Madagascar Practical Information
What to Expect – Day to Day Experiences
Madagascans are very friendly and welcoming people. They are also naturally relaxed and don’t get stressed easily
In the Malagasy language there is really isn’t a word that directly translates as no (in the way that we use it), and your guide will always try to please you. For this reason it is important not to push your guide on a decision they have made (ie. having to setup camp rather than continue driving in the dark to your beach destination). Any decisions made will be made with your safety as a priority.
Another thing that you will quickly learn in Madagascar is that everyone works on a ‘mora mora’ (slowly, slowly) principle. This makes a sharp contrast to our hectic Western lifestyle and is a refreshing change………our advice is that as soon as you arrive in Madagascar, you relax and go with the flow – it will make for a great holiday and a much more enjoyable experience.
Madagascar is a large country and the road infrastructure is poor, so even short distances can take a long time to cover – especially when off the main road. For this reason we tend to concentrate on one area of Madagascar (eg. North West, East, South or South West) to allow you to experience the country rather than spend your whole time travelling. This also allows us to explore off the beaten track, away from the conventional tourist routes. That said, the larger cities are well connected by Air Madagascar flights so we tend to use these to enable us to travel by road in one direction only. Nevertheless, some local airlines do not meet European air safety standards and therefore there is a higher level of risk when compared to international flights.
Road conditions in Madagascar can change dramatically, and sometimes delays can occur with meeting transport which cause us to modify planned schedules. This can particularly be true when a car is meeting you at the end of a days rafting. The guides and porters will need to pack up all the rafting gear and we then have to transport guides, rafts as well as yourselves. It is not unknown for us to have to camp an additional night after rafting as it gets too late for us to travel by road. If travelling by plane or by rail, delays are commonplace, so amendments to itieneraries are the norm, rather than the exception. Patience and acceptance is a pre-requisite on an adventure holiday in Madagascar, but the rewards are very worthwhile.
Tipping isn’t usual but if eating out in European-style restaurants and hotels – tips are appreciated.
Your guides are paid for their services, however will appreciate any tipping for good service. It is difficult to put a figure on what you should tip (if you want to reward a good service) but possibly around 5,000-10,000 ariary per person per day for the guide, or 2,000 ariarys per day for a porter.
The food served in Madagascar is very much influenced by European and Asian cuisine. There is a lot of fresh food, zebu steak, rice and fish eaten. We are able to cater for vegetarians. When on trekking or river trips, there tends to be a good supply of food, with pasta or rice salads for lunch, some hot meals (often based with rice or pasta) for dinners and even some sundowners. Plenty of snacks are provided for quick fixes throughout the day.
Adequate travel insurance is mandatory for everyone who participates in a Pioneer expedition. Please bring a copy of your insurance policy and contact numbers to give to your expedition leader in case of illness or accident.
Accommodation is a mix of camping and hotels. When staying out of cities, many of the eco- hotels only have power between 6.30pm and 10pm. When camping we shall stay in classic dome tents with two people in each three person tent, sleeping mats are provided. We follow environmentally responsible camping procedure and ensure we make as little impact on the ecosystem as possible.
As with all Pioneer expeditions, we are committed to maximising the benefits of our trips to the local community and minimising the negative impact associated with tourism. We employ local agents and staff, not just to benefit the local economy, but also to give you a real sense of Madagascan culture. To greatly reduce our impact on the environment there will be a maximum of ten team members. This helps to minimise the damage associated with large scale tourism. We camp on sandy beaches to leave as little tracks as possible, we burn/recycle our rubbish and use very little motorised support for the expedition, minimising the impact on the environment.
Madagascar is subtropical and has several climate zones depending on altitude and location.
It is normally pleasantly warm and dry between May and October (winter). The main rainy season is Jan to March, and unless you are specifically looking for orchids or similar this is rarely a good time to travel.
April to June, the heavy rains have ended leaving a lush green backdrop. This is a good season for most of our trips.
July and August are the peak of the high season (as these coincide with European and USA holidays) – it is also mid winter in Madagascar so many reptiles and small mammals hibernate at this time, so not necessarily the best time for nature trips if you are wanting to see lots of these. September to December tends to be a bit hotter, but is still relatively dry. For this reason it is probably the best time to enjoy wildlife and beach holidays. As with weather generally though – you can never depend on it , so always be prepared for rain or sun.
In general the East is wetter than the West (so raingear is recommended).
In the highlands temperatures are cooler (and at night you will definitely need a warm jumper & long trousers). The south west has a much more arid climate.
Regarding the hotel rooms, you should contact your guide if you have any concerns about electrical points in the room. All travellers need to be familiar with evacuation routes of the hotel.
For personal safety in general, your guide will help inform you about what is safe. When you are not with guide (e.g. on the beach), Pioneer Expeditions recommand not to go out at night and to ask the hotel for specific safety considerations.
For all our river or sea trips, clients have to be able to swim. Swimming, snorkelling and diving are at their own risks.
Remote Areas & Delays
As some trips are carried out in remote locations, delays to get medical assistance are to be expected and can go up to more than 24 hours.
Most of the fauna in Madagascar is harmless; however, scorpions’ stings can become dangerous. Here are a few tips to avoid such an incident to occur:
Clothing – shake it out before putting it on, especially in the morning, and if you’re really lucky a spider will fall out as well.
Bedding – these are active night-time animals so take a peek before jumping in with an dangerous bedfellow.
Water – scorpions like water especially in more arid climates, so keep an eye out near the watering holes.
Footwear – shake boots out too, you wouldn’t want to sleepily stick your foot in and find a 4 inch scorpion dozing in there.