In terms of food we get just a small snack and a late breakfast in the morning. The service again, is somewhat disappointing, as we must serve ourselves when we want something to drink.

In Paris, we are told that our short KLM flight to Amsterdam has been delayed by the fierce wind in the Netherlands. How annoying, at the end of the trip it all goes wrong and must cover almost 5 hours of transfer time in the Charles De Gaulle Airport.

After we land at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam and have picked up our luggage, we take the transfer bus to the garage where we've parked our car and hit the road for our final stage of this trip, direction Antwerp. We arrive at 20.15pm. Another experience, adventure and journey ticked off the bucket list!

madagaskar antananarivo lemurs chameleons

Pictures - photos of Antsirabe to the capital Antananarivo in madagascar, sifakas and lemures

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