Madagascar Updates: Chapters 1-6

Madagascar, 11th edition

Please use the comments facility below to submit updates to chapters 1 to 6 (general information) of Madagascar (11th ed).

To comment on other chapters visit the main Madagascar Updates page.

You can order a copy of the Madagascar guide here.

72 Comments

  1. Andrew Eadie said,

    29 September 2016 at 3:51 pm

    I would like to mention an excellent Tana based tour operator ‘Madagascar Endemics and Resorts’ (www.mer-madagascar.com), run by Manitra Andriamialisoa, who I have used four times over the past couple of years. I have been keen to go ‘off the beaten track’ including trekking in Marojajay, Andringitra and the remote Makay region, and each time Manitra has ensured that everything ran smoothly and organised every detail so all I had to do was show up and enjoy myself! I thoroughly recommend this company.

  2. Alan Miller said,

    22 September 2016 at 7:22 pm

    We recently enjoyed our second tour organised by Boogie Pilgrim – a well organised and efficient locally-based company. One of our drivers was Patrick Andriamihaja who appeared in the 9th edition associated with a previous company. Patrick, a great character, has a 1940 Dodge and a 1956 Willis MB in addition to a modern VW Touareg. He can be contacted at madhorizon@yahoo.com and +261320754529.

  3. 25 August 2016 at 7:22 pm

    It has been announced by the Ministry of Tourism that visas will no longer be required for cruise ship stops in Madagascar.

  4. 7 August 2016 at 6:07 pm

    I’ve just returned from 5 1/2 weeks travelling and volunteering in Madagascar with my boyfriend. One thing that that happened to us and a few other people that we met was that we weren’t given the right visa. We asked for 60 days and didn’t realise until we had long left the airport that we were only given 30 days. That meant that halfway through our trip we had to return to Tana airport and try to extend our visa which took half a day, plus the police demanded a bribe of 500,000ar to do it (which we managed to get down to 300,000ar). A similar thing happened to some of the volunteers we were with, so I would urge you to check when you are at the visa counter to check how many days they have given you on your visa in case they haven’t given you enough!

  5. 30 July 2016 at 12:08 pm

    Geocaching in Madagascar
    Geocaching is an outdoor recreational activity in which participants hunt for ‘hidden treasure’ using GPS coordinates and clues obtained online. It has been fast gaining popularity now that most phones have GPS built in. Dating back to 2000, it is a modernised and globalised version of the letterboxing pasttime famously practised on Dartmoor in the UK since 1854. The treasure usually takes the form of a concealed watertight box containing a small logbook for discoverers to sign. The chosen locations are often local beauty spots, so that geocaching is really just a great excuse and motivation to hike in nature.
    Worldwide around 3 million geocaches are hidden across all but half a dozen of the world’s countries. The activity is in its infancy in Madagascar, with just a dozen or so geocaches across the island so far (including Tana, Ile Sainte-Marie pirate cemetery, Ivoloina Park, Tsingy de Bemaraha, Antalaha, Ifaty, Andringitra National Park, Mananjary, Ankarana, Nosy Be and Nosy Tanikely). If you enjoy geocaching, why not help to expand this pasttime in Madagascar by hiding one of your own while there and registering it in the online index? More information about both hunting for and placing geocaches may be found on the http://www.geocaching.com website.

  6. 10 April 2016 at 11:48 am

    Fanamby operates four camps across Madagascar. You can contact Fanamby in Tana on 22 636 61, or talk direct to the camps on 033 37 395 02 (Saha Forest Camp), 033 15 729 35 (Camp Amoureux), 032 26 219 27 (Camp Tattersalli), 032 42 768 57 (Black Lemur Camp).
    For email reservations, contact resa.friendlycamp@fanamby.org.mg and CC to resa@sahaforestcamp.mg (Saha Forest Camp); f.rasamizanaka@fanamby.org.mg (Camp Amoureux); n.amavatra@fanamby.org.mg (Camp Tattersalli); or a.fenosoa@fanamby.org.mg (Black Lemur Camp). You are additionally advised to CC reservations to v.randriamihaja@fanamby.org.mg and t.andriamanana@fanamby.org.mg for all camps except Saha Forest Camp.
    Further information can be found online at http://www.sahaforestcamp.mg, http://www.association-fanamby.org and http://www.fanamby.org.mg

  7. 8 April 2016 at 12:46 pm

    Although Air Madagascar flights have been terribly unreliable of late, with frequent delays and cancellations, a new offer on their international flights from France might just tempt some to take the risk. It has been announced that with immediate effect they are permitting an unprecedented baggage allowance of THREE pieces of 23kg luggage (or an additional 23kg bag as well as the usual two 32kg pieces for business class) on their Paris-Antananarivo route.
    The offer does not apply to certain flights during the Apr-Aug high season. Passengers from the UK wishing to take advantage of the offer could travel the London-Paris leg by Eurostar, which does not impose weight restrictions on luggage.

  8. 30 March 2016 at 12:39 am

    After 20 years, the charity Azafady UK has changed its name to SEED Madagascar – an acronym standing for “Sustainable Environment, Education and Development in Madagascar”. They still do sustainable development, conservation and community work in Madagascar and run volunteering programmes of two to 10 weeks in their projects. Their telephone number (020 8960 6629) and website (www.madagascar.co.uk) remain the same, but their email address is now info@seedmadagascar.org

  9. 25 March 2016 at 11:44 pm

    Madagascar will witness a rare solar eclipse on 1 September 2016. It could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity as there won’t be another one after this for more than half a century. Dates of this century’s solar eclipses in Madagascar: 21 Jun 2001, 1 Sep 2016, 4 Oct 2070, 2 Jun 2095, 2 Sep 2100… For a map of the eclipse path, see our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/bradtmadagascar/photos/a.249547108554524.1073741830.249525855223316/568356596673572/?type=1&theater

    • Alan Miller said,

      23 August 2016 at 2:48 pm

      Thanks, Daniel. Is card payment accepted, and if not do you know which currencies are accepted?

      • 23 August 2016 at 2:52 pm

        I assume this was supposed to be in reply to the visa post rather than the eclipse one? Cards are not to my knowledge accepted. They certainly take Ariary, Dollars and Euros.

  10. 18 January 2016 at 5:10 am

    There is now a fee for all visas to visit Madagascar. For the last few years, the visa fee for stays of up to 30 days has been waived in an effort to rekindle tourism. That waiver has now expired and there is once again a fee for all visas.
    General/tourist visas are available on arrival at the airport and for stays of up to 30 days they cost 80,000 Ariary (or the equivalent in dollars or euros at the prevailing exchange rate – currently about €23 or $25). For visas for stays of 31-60 and 61-90 days, fees remain unchanged at 100,000Ar (€29/$31) and 140,000Ar (€40/$44) respectively.
    There is no need to obtain a visa in advance unless you require a special visa – such as for study, work or long-stay (90+ days). If you do decide to get a general visa in advance from your local Malagasy Embassy, the price may be significantly higher. There is no embassy in the UK, so Brits needing to apply in advance for a visa must do so via Paris or Brussels. Note that the 80,000Ar visa fee also applies to cruise passengers and permits them to multiple entries during a period of up to 30 days.

  11. 5 November 2015 at 6:50 pm

    In the waters off Madagascar, scientists have at last encountered living whales of a species previously known only from a few dead specimens. A new study describes 44 observations of the mysterious whale, called Omura’s whale, made by the researchers over the past couple of years in the Nosy Be region. Read more: http://news.mongabay.com/2015/11/mystery-whale-known-only-from-specimens-found-living-in-the-wild/

  12. 5 November 2015 at 6:32 pm

    Turkish Airlines today announced that it will be introducing a new route to Madagascar and Mauritius from Istanbul’s main airport starting on 15 December 2015. The flights will initially operate three times a week using an Airbus A340, but by February 2016 will increase to four weekly flights with an Airbus A330.
    The outbound TK160 is expected to depart Istanbul at 01:10 and reach Antananarivo at 15:00 after a brief stop in Mauritius; the return TK161 departs Tana at 16:30, arriving – again via Mauritius – at Istanbul at 04:15 the following morning. (They will not be licensed to carry passengers solely on the regional Madagascar-Mauritius leg.)

  13. Jim Robinson said,

    1 November 2015 at 4:40 pm

    My husband and I just returned from a 25 day private tour of Madagascar in October, 2015. We chose a local agency – Madagascar Touring. Ernest and Benja worked with us to create an itinerary geared to our interests, and assigned us an excellent driver/guide, Tojo, who was very fluent in English. We visited over 15 parks and reserves taking day and night hikes to photograph the unique flora and fauna that makes Madagascar famous. They booked high end hotels for us where they were available, and we were generally very satisfied with both the accommodations and the food. In addition, Madagascar Touring provided us with small denomination bills to spend in small towns and for tips since the large bills dispensed by the ATM’s are difficult to use. Tojo was very attentive to our needs/wants and checked every accommodation upon arrival for outfitting and operation. We had a wonderful time and would use this agency again if we return to Madagascar. Madagascar Touring’s web site is http://www.madagascaradventures.com

  14. 18 October 2015 at 10:57 am

    There is a ferry called Maria Galanta now running a service between Madagascar and the Comoro Islands. The next departure from Moroni is on 25 October, calling at Mutsamudu en route to Mahajanga (Majunga), from where it will return on 30 October. The price for the 18-hour Moroni-Mahajanga crossing is €115 one way for an adult (50kg baggage limit plus 20kg hand luggage) or €75 for children aged 12 or under (30kg+15kg baggage allowance). For Mahajanga-Anjouan the price is €100 (€65 for children). Reservations can be made via http://www.sgtm.com or at the Maria Galanta representative’s in Mahajanga (tel 034 15 085 47 or 032 04 822 39 or 62 231 29). For more information see http://www.facebook.com/sgtm.compagnie.maritime
    Check the Bradt Madagascar Facebook Page for photos of the ferry at https://www.facebook.com/bradtmadagascar/posts/507754109400488

  15. 12 October 2015 at 4:13 pm

    As of this month, a new start-up airline company called Madagasikara Airways will be linking Antananarivo to Toamasina (Tamatave) and Ile Sainte Marie, as well as flights subject to demand to Sambava, Antsiranana (Diego Suarez), Nosy Be, Mahajanga (Majunga), Morondava, Toliara (Tulear) and Taolagnaro (Fort Dauphin). The company is using a 30-seat Embraer ERJ-135 twin-engine jet.
    They have booking offices in Antananarivo (at La City near Ivandry; mob 032 05 970 07), and at the airports of Toamasina (mob 032 05 970 09) and Ambodifotatra (mob 032 05 970 10). Contact online via ankoay@madagasikaraairways.com

    • 18 October 2015 at 9:55 pm

      Midi Madagasikara reports that the Madagasikara Airways plane is now in Madagascar and the inaugural flight is scheduled for 26 October to Toamasina (Tamatave), with the first Ile Sainte Marie flight planned for the following day. A second aircraft is expected to arrive “shortly”. The current staff of 42 is projected to grow to 120 soon. The aircraft will be flown by South African cockpit crew initially until such time as local pilots can be trained in the operation of this type of aircraft.

  16. 26 July 2015 at 12:15 pm

    A recent report from tourists who used the services of local guide Serge, mentioned in the guidebook, says that he and his driver Susé took them in a Toyota 4Runner that was “certainly in need of some love, with balding tires, no rear seatbelts and broken 4WD (we had to advance him 400,000Ar to repair it). His English leaves a lot to be desired. As soon as he found out we spoke some French, he defaulted to speaking to us in French until we’d inevitably remind him to speak in English.”

  17. 26 July 2015 at 12:02 pm

    Jack Zektzer recommends using the ToursByLocals website, where he found Jean Claude R who “provided excellent service”.

  18. 26 July 2015 at 12:02 pm

    Feedback from Jack Zektzer on using credit cards in Madagascar: “US-style cards with a magnetic strip are useless – nobody will accept them – you need a card with a microchip.”

  19. 26 July 2015 at 12:01 pm

    On food and drink, Jack Zektzer says: “Three Horse Beer won a golden award at the 2012 Brussels beer expo. But beware of the chili paste that is often served with food at hotelys. It is really hot. My guide, driver and his assistant got a good laugh watching me try the paste.”

  20. 26 July 2015 at 12:01 pm

    Tourmaline crystals are not cheap in Madagascar (contrary to the statement in the 10th edition of the Madagascar guide), writes Jack Zektzer.

  21. 24 July 2015 at 6:23 pm

    Of course, it’s always best to avoid getting into trouble with the police wherever you are, but if it happens in a foreign land it can be a confusing and scary experience. Know your rights in Madagascar:
    If a British national is arrested and detained in Madagascar, it is their right to ask the police to inform the British Embassy in Antananarivo as soon as possible. For data protection reasons, the embassy cannot notify your friends or family about your situation without your express permission. Embassy staff will arrange to visit you to give you advice on the next stages of the process, ensure you are being treated appropriately and furnish you with the contact details of reputable English-speaking lawyers.
    Upon arrest, the police are obliged to explain the reason why and will take you to the nearest police station where they will take a statement from you, normally written in French. You are not obliged to sign anything that you do not fully understand. It is strongly recommended that you appoint the services of a lawyer, but note that you are responsible for all your legal costs (the embassy cannot help with these).

  22. 24 July 2015 at 6:21 pm

    Free 30-day visas will no longer be available after 31 October. Effective from 1 November 2015, the Madagascar visa prices will be as follows:
    Standard tourist visas available to anyone upon arrival:
    • Up to one month 60,000 Ariary
    • Up to two months 100,000 Ariary
    • Up to three months 140,000 Ariary
    Longer-term visas:
    • Up to three years 150,000 Ariary
    • Up to five years 200,000 Ariary
    • More than five years 250,000 Ariary

  23. Jack Zektzer said,

    18 June 2015 at 2:47 am

    Old style credit cards with the magnetic strip will not be accepted by the banks. Only cards with the microchip will be accepted. Also only bring new currency. Old or worn bills will not be accepted at any bank.

  24. Daniel Austin said,

    11 February 2015 at 1:25 pm

    Orange Madagascar, which has thus far rolled out 3G mobile coverage to 150 Malagasy towns, is preparing to launch 4G. This will increase mobile data speeds by up to 10 times. The network operator, who say their basic 2G service already covers 85% of the population, is reported to be planning to install antennas at 100 new sites this year.
    Rival operator Airtel has also revealed that it has obtained authorisation to go ahead with a 4G network in the country.

  25. Daniel Austin said,

    10 February 2015 at 11:27 am

    Air Madagascar has struck a codesharing deal with Air Seychelles to sell seats on the latter’s newly launched flights between the two countries’ capitals – Victoria (Mahé) and Antananarivo – a route that recommenced in December after a 33-year hiatus.
    Under the deal, Air Madagascar will sell the twice-weekly route under its own MD flight code and – as yet still subject to government approvals – also on onward flights from Mahé to Abu Dhabi and Mumbai.
    The two airlines had signed a Memorandum of Understanding in August, agreeing to cooperate by harmonising their flight schedules, liaising on cargo traffic, collaborating on frequent flyer programmes, and potentially offering reciprocal lounge access and staff travel.

  26. Daniel Austin said,

    31 January 2015 at 12:41 pm

    With effect from midnight tonight, it will be illegal to import plastic bags into Madagascar. The move comes four months ahead of the scheduled 1 May 2015 ban on use of plastic bags and sacks in the country. Madagascar follows other African nations, including Rwanda, Somalia, Mali, Mauritania, Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa and Kenya, in bringing in environmental laws restricting plastic bag usage.
    (Read more on this story, in French, here: http://www.lexpressmada.com/blog/actualites/environnement-le-sachet-plastique-interdit-en-2015-18877)

  27. Daniel Austin said,

    26 December 2014 at 5:24 pm

    La Maison d’Aïna (LMA) is a community NGO founded in 2002 by the parents of Aïna, a nine-year-old girl who passed away that year and in whose memory the charity is named. In fact Alex and Hanta Châteaux’s charity work stretches back to 1992, when they set up a charity called Voatsara. Based in Antananarivo, the organisation aims to improve the living conditions of families and children, especially among the underprivileged population in the rural or isolated areas. These people benefit from nutritional and medical assistance, family planning and counselling, education and agricultural training, handcraftsmanship, professional integration, electricity and shelter maintenance. You can find out about donating and child sponsorship via their website.
    Contact: mob 033 02 016 01 or 034 49 724 63/64; web http://www.lamaisondaina.org

  28. Daniel Austin said,

    15 December 2014 at 7:52 pm

    Manchester- and London-based family-run tour operator Africa & Beyond specialises in organising tailor-made holidays to Africa, including Madagascar and the Indian Ocean. The company was set up in 2007 and is ABTA registered. Contact: tel 0161 789 8838; email enquiry@africa-and-beyond.co.uk (UK) or info@africa-and-beyond.com (US); Skype africaandbeyond; web http://www.africa-and-beyond.co.uk

  29. Daniel Austin said,

    15 December 2014 at 9:36 am

    This morning, Google’s free online automatic translation service announced that it has finally added Malagasy to the list of languages that it can translate to and from! Try it here: https://translate.google.com/#en/mg/Merry%20Christmas!

  30. Daniel Austin said,

    9 December 2014 at 12:13 am

    Carnivorous plants: In Madagascar, less well known than the pitcher plants (2 spp of Nepenthes) and sundews (5 spp of Drosera), there are also a number of bladderworts (Utricularia spp).

  31. Daniel Austin said,

    7 December 2014 at 10:37 pm

    Expats and those visiting Madagascar for an extended period are often frustrated by the difficulty of ordering items from overseas. If a piece of camera equipment breaks, for example, you might need a replacement fast, but many products are not available for sale in Madagascar. Whilst many online retailers do ship to Madagascar, it can be extremely slow, with items often not turning up at all. Previously, Madagascar residents have had to enlist the help of friends and family abroad to buy the item on their behalf then courier it onward to Madagascar.
    Now a service called PackYellow has partnered with international courier DHL to offer a neat solution. When you sign up for PackYellow, they assign you a unique address in France. You can then go online to any internet store or marketplace – Amazon or eBay for example – and have the items delivered to your phantom European address. These will then be forwarded direct to you in Madagascar by DHL’s 72hr couriering service. You can even save money on multiple items by instructing PackYellow to hold your purchases (for up to 14 days) until all your orders have arrived and can be bundled into a single package for shipping on to Madagascar.
    For more details about how it works, see http://www.packyellow.com/racing/index.php/site/howitworks

  32. Daniel Austin said,

    4 December 2014 at 12:34 am

    Quick reference sheet for managing prepay Malagasy mobile accounts:
    ORANGE:
    Add calling credit: dial 202 followed immediately by the code from the recharge card.
    Check calling credit balance (and find own number): dial #123*1#
    Buy data (from calling credit): dial #204#5*1*1# then select bundle.
    Check data balance: visit http://www.orange.mg/service-orange-info-conso-internet
    AIRTEL:
    Add calling credit: dial *888*xxx* where xxx is the code from the recharge card.
    Check calling credit balance: dial *999#
    Buy data (from calling credit): dial *114* then select bundle; or to add recharge card credit directly as data credit, dial *114*xxx* where xxx is the code from the recharge card.
    Check data balance: dial *999*114#
    TELMA:
    Add calling credit: dial #321*xxx# where xxx is the code from the recharge card.
    Check calling credit balance: dial #357#
    Buy data (from calling credit): dial #322# then select bundle.
    Check data balance: dial #358#

  33. Daniel Austin said,

    4 December 2014 at 12:34 am

    Examples of current costs for data on Malagasy mobile networks:
    Orange: 250MB (validity 5 days) 7,200Ar; 1GB (21 days) 34,500Ar; 10GB (30 days) 175,000Ar; 30GB (60 days) 245,000Ar.
    Airtel: 250MB (7 days) 13,500Ar; 1GB (30 days) 45,000Ar; 10GB (30 days) 135,000Ar; 30GB (30 days) 180,000Ar.
    Telma: 250MB (30 days) 13,500Ar; 1GB (30 days) 45,000Ar; 10GB (30 days) 135,000Ar; 30GB (30 days) 180,000Ar.
    The best option therefore depends on your anticipated volume of data usage and the time period you need it for. If you plan to use small amounts of data over a long period, then the validity periods offered on Telma’s bundles are the most generous. If you only need a relatively small volume of data (1GB or less) then the most affordable bundles are those from Orange. Larger data packs work out better value from Airtel and Telma. Remember that coverage and speed of each operator varies significantly with your geographical location, so if you expect to be using all your data from one particular place, this may prove to be the determining factor in deciding which operator to use.
    If you don’t have a smartphone, then a USB dongle modem for laptops can be purchased from Orange (49,000Ar), Airtel (29,000Ar) or Telma (29,000Ar); the same data rates as above apply.

  34. Daniel Austin said,

    4 December 2014 at 12:30 am

    Many of Madagascar’s most common butterflies have only four functional legs. In the Nymphalidae family, the first pair of legs is typically reduced in size and often not easily visible.

  35. Daniel Austin said,

    4 December 2014 at 12:20 am

    Madagascar has five known species of sundew (Drosera spp) out of nearly 200 described worldwide. Only one is endemic to Madagascar – D. humbertii – which is found only at Marojejy. D. madagascariensis is known from Ambohitantely, Andasibe, Andringitra, Marojejy, Tsaratanana, Ranomafana, and Isalo, as well as about 17 countries across Africa. D. indica is found at Andringitra, Ihorombe Plateau, and Melaky (near Mahajanga) as well as some 30 countries worldwide. D. burkeana is known from Itremo/Ambatofinandrahana as well as about nine countries in Africa. And D. natalensis can be seen at Andohahela, Andringitra, Anjanaharibe-Sud, Isalo, Kalambatritra, Marojejy, and Tsaratanana, as well as South Africa and Mozambique.

  36. Daniel Austin said,

    4 December 2014 at 12:02 am

    Wearing military-style clothing is forbidden in Madagascar (unless you are army/police/gendarmerie of course). This includes any items of clothing with a camouflage print. In practice, you are unlikely to run into difficulties if you wear a camo hat while birdwatching in a national park, say; but it would be advisable to avoid such dress when travelling on the roads, through airports, etc.

  37. Daniel Austin said,

    4 December 2014 at 12:01 am

    The Clos Malaza range of Malagasy wines now includes dry white, sweet white, grey, rosé, red, vin d’ananas (pineapple) and apératif à l’orange. They also make eaux de vie in pineapple, plum and litchi flavours, as well as liqueurs of pineapple, mandarin and orange. Contact details for their headquarters in Fianarantsoa: tel 75 506 70; mob 032 05 300 15 or 032 05 505 00; email soamaffianar@gmail.com or clos@moov.mg
    Clos Malaza is currently the second best Malagasy win after Clos Nomena, but far more widely available. They run tours of their winery north of Ambalavao.

  38. Daniel Austin said,

    4 December 2014 at 12:00 am

    Local contact details for Air Madagascar offices and branches:
    Analakely headquarters: tel 22 222 22; email groupe@airmadagascar.com or agence.analakely@airmadagascar.com
    La City, (Ivandry) branch: tel 22 510 00; email resa.corporate@airmadagascar.com
    Call Centre: tel 22 510 00; mob 034 02 222 47/032 07 222 23; email callcenter@airmadagascar.com or callcenter.md@airmadagascar.com
    Charters: mob 034 07 222 68; email affretement@airmadagascar.com
    After sales: mob 034 02 222 39; email customer@airmadagascar.com
    Namako loyalty programme: mob 034 02 222 17; email namako@airmadagascar.com
    Ivato: mob 034 02 222 15; email agence.ivato@airmadagascar.com
    Freight: tel 22 451 49; mob 032 07 222 18; email reservationfret@airmadagascar.com
    Baggage disputes: tel 22 514 67; mob 034 49 222 01; email tnrll@airmadagascar.com
    Welcome service: mob 034 49 222 03; email dtkw@airmadagascar.com
    Antalaha branch: mob 032 07 222 13; email anmssmd@airmadagascar.com
    Antsiranana branch: tel 82 214 75; mob 032 05 222 04/033 11 222 04; email diessmd@airmadagascar.com
    Mahajanga branch: mob 032 05 222 06; tel 034 11 222 07; email mjnssmd@airmadagascar.com
    Morondava branch: tel 95 920 22; mob 032 07 222 14/034 49 422 35; email moqssmd@airmadagascar.com
    Nosy Be branch: tel 86 612 18/613 57; mob 032 05 222 51; email nosssmd@airmadagascar.com
    Toamasina branch: mob 032 07 222 02/034 11 222 25; email tmmssmd@airmadagascar.com
    Taolagnaro branch: tel 92 211 22; mob 032 05 222 80/034 11 222 08; email ftussmd@airmadagascar.com
    Toliara branch: tel 94 415 85; mob 034 11 222 01/034 11 222 15; email tlessmd@airmadagascar.com
    Sambava branch: tel 88 920 37/922 87; mob 034 11 222 14; email svbssmd@airmadagascar.com
    Sainte Marie branch: tel 57 400 46; mob 032 07 222 08; email smsssmd@airmadagascar.com

  39. Daniel Austin said,

    3 December 2014 at 11:58 pm

    Provisional tourism statistics just issued by Madagascar’s Ministry of Tourism reveal that in the 12 months to 1st October there were 215,984 visitors, up just 2.5% on the previous 12 months. While this total is a welcome 33% increase on 2009 (the year of the coup), is it still way short of the 375,010 peak in 2008. The tourism ministry’s ambitious target of 1,000,000 tourists in 2020 is looking increasingly fantastical.
    The latest figures for the nationality breakdown of foreign visitors arriving at Madagascar’s borders is as follows: 47% French, 15% Italian, 14% Réunionese/Mauritian/Comorian/Seychellois, 6.0% Asian (of which 38% Chinese), 3.7% African, 3.0% US/Canadian, 2.0% British, 2.0% German, 5.6% other European, and 0.9% other.

  40. Donal Conlon said,

    2 December 2014 at 5:24 am

    Growing insecurity in Madagascar: Antsohihy Story
    I have been a regular visitor to Madagascar for the last six years, like it a lot but have experienced a growing sense of insecurity mixed with desperation in that time; this is my story of some weeks ago in Antsohihy, which is on the road north to Diego.
    I was sleeping in a small bungalow on the outskirts of town; I had slept there on four previous occasions and felt safe.
    The first noise woke me but didn’t alarm me. Maybe the sound of a branch falling I thought. A second time made me jump from bed: splintering wood. The door of my small bungalow! As I shouted, “Who is it?” I knew it to be bad. The door burst open and two baseball capped men, one holding the bar he had used to break open the door, the other flinging a fistful of stones into the room as they both rushed in. It ‘seems’ the third, outside, had a pistol to the head of the caretaker.
    I seized the bar and grappled as he pushed me against the bed and I plumped down heavily on it twisting and turning the bar as I did. The other went straight to my little table and started gathering things. My assailant, with his face up against mine, shouted again and again in French, “Where is it, the money?” as I screamed again and again, “Voleurs, Voleurs”.
    It was over quickly; gathering all they rushed out and, through a porous chicken wire fence down a slope into neighbouring fields as I kept shouting, Voleurs, Voleurs and Mon passeport,Mon passeport. I stood shaking on the small terrace of my single-room bungalow as the dogs of the neighbourhood howled and the lights came on in the house of the family who owned the bungalows on the other side the small yard. It wasn’t fear, it was all too quick for that, it was already the realisation of all the sometimes very stupid consequences I was going to have to endure especially from the pampered pen pushers they call diplomatic representatives.
    Almost everything gone: money, credit cards, passport, papers for my motor bike, driving license, camera, binoculars, spectacles, netbook, on which I write this, gone too but found in the morning where one of the robbers had and let it drop as he ran away.
    Five days with the police: reports I had to write myself, prosecuting magistrate, examining magistrate (French system), identification parades: three men are in jail but no sign of anything. It was the third such incident in the town in 2 days.
    Three weeks before having any clear idea of what my options were; the Irish have no Embassy here. What I felt when it happened has been realised with a vengeance-if the robbery was a difficult experience you can trust the diplomats to hammer in the nails: with relish, it seems.

  41. Daniel Austin said,

    28 November 2014 at 11:06 am

    When changing money in Madagascar, it is worth shopping around, especially if you are changing less common currencies such as Pounds Sterling, for which rates are more variable than Euros or US Dollars. On one day recently when we checked the two banks and three bureaux des changes in Antananarivo airport, the best GBP rate (3,900Ar) and worst (3,300Ar) differed by more than 18%

  42. 20 November 2014 at 8:27 am

    Madagascar Mozaic Tour is a Tour Operator based in Antananarivo. We are a nature passionate team, sensitive to the preservation of our natural heritage and and aware of the benfits of a responsible tourism. With over 10 years experience, we offer tailor made tours, photo tours, birding tours with knowledgeable guides, adventure tours including trekking in the Makay region and river trip.

  43. Daniel Austin said,

    7 November 2014 at 8:42 pm

    A key ingredient to romazava – Madagascar’s main national dish – brèdes mafana (literally “hot grass”) has one of the most extraordinary flavours you are ever likely to taste. Nature’s answer to popping candy, eating this small plant has been likened to the experience of sticking your tongue on the terminals of a battery then injecting your gums with local anaesthetic. Known to botanists as Acmella oleracea, its leaves and flower buds are used both fresh and dried.
    Brèdes mafana is a feature of Indian Ocean cuisine and can be found across Madagascar. You may have come across it if you have spent time in South America (especially in Peru and Brazil, where it’s called “jambu”) or southeast Asia, but it is little known in the northern hemisphere. The Malagasy call it anamalaho, kimotodoha or kimalao. Around the world, Brèdes mafana has acquired some odd names, including paracress, toothache plant, spotflower, xux (the local word for “wasps” in Yucatán) and quemadera (meaning “burning” in Colombia); the buds have been called electric buttons, buzz buttons, Szechuan buttons, sansho buttons.
    What makes this food so unusual? All parts of the plant are packed with a fatty acid amide called spilanthol – most concentrated in the daisy-like flower buds (the buds may or may not be included in romazava, according to the chef’s taste). The effect of spilanthol on the consumer varies from individual to individual, but typically the initial burst of fresh leafy flavour gives way to a slightly citrus aftertaste, then comes the oral fireworks – a mixture of tingling, effervescence, chills and numbing, generally accompanied by a mouth-watering sensation (spilanthol induces excessive saliva production by affecting the oral nerve pathways).
    For a photo, see the Bradt Madagascar Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/bradtmadagascar/photos/a.249547108554524.1073741830.249525855223316/359161177593116

  44. Joanne Thibault said,

    19 October 2014 at 8:28 pm

    The current email address for the Madagascar Fauna and Flora Group is
    mfgmad@moov.mg. Sadly, the website (www.savethelemur.org) is not functioning. The website for Parc Ivoloina, operated by MFG is
    http://www.parcivoloina.org/

  45. Joanne Thibault said,

    19 October 2014 at 4:59 pm

    Earthwatch Institute is no longer offering its Carnivores of Madagascar expedition in association with Dr. Luke Dollar.

  46. Daniel Austin said,

    12 October 2014 at 8:16 am

    BMOI bank will not change US$100 bills, even those with recent dates; they accept only denominations of $1 to $50.

  47. Daniel Austin said,

    9 October 2014 at 1:15 pm

    It is currently “corossol” season in Madagascar, and that is great news! Fresh corossol juice is on menus in restaurants and bars, and the fruit may also be found in smoothies and sorbets. But “what is it?” we are often asked. The Malagasy call it “voantsokona”; corossol is the French name for what is known as the “soursop” in English, yet many English-speakers have never heard of it.
    Native to Central America and the Caribbean, the soursop (Annona muricata) in grown in several warm humid countries, including Madagascar. Closely related to the pawpaw, it has lightly spiky green skin and a light-coloured edible pulp that has been likened to a mixture of strawberry and pineapple, with a hint of lemon and a creaminess akin to banana or coconut. One fruit typically weighs up to 2½kg, but exceptionally may exceed 6kg.
    To see a photo of a soursop, visit the Bradt Madagascar Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/bradtmadagascar/photos/a.249547108554524.1073741830.249525855223316/348548635321037/?type=1&permPage=1

  48. Daniel Austin said,

    9 October 2014 at 11:14 am

    Highway banditry continues to be a problem on many of Madagascar’s roads, although almost all incidents occur at night so the risk can be more or less avoided by not travelling during the hours of darkness. It is widely believed that attacks are not random: informants in taxi-brousse stations pick out travellers with valuable cargo and then phone ahead to those preparing the ambush with details of the target vehicle, before it has even begun its journey. It is thus worth stressing the importance of not flaunting valuables, opening heavily loaded wallets in public, wearing expensive jewellery, or openly displaying high-value gear before or during a journey. Indeed, it is sensible advice to follow at all times and in all places when in Madagascar.

  49. Daniel Austin said,

    3 October 2014 at 6:24 pm

    SIM cards should currently cost 500Ar on all three Malagasy networks; beware of being overcharged. A USB dongle for internet now costs from 29,000Ar (Airtel) to 49,000Ar (Orange), with data rates typically 45,000Ar for 1GB (30-day validity).

  50. Daniel Austin said,

    11 September 2014 at 4:03 pm

    The national airline of the Seychelles, Air Seychelles, has announced that twice-weekly direct flights between Seychelles and nearby Madagascar will commence on 3 December 2014 after a hiatus of 33 years. The move, which is still subject to government approval, is expected to enhance connectivity in the region and boost cultural and trade ties between the two countries.
    After the signing of a new bilateral air service agreement between the civil aviation authorities of the two Indian Ocean islands in May, Air Seychelles sourced an Airbus A320 aircraft that would be able to service the route. The aircraft, which offers 16 business class and 120 economy class seats, will fly the Antananarivo route on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The aircraft will also offer seven tonnes of cargo space and expects freight between the two countries to include perishables, mechanical spare parts and pharmaceuticals.

  51. Daniel Austin said,

    27 August 2014 at 9:56 pm

    Yesterday’s Air France flight AF943 to Antananarivo had to be diverted to Réunion because of protest action. The Boeing 777 from Paris was carrying 310 passengers and 15 crew. The incident came about after national airline and airport staff announced that they are refusing ground support to French airlines in protest against the continued blacklisting of Air Madagascar by EU airspace. Striking staff have accused France of having a hand in perpetuating the ban, which broadly benefits the French flag carrier as well as other European airlines serving Madagascar.
    It appears that the strike was initiated by Malagasy staff themselves following a meeting yesterday demanding Air Madagascar be removed from the EU blacklist. The ongoing protest means that aircraft operated by Air France, Air Austral and Corsair are currently unable to fly into or out of Ivato Airport. Tour operators are reporting stranded passengers, with no word on when the action is expected to be brought to an end. The management of Air Madagascar has apparently called on striking workers to ensure their movement does not impede the operations of air transport.

  52. Daniel Austin said,

    22 August 2014 at 2:53 pm

    Thanks to sharp-eyed reader Tsanta Fiderana for pointing out that Madagascar’s motto, quoted on page 2 of the guide, has recently changed with the advent of the Fourth Republic, and should read “Fitiavana, Tanindrazana, Fandrosoana” (“Love, Fatherland, Progress”) and not “Tanindrazana, Fahafahana, Fandrosoana” (“Fatherland, Liberty, Progress”), as it was previously, under the Third Republic!

  53. Daniel Austin said,

    22 August 2014 at 1:38 pm

    The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) yesterday issued a warning about “rare instances of kidnapping for ransom in Madagascar”. This year at least three foreign nationals have been kidnapped in the Antananarivo area for ransom. Tourists should not be unduly worried by this warning, as the targets have been wealthy expatriates working for large international companies. However, it is advisable always to remain vigilant and take the latest advice from your tour operator and locals, especially when visiting places with few people around, where you may be more vulnerable. Flaunting valuables is inadvisable.
    Currently the only place in Madagascar that the FCO officially advises against going to is Batterie Beach, north of Toliara, where recent years have seen a number of violent attacks and murders. The vast majority of the county remains very safe if you take sensible precautions.

  54. Daniel Austin said,

    8 July 2014 at 4:33 pm

    Following an extraordinary meeting today of the board of Air Madagascar, the airline has issued a statement announcing the decision that Air Madagascar will be taken over by the state (its majority shareholder) for the resolution of the problems currently facing the airline and that the board of directors will undergo restructuring. The Directeur Général’s resignation has been accepted and an interim Directeur Général appointed (Haja Raelison).
    With immediate effect, a steering committee composed of directors and board members will ensure protection of the high season while implementing a recovery strategy with the involvement of all staff in order to strengthen trust in Air Madagascar by its partners. The airline must regain its leading role in showcasing Madagascar and facilitating trade with the rest of the world.
    The board of directors now comprises: Henry Rabary-Njaka, Eric Koller, Jean de Dieu Lemena, Enrico Boto, Orlando Robimanana, Patrick Andriambahiny, François Randriamahandry, Nicole Andrianarivoson and Rasandy Andriambololona.

  55. Andrew Eadie said,

    15 June 2014 at 1:48 pm

    I have just returned from a fantastic three week trip, including Marojejy, Ranomafana and (stunningly beautiful) Andringitra, a very challenging trip logistically, all of which was superbly organised by Antananarivo-based ‘Madagascar Endemics and Resorts’, run by my guide, Manitra Andriamialisoa. I won’t hesitate to use him again for my next trip, which I am already planning.. His website is at http://www.madagascar-endemics.com.

  56. Tiffany Coates said,

    11 January 2014 at 8:28 am

    I’m a solo woman who recently returned from three months of motorcycle travel off the beaten track going around Madagascar from Diego Suarez to Fort Dauphin, Tulear and Morondava to Ile Sainte Marie. Taking the coastal routes wherever possible. This was the first time I had ventured to Madagascar although it has been on my must-visit list for a long time. I met incredible people and had the most amazing time.
    Benefits of Travel by Motorcycle
    Much more approachable in the eyes of local people and a great ice-breaker, something along the lines of “vazaha on a moto!!”
    It’s easy to park and find somewhere safe to park the motorbike overnight – sometimes inside the building, in a dining room or reception!
    Rarely get stopped at police checkpoints – cars nearly always get stopped
    Very reasonable fuel consumption (65-80mpg)
    Go anywhere – even along footpaths, in fact the locals regard footpaths as motorbike roads.
    The best vehicle for the road conditions encountered in Madagascar – weaving a course around the potholes, and following footpaths around the mud.
    Having the option of travelling at whatever time of day you feel like usually starting very early in the morning while it’s cool and then having finished travel for the day by 2.00pm or earlier.

    I could go on, but suffice to say it was a great trip. If you have a bike licence from your own country you can ride in Madagascar. Bikes can be hired or bought (I bought mine) from:
    http://moto-tour-madagascar.mg/

    they are based in Tana and are a very friendly, French and English speaking company. If you are limited on time, they also provide guided tours of varying lengths.
    I truly believe that a motorbike is the best way to visit this incredible destination.

    • Donal Conlon said,

      12 January 2014 at 9:07 am

      Tiffany. All you say is true and I’m pleased you enjoyed it so much. I’ve so enjoyed motorbiking in Mada that I bought my own and leave it there for each return. If you’d like to read an article on a recent trip I made go to http://www.irishtimes.ie and type in my name: Donal Conlon

  57. 3 November 2013 at 5:12 am

    Please consider leaving any English (or French or German) books that you have finished reading at park entrances for the guides – or give them to the guides directly, so they can use them to practice. While there are often repositories of books left by tourists at nearby hotels, hotel staff are not always that keen to give or even loan them out to guides.

  58. Alastair Cameron said,

    20 June 2013 at 8:22 pm

    We were looking for Malagasy music on our trip, and we weren’t disappointed. Tana wasn’t so great though we found a very helpful guy in Super Musik, a shop on l’Avenue de l’Independence selling CDs. The Glacier seemed to be the only place for live music, and it was fun, but hard work fending off the working girls who made up half the audience.
    In Antsirabe, we found good music in Razafimamonjy’s – an acoustic band I think were called Miadza: guitars, kabosy with bass (and on one occasion a valiha) and excellent close harmony singing. Tuesdays and Thursdays at the time (May 2013), with other bands on different nights.
    We encountered kabosy music again when camped by the Tsiribihina and in Morondava. And Morondava also has l’Oasis de Jean le Rasta – mainly a shrine to Bob Marley, but also with local music on the PA and in live sessions.

  59. Alastair Cameron said,

    30 May 2013 at 8:20 pm

    We wanted to spend our holiday money in Madagascar as far as possible, so we chose a local tour company, Madagascar Green Tours – http://www.madagascar-green-tours.com/. It is run by Baba Solomon, and is based in Antsirabe. He gave us everything we wanted, and more. Our main guide, Daddy, speaks excellent English and became a friend. All the arrangements were excellent, and the hotels were all good.

  60. Daniel Austin said,

    16 December 2012 at 8:30 am

    Since the coup in 2009, attacks on vehicles in Madagascar have been increasing in many parts of Madagascar, with roads in the south (especially the RN13) being worst affected. The outlaws responsible are sometimes inaccurately described as ‘dahalo’, but this word specifically refers to cattle-rustlers; the correct general term for bandits is ‘malaso’.
    There have been no reports of foreigners’ vehicles being specifically targeted, and indeed the consensus among Malagasy people is that the malaso are probably less likely to harm foreigners as to do so would surely be far more widely reported and likely to evoke a firmer crackdown by security forces. The attacks almost always occur under cover of darkness. It is inadvisable to travel at night, even close to major towns, but daytime travel is still considered safe throughout Madagascar.
    To avoid the risk, do not travel at night, and take local advice on which areas may be dangerous after dark. Don’t travel with more valuables than you need to, and consider keeping money and cards in a concealed money belt, with a small amount of cash in a separate wallet that can be handed over if necessary.

  61. Daniel Austin said,

    11 December 2012 at 8:08 pm

    A magazine for tourism professionals, called “Info Tourisme Madagascar”, was launched five years ago and is published in French three times a year (in Jan, May and Sep) in partnership with the national tourist office. The editor is journalist Richard Bohan, who has 17 years of experience living in Madagascar. The magazine is not available by subscription but can be obtained from the tourist office. From January 2013, an English translation will be available (as a PDF only). Web http://www.info-tourisme-madagascar.com .

  62. Donal Conlon said,

    11 December 2012 at 9:52 am

    During a recent visit to Madagascar I felt an increase in the arbitrary behaviour of the organs of the law: a kind of banditry. Three people from the small hotel I was in Mahajanga had 30 000 AR extracted from them for not having their passport with them in the street.
    I enquired about the law; there is a law. You can demand to be taken to the police station, there you will be given a form to sign, and you will have to pay a fine of 2,500 or 3,500 AR and be given 2 or 3 days to produce your passport with its visa. I don’t think the fine is returned.
    There is a lawless arrogance about the security forces at the moment: a total lack of discipline. This is probably due the political vacuum in Tana: the “centre does not hold”. Most tourists are ready to cough up the 30,000 AR, or more, just to be let go on their way: a mistake.
    I came away with the idea it must be a rich country after all; a country that can buy so many different colour uniforms for some many branches of the law must be doing something right. Containers of wood to China perhaps!

  63. Daniel Austin said,

    11 December 2012 at 7:29 am

    A series of price hikes recently has made Air Madagascar’s domestic flights rather more expensive than they were. They have also tripled the fee for amending a booking to 50,000Ar (only one change permitted) and they have introduced a 200,000Ar no-show penalty. The quality of service has also dropped markedly over the past four or five months, with reportedly as many as 90% of flights on some routes being cancelled or rescheduled at the last moment. Rescheduling can involve bringing a flight forward as well as delaying it, and this is sometimes done with just a couple of hours’ notice, so make sure when you book that Air Madagascar has a mobile number on which they can reach you!
    In the latest update from the European Aviation Safety Agency issued last week (5 Dec 2012), Air Madagascar continues to be blacklisted with only the two Airbus A340-300s excepted.

  64. Daniel Austin said,

    18 November 2012 at 3:38 pm

    MICET (The Madagascar branch of the Institute for the Conservation of Tropical Environments), based in Antananarivo, is a good first point of contact for any researchers interested in doing fieldwork in the parks and reserves of Madagascar. They offer advice and logistical support to foreign students working across the country. Tel 22 55 790; email micet@moov.mg

  65. Jorn Arnt said,

    8 November 2012 at 8:22 am

    Tour Company recommendation
    We have just returned from a one month trip to Madagascar, 6 friends travelling together. It was arranged locally by the company “Authentic Madagascar Tours” based on our input to program. They were very honest and delivered all services promised from the arrival in Tana to departure. In addition, they were always punctual on a daily basis. We can recommend them without reservation..

  66. Daniel Austin said,

    24 October 2012 at 11:16 am

    It was announced yesterday that the British Embassy in Madagascar will be reopened with immediate effect. The Ambassador, Mr Timothy Smart, is already in Antananarivo and the new embassy will be fully functional by March 2013. This marks Britain’s full diplomatic re-engagement with Madagascar after the decision by the last British Government to close the Embassy in 2005. See http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-vote-office/October_2012/23-10-12/3-FCO-Madagascar.pdf

  67. Carl said,

    28 February 2011 at 9:17 am

    I would offer an addition to the “Getting Around” section. Madagascar is wonderful and the one situation where I almost loose my cool are the taxi brousse stations. I offer a few bits of information (probably incomplete) that I wish I had when I got here.

    There are four zones of taxi-brousse. Most taxi-brousses are clearly labeled with the company and zone. All have specific, assigned routes:

    1. “Zone Urbane”. These are the city buses of taxi-brousses. They run numbered routes in Tana (and perhaps elsewhere). They stop at designated stops and have signs in the window listing their route. Usually, you enter from the back and the fare will be 200-400 ar, depending on the distance you travel.

    2. “Zone Suburbane”. These run longer distances. They also stop at assigned stops, and originate at various locales in Tana (and rpobably elsewhere) but not usually from the taxi-brousse stations. (For example, I took a zone suburbane taxi-brousse from Tana to the Lemurs Park, on NR1 west of Tana, for 1,000 ar.)

    3. “Zone Regional”. These are my least favorite taxi-brousses. They typically originate at taxi-brousse stations. They travel long distance, perhaps up to 6 hours or so. They may stop wherever someone asks or wherever they are flagged down. Seating is 4 persons per row. They typically leave when they are full, not until. It is not necessary, and often not possible, to make a reservation. Usually, you do not buy a ticket. You can simply enter the taxi-brousse and pay the “sous-chauffeur” (the conductor), at some point during the trip. You may also buy a ticket from the office at the station. Or you can buy a ticket from the many “handlers” at the station, who are very friendly and very manipulative and will often increase the price.

    4. “Zone National”. These are supposed to run point to point between the larger cities and longer distances of Madagascar, for example, Tana to Fianar or Tuliare. They have daily schedules. They seat 3 per row, and tend to be more comfortable and in better shape. I say “supposed to” because some less reputable agencies will pile stuff on top which they deliver along the route, will not leave anywhere near on time if it isn’t full, and will stop along the way to get passengers. (I would avoid Mafio.) A good company (Mami) provides point to point service, only stopping for meals or breaks, and typically departs with a half hour of the posted departure. You can (and should, if possible) make reservations in advance for these (you’ll be asked to pay a portion of the fare). You can call, or go by the office. Seating is assigned so you can select a seat in advance. Prices are posted but are somewhat negotiable.

    Kofifi once sold me and my friends to another company, with poorer service and a later departure, without telling us. We didn’t realize until it was too late; be firm and insist that you receive what you reserved – the proper vehicle, proper schedule, and proper seats. The folks in the offices are, in my experience, pretty honest, but if you have a problem, ask for your money back or refuse to enter until it is resolved. Also, don’t pay until you’re satisfied that everything is clear.

    The handlers will try to guide you to an office and if they do, they will get a commission. They will also take you where they benefit most, and will tell you what they think you want to hear, in order to get you to go with them. Don’t ever assume that what they tell you is true, or is not true.


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