9 independent reviews for Southern Madagascar holidays, Lemurs, baobabs & beaches

Reviews for Southern Madagascar holidays, Lemurs, baobabs & beaches

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review 10 Nov 2018

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

The wildlife and the culture are strikingly different but for us, the whole package was so impressively arranged and executed: it made the whole holiday special.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Be clear about what you want to see and do and trust the tour operator to fit the package around your needs.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

This holiday is definitely environmentally sound, as much as one can be where travel is involved and indeed locals approached us to thank us for coming because they badly need tourism and the money it brings. We would encourage anyone to visit: this is a fragile environment in what is, in many ways, a fragile country and they need help.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

We were very impressed with all aspects of this holiday and felt that it was faultless throughout. The itinerary suited us and went like clockwork, our guide and driver were excellent, the hotels and food were beyond our expectations and we saw a lot more wildlife than we dared hope. This tour operator is highly recommended.

review 3 Nov 2018

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

National parks, lemurs and chameleons.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

All breakfasts are Continental. Eggs were usually available at extra cost. Warm clothes needed early and late. Nights were colder than expected, but that meant a good nights sleep!

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Tourism is essential to the economy. Bought beautiful crafts for very little money. Hopefully our attitude to the exploitation of the country by deforestation and other things will help.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

Great holiday. Stayed in some lovely places. People were very friendly. Food was good and rum cheap!!

review 22 Oct 2018

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

The whole package was an exciting adventure. This was my second visit to Madagascar. The whole package was an exciting adventure. Two years ago I went to Madagascar with another Company. This holiday was far superior in every way. It was well organised and had a degree of flexibility. Matthew Williams-Ellis (the Professional Photographer) excelled with his tuition and attention to detail when teaching photography. Apart from Madagascar itself the most exciting times were spent rising at 4.30 am to photograph sunrise / the golden hour. At night perched on a rock to photograph a sunset. Last night we took photos of a Baobab under the stars. Pioneer's link with Madamax ensured we had excellent accommodation, well informed Guide and first class drivers. I have traveled with several companies. In future i will always choose to travel with this one.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Book with this operator. Everything is well organised, well in advance. They are always available 'at the end of the phone' to give advice and answer questions. To understand 'giving tips' when / how much and to whom.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

I am sure our visit benefited local people in supporting their economy, respecting their way of life, appreciation of all they are doing in conservation.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

This was the best holiday I have ever had. I enjoyed every minute. The group size of eight people was ideal. My previous visit to Madagascar (with another company) was like 'a school trip' rigid and over organised. This trip was very well organised, yet had a degree of flexibility.

review 24 Aug 2018

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

The lemurs! But honestly there were so many memorable experiences from this trip that will stand out for a lifetime! I honestly felt like I was away much longer and in multiple countries, such was the diversity of landscape throughout the trip. Highlights for me included: 1) standing in the forests of Analamazaotra Special Reserve under the largest species of lemurs (Indris) as family groups called to each other, echoing throughout the forests in a beautifully eerie tone (which moved me to tears); 2) hiking in Ranomafana National Park's rain forest and encountering various groups of lemurs, especially when a male Red-fronted Brown lemur came 1m away from me and looked into my eyes; 3) hearing different calls made 4) walking along UNESCO World Heritage site Avenue of Baobabs in the morning mist when other tourists weren't around; 4) night walk through Kirindy Forest and finding many nocturnal lemurs among the trees, with the unspoiled Southern Hemisphere starry sky poking from the canopy- this was after spotting an adult fossa in the wild; 5) catching the breeze of the piroque when sailing from Ifaty to Manguilly for the Dr. Seuss-like trees of Renaila Forest Reserve, which also serves as a rescue center for captive lemurs returning to the wild!

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

I booked the Madagascar South West itinerary with a group, and extended on my own to Morondava and Kirindy Reserve afterwards, which was a fantastic addition! If you can, add additional days at Andasibe to include exploring Mantadia side of the National Park, another day in Ranomafana to enable hiking the trails beyond the main tourist circuit/loop, and an extra day in Isalo National Park. I would have LOVED camping 1 night in Isalo to have both sunrise/sunset in that spectacular canyon environment. I also wish I would have included Tsingy de Bemaraha in the add-on component, but am definitely going back to Madagascar to do and see more!

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

I think Madagascar is a country that is very much in need of promoting ecotourism in order to safe guard its natural resources. It was difficult at time to experience the poverty and begging, and witness the vastly deforested land when travelling from location to location. So yes, I believe the trip overall helped boost the economy and support jobs. I am glad we had both a driver AND guide, while also involving local guides at each of the sites for their expertise.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

I've travelled quite extensively and have the great fortune of living/working in some amazing destinations in the field of conservation, and I would say Madagascar is probably my favorite place. It truly is a one-off, and I can't wait to go back with my husband to share the magic of lemurs, wildlife, diversity and people/culture with him!

review 23 May 2018

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

Difficult to say as there were so many wonderful moments. The quality of the accommodation was very high. The guide and driver professional and extremely knowledgeable. And of course the lemurs were glorious.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Take a kettle if you like a cuppa. You do need some stamina - even with 2 night stops the programme is packed. You can say no to some of the visits - we would have liked one or 2 afternoons off to enjoy the facilities of the lodges.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

In terms of employment - yes. We also visited a womenís co operative (weaving) it was not on the itinerary, we found out about it by chance. Our guide was involved with the forest and wildlife welfare. The reef at our beach resort was barren and we did not buy from people selling turtles and dried starfish. Tourism funds conservation and stops deforestation in protected areas. (To be advised to take biodegradable soap when you are covering yourself in deet daily seemed a little pointless - maybe thatís just me!) there was a lot of poverty and the contrast between the luxury lodges and what the locals lives in made me wince.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

An amazing experience. Well run itinerary, we felt very safe throughout our stay. The lodges were wonderful.

review 13 Aug 2018

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

The Indri Indri and Isalo

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Be prepared for the long periods in the jeep - but all worth it for the amazing experiences you will have. Pack light and take a good camera. Expect to have incredible sightings of the lemurs.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Mostly. There was one visit to a gem factory where animals were kept in poor conditions. I was not happy about this particular visit. All the other visits I feel were supportive of the people and conservation.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

Excellent - this was an amazing trip to see the lemurs. We saw 16 species, most in fairly close proximity as well as other wildlife. There was some inflexibility with food which caused us to go without eating on some days but this didn't detract from our adventure overall.

Read the operator's response here:

Many thanks for your review. We do really appreciate your comments and are delighted you had an amazing trip. Yes I agree with you some of the journeys on the South West trip are long- but plenty of life to see on the road and as you said - worth it to visit the national parks. We appreciate you bringing to our attention the gem factory. With all of our trips, there is some flexibility as to where clients stop depending on what they want to see, the guide etc, so I don't believe this has been on our itinerary before. We do not promote anywhere that keeps animals in poor conditions (which sadly is not uncommon in Madagascar) so will ensure we communicate this to the factory and will exclude this from any future stops unless they are able to make changes. Regarding food, I know this was a concern before you went. The hotel restaurants tend to have 1 or 2 options only, but always a vegetarian option (as we pass this information on in advance). Generally vegetarians are fairly well catered for, so I hope this was the case with you. When I was there in June, as a vegetarian, there tended to be lots of rice and vegetables (not much/ any choice - but it was fine). I know your husband was more particular in his food options - I will email you to get a few more details, to see if there is anything we can ask the hotels to improve in the future. In Madagascar vegetables and rice tend to be the main dish - with chicken, zebu steak or fish as the side. Anyway, thanks again - we really do appreciate you taking the time to submit a review. I will be in touch shortly.

review 29 May 2017

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

Everyday was different and memorable.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Definitely look for the guide named Henry 1. He makes the trip more fun and one of the best guides ever.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Yes I think so.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

The Madagascar vacation was an absolute success. Wonderful country and a lot a lot to offer to the tourists. My guide Hendry did a great job ! Very friendly, helpful and knowledgeable. And the driver Henry 2 very patient.

review 31 Oct 2017

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

The Lemur island near Andasibe, where we were able to touch tons of lemurs!

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Expect long drive hours and different accommodation standards vs. Europe. Also, tourists don't blend in. You're always an outsider in Madagascar, and will always be treated as a foreign tourist. It's not the place to go if you want to blend in with the local population (especially because they're French and English are quite poor).

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Yes

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

It was a great experience, but I think the agency could have done a better work at managing the group's expectations. We were not expecting such long drives, some people were shocked by some of the hotels' conditions or the knowledge level of the local guides. To me, the most annoying part was not these aspects, but the fact that the other group members kept complaining about them all the time. I would have preferred for everyone to be on the same page and enjoy the adventure!

Read the operator's response here:

Many thanks for your review. We really do appreciate your comments. I am delighted you had a great trip overall - I agree with you, it is a shame that a couple of other people in your group were not on the same page as you. We really do try and manage expectations with Madagascar but it is not always possible. Madagascar is an amazing country - but it is not an easy country to travel in and is far less developed touristically than many other 'adventurous destinations' people visit. As you quite rightly point out - it is not a place where you can simply blend in. We include a practical information document where we highlight the importance of 'going with the flow etc' in Madagascar. This document also tries to highlight the distances travelled in Madagascar (on poor roads) - every year we attempt to change our itineraries to highlight how long these journeys are - but it is forever changing - we will look to improve these again. We use the best available accommodation - in some places this really is good (eg. Isalo, Ifaty, Tana) in others (eg. Ranomafana) it really can be very basic. This is especially true in October which is peak season, so good accommodation gets booked up quickly. Thanks again for taking the time to feedback.

review 16 Nov 2014

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

The most memorable part of the holiday was visiting the National Parks in Madagascar.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Beware of the tour description because it's deceiving. For example, day 4 of my tour was described as: "We will set off early this morning towards Antsirabe (via Tana)... Once in Tana, the journey takes approximately 3+ hours on a good, windy road." Well, the reality is that the road has sections in such bad condition that the car could go no faster than 10 miles per hour, the whole trip took 7 hours, and therefore the day was spent traveling in a vehicle without air conditioning.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Somewhat. It benefited the driver and the guide working for us, the hotel and restaurant folks (like in any tour) and the few street vendors from whom we bought souvenirs.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

It was interesting, at times beautiful, and often exhausting due to long trips between points, poor road conditions, and lack of AC in the car.

Read the operator's response here:

Many thanks for your comments, and sorry that you only rated the trip 'ok'. This is one of our most popular and well loved trips as takes in some of the best National Parks in Madagascar. Madagascar isn't for everyone though as road conditions are poor and any exploration of the country does involve some long drives (it is definately far removed from New York!) For me the magic of Madagascar more than makes up for this, but for others can take away some of the enjoyment of the trip. Thank you for pointing out your confusion with the itinerary and we will definately look at changing the tour description on day 4, to make it clearer to everyone as it is a full day drive as road conditions in Madagascar are certainly primitive. In the itinerary on day 2 we hightlight that we drive from Antanarivo (Tana) to Andasibe National Park which we describe in the itinerary as a 2 - 3 hour drive. On day 4 we drive back to Tana (however just assumed that clients realise this is still a 2 - 3 hour drive) and as highlighted once in Tana the journey takes approximately 3 plus hours. We will now include the journey time clearer for you, and as the roads have got even worse this year - will up the times accordingly. Most of our vehicles are 4wd and some have air-conditioning. Regarding benefitting the local people, there is a lot of benefits that you don't see. This included using a local partner (all local employees) to arrange all the logistics, employing a number of guides and arranging educational English lessons on a regular basis. But most important is that a percentage of all the trips we run in Madagascar - goes to fund a community nursery (reforestation) project (which you didn't see on this itinerary as it was only a short 10 day trip). In 2011, we (in conjunction with our local partners) bought the land for the community and setup a reforestation project at Italavina. We employ a gardner who works with the mayor, the local school and the community to help create a sustainable nursery with different endemic trees - which are used for both food and for reforestation. We appreciate you constructive feedback and will definately look to improve both the itinerary and also clients awareness of exactly how we are aiming to help the communities in Madagascar

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