7 independent reviews for Small group holidays to Madagascar

Reviews for Small group holidays to Madagascar

SHOW
2
4
0
1
0

review 14 Nov 2016

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

So many highlights. It was wonderful to see such a variety of lemurs, chameleons and other wildlife (including a fossa!). The snorkelling at Ifaty added another wildlife dimension with a real profusion and variety of fish. Hearing indri (the biggest lemurs) singing - once from immediately beneath a family group and once in the distance from my lodge balcony - felt very special. Climbing the Grand Tsingy de Bemaraha with harnesses, ladders, platforms and sheer drops (and in 38 degree heat!) was one of the more physically challenging things I've done and a huge personal achievement. But it was also fascinating to see the lives of all the people along the way. It is such hard work for people to get by - ploughing, planting rice, making bricks by hand, burning charcoal, transporting water in jerrycans from distant wells... the list goes on. It made such a powerful impact on me, so that even after a entire day of "just" travelling, my head was full of everything I'd seen and taken in.

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

Be prepared for long travel days - it's a very large country with poor roads, so it takes a long time getting from A to B. But you'll see a lot going on outside your bus or 4WD window to make up for it. Madagascar is the world's 6th poorest country. This is very evident in the way people live, and it can be quite sobering, especially when you are in the drought- stricken south. I've never experienced quite so many children (and some adults) asking for 'bonbons' or for water. You will probably feel a huge difference between your lives and theirs in every way. Be ready for it - be respectful and sensitive, but don't wear a hair shirt either, as by visiting Madagascar with a responsible company you are helping the local economy. Take billions of photos - if 1 in 20 works out, you'll have a load of great memories (but don't monopolise the close ups of each tiny chameleon to the exclusion of everyone else in the group!) Brush up on your French (and learn a few words in Malagasy). Don't rely on credit cards, even where a hotel says it takes them (power outages and poor internet connectivity get in the way). Make sure you have plenty of cash, preferably euros. Change any spare ariary back to euros before passing through security at Tana airport as none of the shops in the departure lounge accept it.

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

Yes, as most hotels and restaurants were at least part-owned by local people. I tried to spend money with souvenir sellers and market people and not to haggle (unless the guide suggested it, for example in a well-established shop) so as to spread a little cash around. It's really a very tiny amount usually. The trip has also prompted everyone in the group to look into what sort of charities or non-profits we might be able to support financially when we got home and we're following this up now.

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

It was wonderful and full of awesome experiences. It may have been the best trip of my life.

review 23 Nov 2016

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

Many memorable moments but I think being right underneath the Indri at Andisibe as they were calling to each other stood out.

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

Take plenty of cash, preferably Euros to change into the local Airey soon as possible on arrival. There were a few chances along the way to visit ATMs, but not so often so better to change most your spending money up front.

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

I think yes certainly to some extent. We used many local guides along the route, visiting parks and local craft and workshops etc. We ate mostly in hotels and restaurants as opposed to more basic local diners (maybe best since there were a few stomach upsets along the way).

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

An excellent holiday, one of my best for many years. Our guide Danhi did a fine job looking after us and teaching us with great enthusiasm about his home country of Madagascar. I shared the holiday with wonderful group of co-travellers, who all gelled and got along from day one. The nature and wildlife of Madagascar were fantastic, discovering new things and creatures on a daily basis. I would totally recommend this trip to any nature lover.

review 27 Jul 2015

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

Wonderful tho' it was to see wildlife in natural habitate, the standout thing for me was the wonderful people I met and catching a glimpse into their customs and cultures.

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

Buy local. I am so pleased that I brought back Malagassy bags, a carved boabab amoureux, a piece of semi-precious jasper, a zebu horn necklace, a wild silk scarf - not to mention selections of fruit - most from roadside stalls.

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

Our accommodation was good - and not owned by chains.

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

I had wanted to visit Madagascar since my retirement, two years ago – and it didn’t disappoint. I would certainly have no hesitation in recommending the holiday company, the island tour operator or guide Olivier to anyone intending to visit this enchanted island.

review 6 Nov 2015

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

The 4x4 trip down the river.

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

You don't need as much money as they say you do, unless you are buying gifts for the entire family or eating for England. But do make sure you cash your Euros at the airport as it is really difficult to get more. Plus the airport arrivals is a farce - expect a 2 hour wait to get through.

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

Not really, apart from the touristy gifts we bought. The hotels are owned by foreigners. Keep your empty water bottles to throw out the window for the local kids who earn money taking them for recycling. Plus, take all the hotel room soaps and shampoos as the women need them and ask for them at water stops.

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

I wouldn't go back on this tour. The distances we travelled in a rackety old bus that broke down twice could have been traversed much quicker in 4x4s Better to book a private tour in a 4x4 all the way. We spent more time on the road than we did seeing stuff. I'd have liked to spend more time with the people who live there but we were herded and protected all the way. The guide was brilliant though, as were all the local guides we met on the way.

Read the operator's response here:

Thanks for your comments about your tour experience in Madagascar. Our country notes specify a guideline for the amount of money to take on the tour. This is always difficult to specify accurately as everybody will spend different amounts. We give a guideline for meals which is the one thing we can be certain of. I am sorry you had a long wait to get through immigration. Again this is something really which is out of control. Antananarivo airport is quite small meaning that when one of the few larger planes arrives from Paris or Nairobi the queues can be long if the flight is busy. I cannot agree that the holiday does not have benefits for local people. Whilst some of the properties may be managed by non Malagasy, it is virtually exclusively Malagasy people that work in the hotels. We do not use large resort style hotels. We use small hotels in towns and lodges in the parks that are in keeping with the natural environment. Your guides are Malagasy and so are the drivers. I strongly believe that tourism services absolutely benefits local people. Being one of the poorest countries in the world, where would these people work without tourism infrastructure. All of the people we work with locally in Madagascar live to a higher standard of living than the national average because they are working in the tourism industry. I must also add that by sending clients to Madagascar you are directly contributing to the protection of flora and fauna within the country. Madagascar has been decimated by deforestation over a number of decades. The protection of the forests and the species that live therein is to a significant degree because of the demand from people associated with the tourist industry such as tour operators as well of course as well as the excellent work done by conservation bodies. Your review is slightly misleading in that on this tour you actually do travel by 4WD for the parts of the tour where you travel on unsealed dirt roads which is down the more off the beaten track western side of the country from Morondava. Once you reach the central highlands and also to Andasibe you travel by bus as the roads are sealed. I will be investigating the issue with the bus and thank you for highlighting, but even in the best circumstances sometimes vehicles experience technical/mechanical problems. Madagascar is a huge country and some long distances are inevitable. Also at this stage due to the problems with Air Madagascar it is not possible to rely wholly on internal flight schedules and most of our feedback suggests that people actually like to see the back country from a vehicle and not from an aeroplane. We do still use 2 internal flights, one at the beginning and one at the end to ensure that clients get to see a good amount of the country in the 17 day duration. We also ensure that regular comfort stops are offered on long journeys. I am pleased you enjoyed the services of our guides who I agree are absolutely excellent and that you had some memorable aspects to your trip. We thank you for your feedback.

review 26 Nov 2013

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

George Bannister: All of this holiday is memorable in fact it is without doubt the best holiday my wife and I have ever been on. This is not a luxury retreat however anyone researching the destination will be aware of this before booking. The Malagasy people made us feel so welcome despite the fact they were so poor and effectively abandoned by the corrupt Goverment. They mostly live hand to mouth on a daily basis but do not beg or pester you for handouts. The Tsingy was the most memorable event on the tour but every day we saw something different and the trip was never boring. The tour guide provided was exceptional and this made the holiday what it was and without his input and enthusiasm we would not have enjoyed it so much. My wife and I and our two friends were invited to one of the local tour guide's home for his daughter's birthday. We were the first white people to go to his home and we were greeted by his wonderful family and village residents. Despite his family being poor he put out a spread of drinks for us. This is what you can expect from the Malagasy people. Peter & Jan Gosling: The itinerary: the travel; the scenery; the plants; the animals; the sights; the sounds; the smells; the guides; the almost universally smiling, helpful people. EVERYTHING. (We visited, Morondava, Avenue of the Baobabs, Tsingy de Bemeraha, Kirindy Reserve, Peyrieras Park, Andasibe National Park, Lake Andraikiba, Antsirabe, Ambositra, Ranomafana National Park, Ambalavao, Ihosy, Anja Park, Isalo National Park, Tulear, Madiorano, Tana)

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

George Bannister: Be prepared for poverty, humble experiences, lack of electricity but don't let this put anyone off going to this wonderful country. The Tsingy was far more adventurous that we anticipated and those with a fear of heights and enclosed places should take the easier trip on this day. Be prepared for long drives in 4 x4 vehicles which are punctuated by stop offs all designed to give you the full experience of Madagascar. Take simple items to give away, torches ( villagers live in total darkness when night falls ) candles, playing cards and small balls for the children. It would be advisable to be prepared to buy items from local supermarkets to give away ( sachets of powder to mix with water are an absolute treat for children and adults alike ). Take a good torch as most hotels have limited electricity. And the wattage is poor. We finished off with 3 nights at La Mira for a bit of luxury at the end of the tour and this helped us recover before the journey home. Peter & Jan Gosling: My wife and I have previously taken some “off the beaten track” holidays e.g. Borneo jungle trekking, African Safaris etc. But Madagascar is one of the poorest countries on the planet, and probably the poorest one that my wife and I have ever visited. Nevertheless, the Malagasy people we met were polite and friendly and their smiling faces a joy to behold. Be prepared to have your heart-strings plucked – many times (see “3” below). At several of the hotels, electricity *may* be available from 6pm – 10pm, but do expect interruptions or complete black-outs and take a torch or two. (Also consider donating the torches to deserving locals before your return, preferably plus spare batteries.) Do not expect a great variety of meals, it is mostly – zebu (beef) or fish, with a vegetarian option of omelette. But (almost) always well cooked and well presented, though you may have to ask for it to be cooked all the way through. Touring the Tsingy de Bemeraha may be hotter and take longer than you expect (Sept 2013). It may be colder/wetter than you expect at Andasibe and Ranomafana (Sept 2013). The hotels maybe a little less salubrious than you anticipate, but most of the staff will try to do everything they can to improve your stay. For example, one evening at the Domaine Nature Hotel, Ranomafana we were due to meet a couple for dinner at 7.30pm to celebrate their wedding anniversary. Despite the fact that there was no electricity anywhere in town from 6 pm that evening, the meal that we were served was excellent – and the subdued lighting provided by the candles added to the occasion – especially as the delicious, flickering, pudding was served – bananas, flambéed in local rum ! The itinerary is likely to be very busy and the travel lengthy and tiring. At the end, a few nights relaxation on a beach north of Ifaty is perfect bliss. We regretted not taking more gifts – see “3” below.

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

George Bannister: As above, we were able to help local people at grass roots level and we gave away a high proportion of our clothes as many have nothing but the rags they stand up in. Our help was gratefully received and we wished we could do more but there are limitations as to what you could do. Peter & Jan Gosling: It is difficult for “westerners” (“vazahas”!) to appreciate local conditions. On our first afternoon of air-conditioned, 4x4 travel, we drank and emptied several 1.5l plastic bottles of water and asked our guide how we should re-cycle them (- yes, we were that green). He smiled, and although we were in the middle of nowhere, asked the driver to stop. We pulled-over alongside a man, women and child who were walking along and wound the window down. After a brief conversation he handed them two of the empty plastic bottles. They beamed enormous smiles and said something in Malagasy. As we drove on we asked how they would use them and what they had said ? “I can’t begin to explain how many different uses they might have for those empty bottles,” he said, “but over the next few days you will see.” “Oh, and the family said “Thank-you. And welcome to Madagascar". POW – the first of many humbling experiences as we travelled through the emotional roller-coaster that is Madagascar. It is also worth mentioning that in some countries we have visited begging is overt and any offer of a “useful” gift is met with an intimidating demand for more gifts or money. In our experience, begging was a rarity in Madagascar and our spontaneous gifts to locals we happened to meet at our many stops were received with a gratitude that was humbling. So much so, that despite some reservations about hand-outs, we regretted not having taken more gifts. You might consider taking the following: balls of string / nylon cord; nightlights / candles (- but check for airline restrictions); playing cards; lipsticks / nail-varnish; coloured hairbands; bendy-straws; tennis balls; old pairs of spectacles; toy cars; pants, knickers, shorts, t-shirts; carrier bags; deflated plastic footballs (we bought some locally and 50% burst overnight!). Locally we bought sachets of fruit-flavoured powder to make drinks – we frequently emptied them into newly opened 1.5l water bottles and gifted them to unsuspecting families. One afternoon we stopped to view the sabotaged, Fatihita bridge and a passing mother had a crying baby on her hip together with two older children. Our ever-resourceful guide (Ghislain) poured a little of the flavoured water into the lid and trickled it into the youngsters mouth. Cue instant crying remedy, beaming smiles and another bottle of gifted, flavoured water benefiting both a local family and the humbled tourists. We gifted a significant proportion of our travel items to thoroughly deserving locals - and travelled home with much lighter suitcases, and therefore saved aviation fuel!

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

George Bannister: The most fantastic holiday we have experienced and totally different from any location we have been to. The tour company was first class in every respect and this is the reason we enjoyed it so much. Nothing was a trouble to them and the fact we had a tour guide from landing to leaving the country made all the difference. The company even kept in contact with our tour guide whilst we were in the country to see if everything was working out. Outstanding customer service and I cannot recommend them enough. I honestly believe nobody else could provide any better service. Peter & Jan Gosling: Absolutely FANTASTIC.

review 15 Oct 2013

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

Travelling through the remoter parts of the country seeing how the people live in the rural areas

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

Be prepared for things to be unpredictable and not to expect standards in hotels and lodges to be as in the UK

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

Yes local people were seen to be employed in the tourist trade. Promoting eco-tourism is preserving some of the endangered forests as people see tourism bringing in money and employment

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

As I expected not 'comfortable' but an amazing experience

review 20 Sep 2012

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

Seeing five out of six possible types of lemur in the first National Park we visited.

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

Be prepared for anything! We had a ferry crossing that grounded us on a sandbank, put us on a tiny passenger boat and involved a long hot dusty walk through a rubbish dump before arriving at a restaurant serving Haut Cuisine at local prices.

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

Yes - in villages we visited, the headman was given money by the guide to benefit the whole villages.

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

Excellent.

Holiday Reviews

You can trust Responsible Travel reviews because, unlike many other schemes, reviews can ONLY be written by people who we have verified have been on the holidays. In addition, we don't run these holidays ourselves - our only interest is giving you the best independent advice.

Read our review policy

Convert currencies