Author: Luc Ouimet
The Great Red Island, as people commonly nickname Madagascar, is filled with a variety of landscapes and environments that provide opportunity for wonderful excursions in nature, accompanied by friendly and endearing local guides who will show you through unmarked paths that are otherwise difficult to access. Here are a few locations that we particularly enjoyed during our two-month stay in Madagascar during summer of 2018.
- Isalo Park: one of the most visited destinations, in the South West of the island, near Toliara on the coast of the Mozambique Channel, with its arid and unusual landscapes that seem almost moon-like, its canyons covered in a surprising tropical flora where pool sized lagoons await visitors for a swim. While you enjoy a meal surrounded by nature, lemurs may come and join you.
Recommended VAOLO accommodation : ITC Lodge and Momo Trek for its location providing a breathtaking view on the Isalo Massif directly from the entrance of your rustic lodge, naturally integrated to its environment. For its friendly staff and the endearing Momo. The lodge is a true economic driver for the village and the region. It gets its customers involved in reforestation and support of the local entrepreneurial initiatives of women in several micro-funded projects.
- The Canal of Pangalanes: in the South East of the island, on the coast of the Indian Ocean, this long man-built waterway allows, in a luxurious and diverse natural environment, to discover its numerous fishing villages, its traditional cabins on stilts and to meet the friendly natives who will warmly welcome you. The boats you may encounter are quite unusual: pirogues, bamboo rafts, hollowed out tree trunk propelled with a paddle. You are sure to be amazed.
Recommended VAOLO accommodation : Parthenay Club Hotel for its prime location, the originality of its bungalows and its flavourful and diverse cuisine. Ret, the owner who is a man of many talents, transformed the previously deserted location and developed several abilities with the local people to achieve his many objectives. He learned how to build bungalows, all different one from another; make furniture and lamps of all kinds; create tasteful decorative artistic pieces; cook delicious and distinctive meals
- The town of the Zafimaniry people (Antoetra) : located in the Centre-East of the island, at about 25 km on a track from the Ivato village on the RN7 road, Antoetra, a Unesco World Heritage site (houses built without nails so they can be moved following the seasons), will be the reward for all your traveling. There are great opportunities for hikes in the rice terraces surrounding the villages built on hillsides for a truly authentic experience. A postcard perfect location. You are guaranteed to walk out of the beaten trakc. A true discovery of the rural world of the Central Highlands.
Recommended VAOLO accommodation : Sous le Soleil de Mada for its location at the centre of the Zafimaniry country; its traditional Eucalyptus wood houses; its various treks allowing for a real contact with the inhabitants of the villages you will cross; and its devoted and compassionate team who wants to offer you the very best. Roberto, the owner, demonstrates an admirable dedication to his community by generously contributing to both its educational life and its recreational growth, and by insuring multiple travels to help villagers living far from the city and with no other means of transportation than their feet.
- The Ambatomainty village and its surroundings: located 7km away from the big city of Fianarantsoa, on the RN7 in the Centre-South of the island, the village of Ambatomainty is accessible by road and requires to be accompanied by a villagers sent by the accommodation. You will be offered a full experience: taking part in the whole process of fabrication of clay products following the traditional method, visiting the nearby settlements, walking in the countryside, participating in a guided excursion on foot or in a pirogue, enjoying local activities.
Recommended VAOLO accommodation : The Ambatomainty Lodge for its aim towards village solidarity and its opportunity for a pleasant immersion in company the Malagasy living in this region. The income is shared between all the villagers who take part in the visitors stay (and there are several of them: cook, housekeeper, food carrier from the city of Fianarantsoa to the village, guide, workers in the clay quarry, villagers working in the fabrication of several products, etc.); and, more generally, the leftover income is allocated by the Village Committee to the various needs and projects of the village (solar panels, schools, etc.) The purpose of the accommodation is to improve the quality of life of the villagers.
- Nosy Komba Island: a little volcanic island in the North-West of Madagascar, a 20 minute boat ride away from Nosy Be, its dense rainforest is the habitat of a rich and diverse flora and fauna (including the lemurs). There are no roads on this island. Trails are the only way to access to its summit and to the villages encircling it, offering wonderful hikes to wilderness enthusiasts. Local guides will be happy to help you discover their island. Other activities include going around the island in a pirogue, big-game fishing and scuba diving. The carefree and joyous atmosphere is definitely what makes this island so charming.
Recommended VAOLO accommodation : The’Akiba Ecolodge to get off the beaten track, enjoy an exceptional moment surrounded by nature and meet the rural population of the island. Jérôme and Vita Soa, the owners, have created this 100% eco-friendly village in order to promote the cultural and natural heritage of Nosy Komba; help educate 30 children who don’t have access to a school close by; employ over 10 people and house their families (farming, school, cooking, cleaning); and set up free training programs for farmers of the Nosy Komba mountain (tree nursery, beekeeping, etc.)
- Mangily (Ifaty): lively and charming fishing village, 25km north of Toliara, on the South-West coast of Madagascar. There you can enjoy surfing, kite surfing, scuba diving or snorkeling (the clear waters filled with various types of fish offer exceptional diving locations, including the Massif des Roses coral reef and the marine reserve of Ankaranjelita), and observe the whales’ migration. Mangily is also famous for its baobab forest, of a smaller kind than the one in Morondava (farther north and not easily accessible) but that can grow to a circumference of 13 metres! The RN9 national road that leads there is in good condition. Only 30 minutes away from the Toliara city airport.
Recommended VAOLO accommodation : the Hôtel Solidaire Mangily for its comfort and architecture respecting local tradition; because it is a true green oasis, at only a 10-minute walk from the beach and very close to the baobab forest. The Hôtel Solidaire Mangily is a sustainable tourism initiative and directly benefits the local population through various projects initiated by the Malagasy NGO Bel Avenir toward education and the preservation of the environment. You will be able to meet the people benefiting from the various projects by visiting the Mangily village, the Environmental Education Centres, the library or the farm school. Jose Luis, the soul of this vibrant solidarity project, is truly an exceptional person with an infectious energy and enthusiasm.
- Toliara: one of the most popular destinations in Madagascar along with Nosy Be Island (in the north), this city located in the South-West of the island, on the Mozambique Channel, overseeing the RN7 road that starts in the Highlands of the capital, in Tana. There you can enjoy windsurfing, stand up paddle boarding or kayaking. Several discovery excursions are available around the city: the Tsinjoriake natural reserve, the Sarodrano peninsula (dunes, forests, mangroves), the village of Saint-Augustin and its pink flamingos, the Andoharano creek (trek and pirogue), the Reniala park (baobabs, endemic birds), Vé Island (trimaran, freediving).
Recommended VAOLO accommodation : The Famata Lodge,
at a 25-minute car ride from Toliara, towards the south on the seaside; for its great comfort in unique bungalows inspired by bush houses. For its natural site, exceptional and patrimonial, and the harmonious cohabitation between the residents and the visitors staying in the Lodge. The owners, Peter and Julia, have greatly contributed to the improvement of the living conditions in the community by helping the villagers build a school for 100 children, a medical centre, a water well and a sanitary system. An impressive example of dedication and mutual respect between them and their host community.
Author: Luc Ouimet
Photo credit: Luc Ouimet