Before dreaming of going to Madagascar, especially Northern Madagascar, bear in mind that it is difficult to get around alone in this forgotten country. Many heard about it for the first time thanks to the animated movie a couple of years ago. However it is still an underdeveloped country and tourism is something that is new here. There are companies that will offer tours and help you make your way around the island like we did. We had a driver and a guide to take us around. Actually I am not sure whether it is possible to travel in Madagascar on your own. You can forget about renting a car and public transport is anything but reliable. This was the second part of our trip in Madagascar. We had been to Andasibe-Mantadia National Park in search for lemurs. You can read more about this part of the trip here.
Antisiranana to Montagne d’Ambre
After a bumpy flight from Antananarivo we were arrived in one of the most remote locations we ever visited in our lives. We landed in Antisiranana, also known as Diego Suarez, which is the main ‘town’ in Northern Madagascar. What a town means in Madagascar is different than what we’re used to; simply having running water and electricity and some shops which offer the basic needs for the people living there. After a quick glimpse of the town and the most famous landmark here the ‘Pain du Sucre’, we were off for our road trip south towards the Montagne d’Ambre National Park.
Along the way we stopped a couple of times as we met chameleons of different types. We stayed in Joffreville which is close to the entrance to the national park. Joffreville is a small village and unlike the busy capital city we were surprised to see only a few people outside. This village consists mainly of a main road with one shop which sells some basic needs, however there is no electricity and only a few afford the luxury of having a generator at home.
The next day we were off to visit the national park in search of wildlife once again with treks in the morning and the afternoon. Wildlife in Madagascar is abundant in all its forms; lemurs of course, chameleons, frogs, birds, geckos, insects, trees and plants etc. Most of the wildlife here does not exist anywhere else on Earth and being here feels like being at the farthest distance away from home. This park offers some rewarding scenery; treks in the park will take you to beautiful waterfalls and relaxing lakes.
After two nights in Joffreville we were off again travelling further south towards Ankarana, host to another national park. This national park is famous for the Tsingy. This is a curious rock formation thousands of years old. It formed when these rocks were immersed under the ocean and home to a coral reef. We saw both the black tsingy as well as the red one. The different colour is due to the different rock that they are made up of. Another symbol of Madagascar appears here – baobabs. There are many forms of baobabs and some of them grow up to impressive dimensions. Actually there are a lot of things that impress you here in Madagascar!
We stayed another 2 nights in Ankarana and I would suggest anyone visiting to stay only one night as it is enough to visit the area. Another tip here is to avoid one activity that we have done – visiting a bat cave. The trek was really tough as we descended the rugged terrain and the heat was unbearable here. All the effort was not really worth the few minutes I was able to resist in the bat cave.
It was dark, bats were everywhere of course, but we could only hear them mostly because our torches were not strong enough for the size of the cave. And as we tried walking deeper in the cave we encountered a snake. I was terrified and as our guide assured us it was not poisonous (and encouraged us to touch it), I was determined to leave the place as soon as possible. I am adventurous yes and I do not get scared easily, however this cave was the limit for me.
Luckily after 2 nights in Ankarana, we were off to the beach soon. In Ankarana there were moments where we really wished to leave, the food was awful, the place where we stayed was full of spiders and frogs and we were really looking forward to our next stop. We continued our journey south towards the harbour of Ankify where we took the boat to the island of Nosy Komba. Along the way we also stopped at some colourful and vibrant markets. We also stopped at a chocolate plantation. Did you know that chocolate beans grow in a fruit that hang on the trunk of the tree? We also had the chance to taste the fruit, but the taste has nothing to do with the taste of the chocolate. It is not sweet and very creamy, good but nothing special.
Stay tuned for my next post on the heavenly islands of Northern Madagascar.