My holiday in Madagascar was an amazing visit to one of the world’s most unique and exciting places. Between its teeming capital city, small coastal villages, brilliant national forests, distinctive wildlife, and open, friendly people, Madagascar gave me so much to appreciate and learn on even a short visit. This series describes my Malagasy holiday from beginning to end. Mankafy! If you are starting in the middle, CLICK HERE to go to the first post.
Today, it’s off to the west coast! The main part of my trip would be spent in the west, taking in the world-famous baobab trees and hiking the Grand Tsingy stone forest. Outside of Tana, very few Malagasy roads are paved, making any trip across country slow and arduous. So the fastest way to explore other parts of the country is to fly as far as possible before braving the roads—back to the airport I went!
The flight wasn’t until the afternoon so in the morning, I got to see a bit more of Antananarivo. We went on a drive to the queen’s palace (Rova) at the very top of the city where an older gentleman named Vernon gave me the history on a tour. It was really interesting and I was impressed with his English (with a history of French colonization, speaking English is not common throughout Madagascar), and how much he wanted to share the history with me.
The Rova compound was home to the royalty of the Imerina tribe dating back to the 1600s, and became the seat of power for the kings & queens of Madagascar after the tribes were unified as one nation. A huge fire destroyed many of the buildings in 1995, so now it’s only possible to walk around the grounds and imagine what would have been, save for a few reconstructions. But Vernon knew a lot about the history and was able to bring it to life even so. On top of that, the 360° view from here was priceless!
We took a purposely circuitous route back to the airport, and I got to see more of the city. We passed the unused Antananarivo train station — a beautiful façade but not a stretch to call the area sketch town. Being Sunday, everyone was dressed in their Sunday best (going to church is a given for Malagasy people!), which was an interesting contrast to the goats, plucked chickens, and zebus walking through the same unpaved streets. When we reached the airport I said goodbye to Rado and started the next part of the adventure.
After hearing countless horror stories of the only local carrier Air Madagascar (cancelled flights, hours late departures, early departures!?), I was glad the flight to Morondava was uneventful. Morondava airport is ti-i-iny and I quickly found my new guide Rivo, and we drove to the hotel.
I thought Tana was rustic but wow was I wrong. Morondava is even more basic with thatched huts, babes slung on backs, baskets on heads, and practically everyone barefoot. Hut/stalls and crouched vendors lined both sides of the road from the airport all the way to “Morondava center,” and so many people were out walking and shopping. Soon we reached the road to Nosy Kely—the “little island”—a part of Morondava that sits between the sea on one side and a small channel on the other. This road led to my new hotel, Palissandre Côte Ouest, which was like an oasis unto itself with thatched individual huts right next to the sea.
The room had me duly impressed , and then realized, I’m in the elements! A friendly lizard made itself at home on the bathroom sink and then proceeded to follow me into the toilet room then into the bedroom, where I noticed another one chilling on the slatted window covers. The thought of one crawling into bed with me made the room a lot less appealing! That and the slatted floorboards which let me see to the sand below—goodness only knows what else may be waiting down there!
But I only had a bit of time until it was time to go to Baobab Alley. And what an amazing place! Most of the road to get there was unpaved and bumpy with thatched huts and crowds flanking both sides. When we reached the condensed stretch of majestic baobab trees, they really were magnificent. The pictures can barely do it justice and I fear my words definitely can’t. Suffice to say, I’m so glad I went there and all of the discomfort and newness of this whole place were worth it.
The kids play soccer and the tourists fly their drones during sunset at baobab alley. Except for the drones, it was a great atmosphere!