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Saturday, November 27, 2010

African Travel Tips When Visiting Madagascar ~ Madagascar Antanarivo to Ambositra






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Madagascar is 'Unique' - the best way to describe Madagascar, the world's fourth largest island. Almost everything from the fauna and flora to the Afro-Asian people can only be found here. Apart from beautiful beaches and magnificent coral reefs, the mysterious and bizarre fill the atmosphere surrounding the strange landscapes, sights and customs such as 'bone-turning'.

Home to the world's largest open air market and some of the best scuba diving and snorkelling globally available, Madagascar will enthrall laid-back visitors with a taste for adventure...

CAPITAL:

Antananarivo

CLIMATE:

Madagascar climate is Diverse, but in general tropical, pleasantly sunny and warm throughout the year. Summer is Sep-Apr, winter May-Aug and dry season (May-Sep). Cyclones occur Jan to mid-Feb.

CURRENCY:

1 Malagasy Franc = 100 centimes. A few hotels and restaurants accept Amex, Master and Visa credit cards, but a charge of up to 7 percent of the transaction value is levied. Only change money at authorised money changers. Traveller's cheques in hard currencies can be exchanged at banks and major hotels. ATMs accept Visa cards.

The machines have a withdrawal limit of 900 000 Malagasy Franc, but it's possible to make several withdrawals at once. Note that the Malagasy Franc is non-convertible. USD traveller's cheques are recommended.

ELECTRICITY:

Mostly 127/220 volts, 50Hz, other times 110 or 380 volts. Plugs are 2-pin round.

HEALTH:

A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required from travellers coming from, or having been in transit in, areas considered to be infected. Visitors are advised to take pre-arrival precautions against malaria (risk exists throughout the year in the whole country with the highest risk in the coastal areas), typhoid, polio and hepatits A. Other health concerns include cholera (rainy season especially), water (drink bottled water only), influenza (risk extends throughout the year), plague (officially considered infected), minimal medical facilities and unavailable medicines.

LANGUAGE:

Malagasy and French. English is hardly ever spoken.

PUBLIC HOLIDAYS:

New Year's Day (1 Jan); Celebration of the 1947 Uprising (29 Mar); Good Friday (9 Apr); Easter Monday (12 Apr); Labour Day (1 May); Independance Day (26 Jun); Assumption (15 Aug); All Saint's Day (1 Nov); Christmas Day (25 Dec); Boxing Day (26 Dec); Republic's Anniversay (30 Dec)

SHOPPING:

lamba cloths; chessboards and boxes done in zafimaniny marquetry style; silver, shell and precious stone jewellery; reeds, rafia and straw woven items; embroidery. The Wednesday Andravoahangy market offers better quality products. NB: all products which include local fauna & flora (including dried flowers) require export permits which you must get at the time of purchase. Many items are manufactured illegally and may not be taken out of country.

SOCIAL CONVENTIONS:

Fifty-one percent of people practise Animism (belief that inanimate and natural phenomena have souls), about 43 percent are Christian and the remainder Muslim. People have a relaxed attitude to time, which can be frustrating. Seek advice before approaching graves or tombs and find out what the region's taboos ("fady") are and respect these.

TIME DIFFERENCE:

GMT +3

TIPPING:

Not customary, although waiters expect 10 percent especially in European, Chinese and Vietnamese establishments. Tipping taxi drivers is not necessary.

TOP TEN ATTRACTIONS DESCRIPTION:

Antananarivo and surrounds:

The colourful capital houses most of the island's friendly locals; buy exquisite embroidery and other crafts at the Zoma market and see the fascinating architecture and rice paddies; Tsimbazaza is a botanical and zoological garden; nearby is Ambohimanga an old, sacred village containing an historical museum; to the south are the cities of Antsirabe with its healing springs, crater lakes and highlands dotted with enormous granite heads; and Ambalavao, an almost medieval European style city which produces wine and papyrus.

Ankarana Reserve:

A hollow mountain surrounded by virtually impenetrable spiky plateau; inside are spectacular caves linked by possibly hundreds of kilometres of tunnels; isolated pockets of sunken forest grow where caves have collapsed and deep pools shelter eels and giant crocodiles; abundant wildlife appear in forested canyons.

Nosy Be archipelago:

Commercial holiday destination with palm-fringed beaches and coral reefs ina a protected national zone ideal for snorkelling, diving and exploring forests; natural lemur reserve; and great fishing; visit numerous nearby islands e.g. Nosy Sakatia, Nosy Komba and Nosy Tanikely; live-aboard yacht charters are available.

Isalo National Park & the Dry South:

Desert-like sandstone canyons; towering baobabs; giant cactus; colourful ancestral tombs; delicate coral reef; Fort Dauphin; Berenty Nature Reserve with its spiny forest, succulents and lemurs; and Libanona where there are beautiful swimming beaches and some of the best tidal pools.

Masoala Peninsula & Nosy:

Mangabe In the northeast, one of the largest tracts of rainforest meeting up with tropical coral reef in a biologically rich wilderness; Nosy Mangabe is a lemur reserve island and home to the leaf-tailed gecko, the bright orange tree frog and the nocturnal aye-aye lemur; Masoala has the largest Malagasy lowland rainforest, ideal for hikers and naturalists; visit from late August to late December.

Perinet Reserve & surrounds:

Eastern rainforest reserve is one of the last strongholds of the mythical indri, the largest of all surviving lemurs; scenic hiking trails and bewildering plant diversity; visit the neighbouring Maromizaha rainforest for rare species.

Ranomafana National Park:

Wild montane rainforest harbouring 12 species of lemur, numerous endemic birds and dominated by the whitewater Namorona river; best time to visit is Aug-Jan; near the park are thermal baths to relax in after a hike.

Ampijoroa Forest Station:

One of the island's top wildlife hotspots; easy trails into tropical, dry, deciduous forest; accessible year round; abundant lemurs and birds.

Morondava & the 'Swiss Forest':

Vibrant west coast town with wide beaches, safe swimming and Kirindy Forest, the best place for nocturnal wildlife; rare mammals, birds and three species of Baobab.

Ifaty beach, Anakao, Tulear & Sainte Marie:

Coral reefs; coastal hotels; scuba diving and snorkelling at Ifaty with boat trips to Nosy Ve, Anakao, St Augustin Bay and excursions to the 'spiny desert'; Ile Ste Marie has secluded coves, historical traces of pirate occupation and whale watching Jul-Sep; Tulear has scuba diving and snorkelling in a coral reef said to be second only to Australia's Great Barrier Reef; it's also a good starting point to see baobabs, giant cacti and thorny trees.

Gerald Crawford was born in South Africa, studied electronics, telecommunication, eco-travel and african travel concepts. He taught responsible tourism in South Africa. If you have any questions or comments please e-mail me on. E-mail Address: southafricantravelarticles@12234455.co.za Website Address: www.12234455.co.za


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