Diary blog Madagascar: Ile Sainte-Marie, Antsirabe & Avenue des Baobabs!

Time flies when you’re having fun and that is proven once again by this trip. Our time in Madagascar is already halfway done! In the previous diary blog, we had just arrived in Ile Sainte-Marie. Read on to see what happened over there!

Ile Sainte-Marie: my new favourite place in the world!

After our adventure with the whales, we agree to take the time to relax in the coming days. A nice plan, but if you know us a bit then you understand that we did a lot of things but really relaxing wasn’t one of them. We have seven days in Ile Sainte-Marie (also called Nosy Bohara), which sounds like a long time but believe me, I could have just spent a month here. There is plenty to see and do on the island. The island feels like a combination of Bali and French Polynesia, for the observant reader, two of my favourite travel destinations.

We love Ile Sainte-Marie so much that we consider flying back (instead of by boat) in order to stay two days longer. In the end, the flights are far too expensive (€ 170 for a one-way ticket per person) and we try to keep the number of flights as low as possible (climate considerations).

Pirate cemetery, waterfalls and fifty of shades of blue

On our second day, we rent a scooter to see more of the south of the island. We visit the only pirate cemetery in the world, drive through the green hills and go to some waterfalls. Ile Sainte-Marie is narrow and very stretched. Most roads run along the coast, after every turn, there is another beautiful bay with palm trees and fifty shares of blue water.

To reach the far north of the island to swim in the natural pools, we rent a quad and spend a whole day touring the island. The natural pools are beautiful.

You can find more about this trip, other activities and nice restaurants in the Travel guide on Ile Sainte-Marie in Madagascar!

Ile Sainte Marie

Running and new friends

Ile Sainte-Marie is also the first place where we can go for a nice run. The roads are relatively good and there are hardly any cars, making it safe to run here. I soon notice that I am out of shape, red like a tomato, I run panting after Ries. Up and down to the airport (which is so small that it is not fenced off and children playing football right along the runway) is six kilometres, the perfect distance to cover before breakfast.

During the boat trip to Ile Sainte-Marie, we met people who live as an ex-pat in Tana. One of them, Vincent, who grew up in Reunion, but sounds very British due to his studies in the UK, invites us to spend an evening with them. Vincent is the perfect host and ensures that we get to know everyone and that, despite a power failure, a delicious meal is served. And so we have a nice evening with a mixed group of ex-pats and Malagasy in a beautiful villa.

Île Aux Nattes

The rest of our days are filled with writing, running and another whale-watching trip. We spend our last days on the island of île Aux Nattes. This island borders Ile Sainte-Marie and is even smaller. There are only sandy paths, beautiful beaches and a few tiny villages. Oh, and lots of sand fleas. Nice to visit, but unlike many other people, we like Ile Sainte-Marie more!

Roadtrip part two!

After two long boring travel days, on which we are fortunately not getting seasick this time, we come back to Tana. We sleep again in Meva Guesthouse which already feels like home. The next morning our car is ready for the road trip to the south of Madagascar.

Cycling in Antsirabe

Our first stop is Antsirabe. This is a nice village in the high mountains of Madagascar. We make a tough bike ride to two lakes here. One is a 160-meter deep crater lake (Lake Tritriva). The icy water is deep blue and very pretty. A guide takes us for a walk around it and tells us more about the surroundings.

Avenue des Baobabs

We drive on to the village of Morondava, a place we would not go to initially. Near Morondava is one of the most famous places in Madagascar: Avenue des Baobab. Besides being one of the most touristy places in Madagascar, it is also quite out of the way. But after being encouraged by different locals, we decide to adjust our route and drive the difficult road next to the west coast. This way we do not drive the same distance twice and Avenue des Baobabs is on the route.

In the end, we are very happy with this choice. Yes, Avenue des Baobabs is the most touristy place in Madagascar, but that is for a reason. We have a short night because we want to photograph the famous trees at sunset, sunrise and at night. As you can see, this results in a number of very beautiful pictures.

Free travel guide to Avenue des Baobabs: the scenic trees of Madagascar!

Avenue de baobabAvenue de Baobab

Driving on dirt roads and rivers

After the sunrise, we get in the car and we start a challenging ride. We drive from Morondava to Tulear, a route where there are no asphalted roads, only dirt roads. Fortunately, we have a 4×4 and after five weeks, quite some experience with driving in Madagascar. After four hours of driving through loose sand, across salt plains and occasionally through a river, we arrive in Belo Sur Mer. A tiny village on the water. We will stay here for the next two days to catch our breath and enjoy the surroundings. Unfortunately, Ries suffers from mild food poisoning, which means he spends most of the time in bed.

After two nights he is better again and that is a good thing. The next part of the route consists of forest fires, deep rivers that we cross on a raft and overgrown roads. But more about that in the next diary blog!

Read here everything about the self-drive itinerary from Morondava to Toliara by 4wd!

Where did we sleep these two weeks in Madagascar:

  • Ile Sainte-Marie: Villas de Vohilava, beautiful villas on the beach with a good restaurant. Really enjoy the luxury and tranquillity! € 40 per night.
  • Ile aux Nattes: Coco Lodge, simple but clean lodges. € 19 a night.
  • Tamatave (Toamasina): Hotel Flamboyants, nothing special but great for a night. € 13.20 per night.
  • Ivato (Tana): Meva Guesthouse, we were here before, very nice rooms near the airport. € 30 per night.
  • Antsirabe: Residence Madalief is run by the Dutch Remi. All proceeds from the hotel go to local school projects. The food here is delicious. € 25 per night.
  • Morondava: Hotel Manabe, extremely cheap and clean rooms with reasonably good wifi. € 12 per night.
  • Belo Sur Mer: Ecolodge du Menabe, beautiful lodges and location, slightly less friendly staff and the food was not great € 22 per night. Hotel Entremer, delicious food, beautiful lodges and a nice beach € 37 per night.

Read about all the hotels in Madagascar we can recommend!

Vilas de Vohilava

Statistics for these two weeks:

Number of hours in the car / bus / boat: +/- 35 hours
Number of km travelled: 1350 km
Number of herds of suicide zebu’s passed: at least 80!
Number of times fallen asleep before 8 pm: 4 times. Uhm yes, I fall asleep pretty quickly, but in my defence, we often get up before 6 a.m.
Number of times homesickness: 1 time, yes I was homesick for the first time. Nothing big, but I just noticed that I missed the Netherlands, especially now that it is summer there too. These summer evenings on the terrace with friends and a glass of rosé. Every time I notice that I appreciate our own country more and more because of travelling!
Number of times stuck in the sand: 0 times, a miracle!

Madagascar Highlight:

Getting up at 3 AM at night, driving through the fog in the dark and waiting while freezing my ass off for hours until the sun slowly rises above the baobab trees. That may not sound very appealing, but believe me, it was so special to see the light slowly change sitting close and cosy to each other. A moment I will never forget!

Madagascar Lowlight:

Unlike many other countries we have been to, the Malagasy are not pushy when it comes to buying souvenirs or taking a taxi. If you indicate that you are not interested, that will be respected and that is it. Except in Tamatave, a city in the east, where you should watch out for the rickshaw and tuk-tuk drivers. They continued to chase us as we walked the 600 meters from the bus station to our hotel, constantly screaming and pushing that we had to get in. Ries thought Tamatave was so terrible that he renamed the city “the place I never have to go to”.

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