Mandrare River Camp
Mandrare River Camp stands in the shade of tamarind trees on the bank of the Mandrare River, about 110km northwest of Fort Dauphin - and what better way to start the day than by watching the pink glow of dawn illuminate the river from your bed. By the time you get up, it’s to the sounds of people singing as they walk along the riverbed to wash and fetch water.
This is Madagascar’s first luxury tented camp. Six large (17m²) tented rooms each have a comfortable, netted, four-poster bed, attractive handmade wooden furniture, electric lighting and private en suite facilities including a biodegradable chemi-loo, safari shower and BioAroma toiletries. Each has a private furnished verandah from which to watch life on the river or birds in the trees. Tents can accommodate an extra bed for a child. Silent, environmentally friendly solar panels provide the electricity.
Meals are taken in the main tent and defy all expectations. You could be dreaming: this is fine food, imaginatively presented, prepared in a kitchen in a lorry in the middle of a stand of gallery forest. Patrick bakes fresh bread, croissants and pain au chocolate each morning; lunch is a barbecue and a variety of salads; one dinner was lobster followed by succulent duck and a light chocolate mousse.
This region of Madagascar is dominated by the cultivation of sisal and most of the original forest is lost. Around the village of Ifotaka, however, there are a number of intact gallery and spiny forests, which have survived because they are sacred.
These forests are inhabited by Ringtails and Verreaux’ sifaka, which are not particularly skittish: hunting lemurs is fady among the local Antandroy people. By night, you should spot mouse lemurs and sportive lemurs. I saw Paradise flycatchers in profusion, Crested coua and Madgascar coucal in one short morning walk.
Edward Tucker-Brown’s camp places equal emphasis on the culture of the Antandroy. Your guide will explain the tombs you encounter in the forest, as well as the behaviour of the lemurs. The local dancers who come to camp are just that. They attract children from the tiny hamlets nearer the camp and provide a good night for everyone.
You will be taken to one village to see the weekly market, to another to see a ringa (wrestling) contest. If a ceremony is taking place, Mananarivo, the local guide, will know about it. Even if you only want to explore intact spiny forest and healthy southern gallery forest from a comfortable base, you can observe the traditional way of life from roads that probably see no more than one vehicle in a fortnight.
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Mandrare River Camp 2013/2014 Prices
From £289 per person
including all meals, local drinks & activities, 3 nights min stay.
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