Mandrare River Camp stands in the shade of tamarind trees on the bank of the Mandrare River, about 110km northwest of Fort Dauphin. 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. Seven large tented rooms each have a comfortable, netted, four-poster bed, attractive handmade wooden furniture, electric lighting and private en suite facilities including 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. The rooms are equipped with fans.
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. The chef bakes fresh bread, croissants and pain au chocolate each morning; lunch is a barbecue and a variety of salads; one dinner was a delicious vegetable stack followed by succulent duck and a chocolate soufflé. Rates include all meals and locally manufactured beverages.
Activities & Facilities
This region of Madagascar is dominated by sisal plantations so, much of the original habitat has been modified. Around the village of Ifotaka, however, there are a number of intact stands of dry gallery woodland and the remarkable 'spiny bush', which have survived because they are considered sacred.
These tracts of original habitat are inhabited by Ringtails and Verreaux’ sifaka, which are not particularly skittish: hunting lemurs is fady (taboo) among the local Antandroy people. By night, you should spot Grey mouse lemurs and White-footed sportive lemurs. In a short morning walk you can see - among other species - Crested coua and Madagascar paradise flycatchers.
Edward Tucker-Brown’s highly rated 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 truly breathtaking - they attract children from the tiny hamlets nearer the camp and provide engaging entertainment for everyone, including the local people.
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 often see no more than one vehicle in a fortnight.
A donation to local community and environmental projects is made for every guest of the camp, and the camp itself provides jobs for the inhabitants of nearby villages.
Access is by a deteriorating road from Fort Dauphin- a journey taking approximately 4 and a half hours. Light aircraft transfers from Fort Dauphin can also be arranged at a very reasonable cost. From 2016, Madagascar Classic Camping will also be offering packages with charter flights from Antananarivo to Mandrare and from Fort Dauphin airport back to Antananarivo.