Saturday 14 May 2011

Madagascar Honeymoon, Post #1: 8 to 11 April 2011

Here we go! Honeymoon pictures! I hope you enjoy! Most of them are mine, but the ones with the little 'M' in the corner are from Marco's camera.

After leaving London on Friday, 7 April, trying to recreate the battery chicken experience overnighting in Amsterdam, and moving on to Paris the next morning to catch our long haul, we arrived in Madagascar's capital, Antananarivo, late on 8 April. This was not too bad, considering we met some Americans on the trip, whose journey from Idaho had taken them 55 hours...

Here's Mae, hoping to be packed, and some pictures from the Yotel in Schiphol.




I don't think I've ever had a meal on a plane that did not contain chicken...

Flying along the Nile and past a Sahara settlement.

We met our driver Eric, who picked us up at Ivato airport and drove us to Hotel Palissandre. It was warm, there was lightning in the clouds, but the streets of the city were empty, except for a few stray dogs and a few stragglers who were warming themselves by little fires they had lit in potholes.

At the hotel we were greeted with some minty sweet iced tea and were happy to be shown to our bed! Madagascar is only 2 hours ahead of London, so we do not really have to deal with jet lag, but travelling does take it out of you.

9 April

The next day, Eric picks us up at a humane 10am.  He takes us for a quick drive around town, showing us the various quarters, like the one with all the government buildings, the one with the big wholesale market, Chinatown, and so on. Tana, which is what Antananarivo is called for short, seems quieter than London, even though the streets are bustling with people and cars. But the air is somewhat worse, the smell of exhaust fumes wafts heavily through the open car window.

This is the view from our hotel window across the Zoma market:

We get out of the car at a view point, which gives us a scale of how big this city, built on several hills, actually is. As soon as we step towards the balustrade, there is a kid on our left, asking for sweets, and a guy on our right, hoping we might need his services as a guide. This will happen over and over again during our three weeks on the island. Also, we notice that there are chickens everywhere. Dead or alive, for sale at the markets, carried in baskets or by their feet, dangling from a persons arm, foraging by the roadside.

The next stop is the Andafiavaratra Palace, a baroque building that houses a museum with items that were salvaged when the royal palace (Rova) burned down a few years ago. 

After this, we go to a restaurant for a drink, as it is HOT outside! Marco and I each discover what will be our poison of choice for the duration of the trip: he likes Three Horses Beer, THB for short, I like Menthe a L'Eau, mint syrup mixed with water.

We take the afternoon to drive out of town, to the royal summer palace Ambohimanga. This is a popular weekend spot and there are people playing music and singing in the courtyard, and a soccer match between two teams of kids. I also experience my first ever hole-in-the-ground toilet, which I almost fall into. Even though there is no running water, the WC attendant offers a watering can for me to wash my hands. Very civilized!

There were beautiful carvings everywhere, giant poinsettias and the royal open air bath.


That's us, with Tana in the very background, shrouded by misty rain.


That night, there was a thunderstorm and hours of lightning in the sky afterwards.

10 April

It's Sunday, and Eric picks us up at 9 o'clock, to go on our 4-hour drive towards Andasibe. We drive past eucalyptus forests, rivers banks full of wild ginger plants and through villages with the typical red clay houses. Everywhere, people are busy making charcoal, and we can smell the burning wood everywhere. In this area, they use the eucalyptus tree, which generates and grows back quickly, but in some areas of the country, the charcoal business is a big danger to indigenous forests.

At the halfway point, we stop at a private wildlife park.

There is an enclosure with many different types of chameleon, which our guide Jose points out to us. They have the most amazing colours, which do not change with their environment, but with their mood, as their skin tone is influenced by their hormones. Look at the fellow with the funky orange eye shadow!


After the chameleons, were were made to meet some other critters up close and personal. Here are the boa and the two centipedes!

These are leaf tail geckos.

And this is the smallest kind of chameleon there is in the world, the Brookesia.

A tomato frog.

A leaf-nosed snake and one of the nicer loos we encountered.

Afterwards, we stopped for lunch. Marco had chicken in tamarind sauce, and I had chicken in Coca Cola sauce. Don't frown, that's nothing Nigella has not cooked before. Although I think she uses coke with ham. Another THB for Marco, and I try Bonbon Anglais, which is Malagasy soda and tastes super-sweet, like the candy that my bank used to give me as a reward when I was a kid and deposited money in my savings account.

After driving a little bit more, we arrive in Andasibe, and at the Vakona Forest Lodge, our home for the next two nights. It's our first glimpse of rain forest and the climate is very hot and humid. Our room is lovely, but everything smells of damp. We go for a quick walk in the forest just before dusk, and when we sit on the porch of our bungalow after, the forest comes alive with the sounds of insects and frogs.

We have the most delicious dinner, with zebu stew and fish in a creole sauce, play 3 games of pool and retire to bed, excited about our first nature walk and possibly first lemurs the next morning.

11 April

We get up at 5:30 for breakfast and Eric drives us to the entrance of the national park. We meet our guide, William, and he takes us into the forest. We do hear something that sounds like whale song in the distance, and he explains that we are listening to the call of the Indri, the largest kind of lemur.

Then, maybe 15 minutes into our walk, we do actually spot a group of these stunning creatures. We are so close to the lemurs that we can see the soft hairs of their fur and hear them chew on the leaves they're eating. This is what we wanted to come to Madagascar for, and I never imagined it would be such a breeze to find the animals that I have been obsessing about for some time now.

After our guide has gone on a little scouting trip, he returns and tells us to follow him. He has located another little group of lemurs, this time we are looking at red-bellied lemurs, which are quite rare. William tells us they maybe see them once our twice a month. We are were feeling very lucky!

It was quite hard to focus on the little creatures through all the leaves, so here's the one photo that turned out:


We kept walking, and this snail crossed our path. You can not really determine its size looking at this, but it was as long as my hand!

After looking at a lot of lush foliage, we were in luck again and found this little family of Diademed Sifakas. They have the most beautiful colouring, cream and golden orange. Their faces resemble that of E.T.

Our forth and final species that we spotted on this tour was the Grey Bamboo Lemur. The one we saw seemed a bit shy, and moved along quickly when he saw us. These lemurs are quite small, maybe 30 cms tall, and very, very cute.

We also saw this bird of paradise, but I cannot remember its name. The nest is the one of a weaver bird.

And finally, a nice picture of a gecko.

I hope this gives you an impression of our first few days, I will post more tomorrow. I took so many pictures, it will probably be Madagascar week on All The Live Long Day. I hope you don't get bored by this equivalent of a slide show. For me, it's fun to relive the trip this way!

If you are interested in following me further on this journey, here are more photos from our stay:

© Annika - All The Live Long Day (unless otherwise stated)


  1. Wow - I love these photos! Looks like you had such an amazing trip. Would love to go to madacascar.

    The thunderstorm photo is amazing!

  2. Schöne Fotos....und ganz schön mutig mit der Boa.Ich mag ja keine Schnecken, aber das Schneckenhaus sieht einfach gut aus.Bin schon auf die nächsten gespannt.

  3. Great photos. Can't wait to see more of them.

    Well done for getting one a a chameleon feeding, thats super fast in real time isn't it?

  4. @Vicky

    Thanks. I was cheating, though. The guide pinned a poor grasshopper on the end of a stick, so I knew when to hold down the shutter release... :o)

  5. oh wow! looks like an amazing trip :)I love all the wildlife shots

  6. Just watched an Attenborough show about Madagascar! Such an amazing place. We saw that little chameleon.
    I want to go now, and see those amazing trees!

  7. These are wonderful Annika.
    Thank you for being kind enough to "take us along" on your journey!

  8. tolle Fotos...was für Farben! liebe Grüße

  9. Hallo,

    also ganz tolle Photos und ein richtig schoener Blog - habe jetzt Fernweh :)

    Liebe Gruesse



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