Hidden Gems of Madagascar: Holiday Inspirations
Considering Madagascar has become synonymous with its – admittedly impressive- lemur population, the island off the south-east coast of Africa has so much more to offer the tourist and backpacker alike than these furry little natives. Be it adventure fuelled activities or pirate ship graveyards, to wildlife spotting, exotic hut spa relaxation for a taste of the slower pace of life. Adrian Simpson, writer and TV presenter from Chillisauce, is excited to draw your attention from the old European holiday destinations to the exciting real wonderland on earth — Madagascar! Take a trip down the road less travelled on the Isle of Madagascar and prepare for some true hidden gems, Malagasy-style.
If it’s a pirate’s life for you, why not take to the glistening sea coasts of the Ile Sainte Marie. A relatively short ferry ride away from the eastern shore of Madagascar Island, Saint Marie offers the chance to explore the haunting skeletons of long lost pirate ships. Many ships were left on its shores during attempts to transport an array of gems and gold, their remnants now serving as enticements to scuba divers and snorkelers. One diver likened a mystical swim amongst the pirate debris to a visit to the valley of the pharaohs. You may even be lucky enough to lay your hands on some genuine hidden pirate gold!
With English now the official third language of Madagascar [after Malagasy and French] you don’t even have to worry about the dreaded language barrier. There’s usually always a friendly local happy to lend a hand. You might even run into the infamous guide and friend to tourists, Jean le Rasta. Set up in the Morondava beach town, Rasta Jean’s L’Oasis Hotel haven offers a fantastic getaway with live Reggae band and delicious fresh seafood.
Take the northern route away from Rasta Jean’s and you’ll come across the visually stunning Tsingy de Bemaraha. Not for the faint hearted, the Tsingy forest is a vast collection of ragged limestone peaks. The ‘stone forest’ filled with treacherous terrain, daring rope bridges and unrivalled fauna hidden away from society; a definite must-see for the holiday goer that has been everywhere and seen everything. There’s even a good chance one of the eleven species of lemur out there will join you in your adventure.
For a shot at a different variety of adrenalin rush, the island of Sakatia boasts back to basics spear fishing of sea predators. Awe inspiring marine life can be spotted, including hammerhead sharks and orca [killer whales], with a chance for the brave to free dive. Many companies also offer a more leisurely coast down Madagascar’s Tsiribihina River. With a local at the helm of a pirogue there’s the chance for those on board to appreciate the varied lemur and bird species dwellings on either side of the river. Pirogues can also be taken along Manambolo Gorge- the sacred resting place of native Malagasy ancestors. Even today it has an otherworldly feel, aided by the quiet waters, rugged cliff surroundings and dense forestation running at parallel with the Manambolo River.
Of course Madagascar has its fair share of up-to-date relaxation resorts, too. Seek out the stunning lagoon of Le Jardin du Roy spa hotel to swim amongst cascading waterfalls and glistening rock faces, or try the Anakao Ocean Lodge for a more luxurious breed of exotic; equipped with all the necessary mod-cons to accommodate the distinguished traveller. Attractive thatch roofed huts enclose a mini bar, air-con, hair dryer and personal shower.
There’s an added selection of exciting water sports available including surfing, water-skiing, kayaking, motor boating and the chance to hire out a sailboat. But if venturing into the deep blue just doesn’t appeal, take a quad bike jaunt down l’Avenue des Baobabs. Once part of a dense forest, the Baobabs native to Madagascar now stand as divided giants and provide a somewhat intimidating must-see.
Be it mystical or breath-taking landscapes, indigenous wildlife or adrenalin filled sports, if you’re looking to avoid the chief tourist traps there are just so many reasons to ‘move it move it’ to Madagascar.
Give it a try, visit Africa’s true hidden gem of an island. Mandra-pihaona!
Author byline: This is guest post by Adrian. He is a writer and broadcaster who has worked for many media organisations around the world, specialising in cars, travel, sport and current affairs. Visit his blog.chillisauce.co.uk for bizarre events and festivals around the world.