A trip to remember Madagascar - Part 1
Louise Stanion, Africa Product Manager, flags up the last of her ten most memorable experiences from her October 2010 Madagascar trip.
1) Witnessing The End of the Drought: Mandrare River Camp, Madagascar
As we were getting into our jeep, ready to depart for a visit to the local market, we heard a cacophony of whoops and screams and singing coming from the area in front of camp. It seemed like there was something important happening as all the camp staff dropped their daily tasks and started to run in the direction of the river. I grabbed my iPhone and joined in the dash.
Mandrare River Camp is beautifully (and safely) located to overlook over the Mandrare River bed, with the tents spread out under the tree canopy. On our arrival it was bone dry and had not seen a drop of rain for a month and a half. In the dry season local women walk hours every day to collect clean water.
There had been a series of impressive and heavy nightly thunderstorms during our stay but we didn't expect the sight that greeted us...
Creeping slowly down the river bed, carrying a layer of dirty foam washed down from the hills, a snake of water emerged. Within just a few hours the river bed was full from bank to bank. Insects jumped in front of the water, logs were carried downstream and the celebrating locals could look forward to easier water access. We had just witnessed a 'flash flood' which is distinguished from a regular flood by a timescale of less than six hours.
Although this cannot be guaranteed as a regular sighting at Mandrare River Camp, what we can assure you of is the opportunity to:
- spot ring tailed, mouse, white foot sportive and Verreux's sifaka lemur
- interact with the local Antandroy tribe at the market and
- receive some of the best service, guiding and food in Madagsacar
Mandrare River Camp offers an exclusive, and authentic wildlife and cultural experience far away from the madding crowds. I thoroughly recommend this camp. For more details, call an Africa specialist on 020 7873 5000.
2) Whale Watching from Manafiafy, MadagascarManafiafy Beach & Rainforest Lodge is the sister property of Mandrare River Camp. The six private bungalows are enormous and situated right on a beautiful, unspoilt beach. The activities range from rainforest walks to spot lemurs, boat safaris through the mangrove swamps for magnificent birding, swimming, snorkelling and whale watching by land and sea.
We had already seen the humped backs and flipping tails of the whales from the whale watching tower, situated just behind the beach. Now was the time to board the Manafiafy boat and get closer.
Very soon we were surrounded by 4 separate groups of whales rolling and breaching. No sooner had one humpback appeared behind us another one appeared on the front right. It was a thrilling experience.
Whales at Manafiafy can be seen from the beginning of June right up until late November, although the absolute best time is mid-August to mid-November. Humpback whales can also be seen on Sainte Marie Island (mid-July to September) on the Madagascar's east coast. Excursions can be pre-booked from Princess Bora Lodge.
3) Boating Through the Mangroves at Manafiafy, SE Madagascar
Dripping with Madagascar's unique vegetation and alive with the colourful endemic birds for which the country is well known, this peaceful boat ride through the Mangroves was another highlight of my stay at Manafiafy Beach & Rainforest Lodge. The still water provided a perfect mirror to reflect the prolific 'Traveller's Palm', a tree which can be used as an emergency drinking supply because the sheaths of the stems hold rainwater. The enormous paddle-shaped leaves are lined symmetrically in a distinctive fan shape.
Lemurs are endemic to the island of Madagascar and are named after the lemures (ghosts or spirits) of Roman mythology due to the ghostly vocalizations, reflective eyes and nocturnal habits of some species.