Fiona Herring
Fiona Herring Travel Specialist
"Tourism provides vital funds to support the work of conservation in Madagascar. Entrance fees to national parks for example helps to fund important projects."

Ankarana Reviews

'Dear Derek 

We had a fabulous time in Madagascar, thank you. In summary everything worked perfectly (well jolly nearly and one cannot expect more in Madagascar) and we are delighted to have chosen Rainbow Tours to organise it for us and would not hesitate to use you again or to recommend you. 

 Madagascar as a country was an amazing place to go to visit. The wildlife was stunning and you did well in helping us to choose good and varied places to visit to get a wide cross section of things to see. With the help of amazing guides we managed to see a large proportion of what was available in each location. They also took the opportunity of time not walking to tell us more about the country, people and customs thus making us feel we had a better idea of life for the Malagasy. The degree of poverty and the difficulty of daily life for the Malagasy is eyeopening although we tried hard not to appear shocked by it. We will certainly look into the charities you suggest on your leaflet. On the subject of which our excellent guide (see below) mentioned Père Pedro and his work in Tana with the homeless, which I now see is mentioned in the Bradt Guide. Is it a charity you know anything of? By the careful avoidance of unsafe food and practice we largely remained free of illness and although we were obviously shielded from the realities of life in Madagascar for most people we hope we got a good feel for the way of life in the areas we visited. 

 We were very well taken care of.  Our main guide, Belaviv, was brilliant. After some changing of plans he ended up coming to Montagne d'Ambre on the flight with us and escorting us all the way to Ankify which we were very pleased about. He was efficient and dedicated in his arrangement of things, making sure we got the most out of every experience both in terms of enjoyment and what we saw. He arranged lunch stops in very good places and when he discovered Naomi was gluten free he rang ahead a couple of times to arrange suitable food. So when he collected packed breakfast for our early flight to Antsiranana he made sure there was a suitable one for her,  he rang Ankarana Lodge where we had lunch after our journey from Montagne d'Ambre on our way to Iharana Bush Camp and he informed the Bush camp before we got there. He was well informed about the wildlife in addition to the local guides and stopped to show us things during journeys. We had to detour to the office to get some paperwork in Antsiranana and he took the opportunity to take us to a view point for Sugar Loaf Island. He organised the breakfasts and dinners to get the most out of visits to the park in a very quiet but insistent manner to waste as little time as possible. He was also an absolute delight to be with, perfect for our family. He started out quietly and diffidently and opened up as the time went on. He was a pleasure to spend time with so we enjoyed any meals together and he took our request to  learn some Malagasy seriously. I hope you will feed that back as he is a young man who deserves to do very well in his career.... 

The drivers were all brilliant. Our first (Roy) took greatest care of us and never stopped cleaning the car every time we got out. He never left the car unattended with anything of ours in it which I felt very guilty for as he ate his meals in sight of it rather than with us. The 2 from Antsiranana were also very considerate and good humoured despite the road conditions in places. At no time at all did I ever feel in danger and I do have a reputation here for being a very nervous passenger after too many crashes in my Rally Navigation phase in my 20s.

There were always copious bottles of water available in the cars and the one in the north without the working starter motor was an excellent reminder that we had never taught out eldest to bump start a car, although usually it was just carefully parked on a slope to avoid any evidence that it didn't start in the conventional manner. This is an amusement not a complaint as it was good not to be in TOTAL luxury as that would have felt very wrong in Madagascar.

Local guides all brilliant. Edwin in Andasibe very good at finding things, patient with our interest and had a very effective 'bush telegraph to let him know what was where. It took me a while to realise he was not just conducting social chit chat on his phone but finding things for us to see! 

Antonio for Montagne d'Ambre and Ankarana was also very knowledgable, friendly and sensitive enough to tell Belaviv to make sure we did not take valuables to Montagne d'Ambre without telling us why or making us concerned as he was the guide held up at gunpoint there in October 2015. He told us later in Ankarana. He had an amazing ability to find wildlife.

Hotels: no complaints at all. 

Relais: very conveniently close to the airport and, although service at dinner was desperately slow on the 2 occasions we were there to eat, the food was good. Clean, large sized rooms, helpful staff.

Vakona Lodge: I am delighted with my choice. Loved the bungalows, grounds beautiful. Breakfast good, evening meals also good. Used our last morning to go to the two reserves of the hotel (crocodile park and then lemur island). Managed to spend ages at the crocodile reserve looking at so many things the guide from there said 'You are interested in everything aren't you)! but there was so much to see even if that was our first Magpie Robin or Day Gecko! Lemur island was a lovely experience for all its slightly un PC-ness in the fact that it exists at all. We persuaded ourselves it was a rescue area and just enjoyed the time there. 

Litchi Tree: Splendid place. We loved it. Hervé excellent in all respects, rooms a delight, food excellent. With a night walk taking us out we felt we could easily have stayed another night and maybe headed to the Cap d'Ambre or other more northern area for the day of arrival and had a full day in the Montagne d'Ambre park in order to enjoy The Litchi tree even more (of course this wouldn't have fitted with flight schedules but one can dream...)

Iharana Bush Camp: I did briefly wonder why we were driving for 1.5 hours away from Ankarana Est only to return fairly early the next day, but when I arrived I knew why. This was a delightful place. Very comfortable, very exciting and excellent food and service. We loved it. Even the drive there was interesting passing all the houses and the views were amazing. Good birdlife too.

L'Heure Bleue: Splendid choice, thank you. The bungalows with legs in the sea (or whatever the website calls them were sheer luxury). The view at any time of day was breathtaking. The only downside was that that side of the bay is in shadow from before 4pm but the rest of the experience easily surmounts that small fact and one can always get up to watch the sunrise instead. Breakfasts and dinners good and eaten on the terrace overlooking the bay. My daughter liked it so much she declined Tanikele to stay at the hotel. (Snorkelling with company called 'Baleines Rand'eau' just down the beach from the hotel. Pleasant frenchman and 2 Malagasy assistants. 2 sites for snorkelling round Nosy Tanikely and a short land on the island and then excellent lunch at Sakatia and snorkelling with the Green turtles after, good trip although my mask didn't have a clip and was just put through the mask headband so kept kinking. He sorted it out for the second session and it was fine.) 

Anjajavy:

What can I say? Paradise. We had the two cabins at the very far end away from the main lodge and in my opinion the best despite the walk taking 4-5 minutes (you just needed to factor that in to timings) not sure if that was requested by you or just chance? It would not work to come here before other places in Madagascar as many of the things we worked so hard to find and were so excited to have a glimpse of were just sitting around waiting to be viewed. We had worked quite hard with early starts and evening walks so felt justified in a bit of a rest here although there was still so much to do that resting was rationed. The whole experience was fabulous: accommodation, trips, service, food, everything. 

We met people who were here for a week and had spent a week either at Ile St Marie or 4 days at Andasibe and 2 at Tana, both arranged by Audley Travel. In my opinion they were badly advised. They did not see as much of Madagascar as they could have done in the time and I think that showed in their experience of the country compared to ours. Your suggested itineraries undoubtedly swayed my suggestions as to what we would like to do and I am sure that your approach is right and leads to a much more fulfilling holiday. 

Air France, however you are also right about. Poor disinterested service, 2/5 TV sets did not work on journey home (despite requesting reset), very limited food service (there are help yourself snacks during the flight but no information that they exist. However for UK probably better to have the last leg so short as opposed to changing in Istanbul, but close call. And although they had Gluten free food for Naomi on the way out they did not on the way back, the flight attendant said we should have confirmed it 48 hrs before the flight. As you will know from Anjajavy and most of Madagascar that is not really likely to work. 

All in all a remarkable trip. I have already read your recent brochure from cover to cover to see where to go next...

Thank you again to all at Rainbow who made this trip not just possible but such an incredible experience for the whole family.

Kind Regards

Sonia  C'

 

Chavasse family
August 2, 2017

'We had a wonderful time.  Highlights were of course the lemurs!

Mitch also loved the diving (particularly the floor diving) and I absolutely loved the horse-riding.

Food was great too, at Sakatia but we do eat a lot and I think impressed them with our abilities.  Also great massages.

 Loved the wildlife! Wish more could be preserved.'

Dr Carbone and Mr Watsky
June 27, 2017

'Everything worked like a dream. There were no hiccups. Jessica was very informative and eager to go the extra mile to ensure that we were able to do everything we wanted to. Michael was also an excellent guide, showing great concern for our well-being. He told us lots about the politics and cultural life of Madagascar. 

The Litchi Tree: beautigul gardens, Herve was charming.

Iharana Bush Camp: arriving after dark, the accommodation was so poorly lit it was difficult to unpack. Shaving in the bathroom with loits of baby frogs was unnerving initially but in the daylight we got to enjoy their company. 

Sakatia Lodge: it was a tropical island paradise. The family were very friendly and tried hard to ensure we had a good time.

Andasibe Hotel: the lighting was poor. 

Considering our brief of lemurs, baobabs and some beach time we feel you did us proud. It all worked out very well and we had a really fantastic holiday which we will have fond memories of for a long time.  The guides made it for us. Jessica even told us a traditional Malagasy story about the drongo and the fruit bat. '

Mr and Mrs Zacal
June 26, 2017

Hi Helen

Overall we had an absolute fantastic trip! Everything went off seamlessly! It was both of our first experiences hiring a company like Rainbow tours on our own and I must say it’s been a pleasant experience from beginning to end: You were timely with responses, you listened to what we wanted and it was all in there in the itinerary. 

Rija was our favorite guide and Loren our favorite driver. They were so much fun and agreeable about stopping, pointing out all the wildlife and surroundings. Rija did all that she could to obtain information and provide us with the best info possible on our hikes.  

The accommodations were all very comfortable and the staff was always very nice and accommodating. Our first stop at Litchi Tree, the owner, Herve, was always polite and accommodating to Michelle and I. 

Bush Camp was amazing, staff attentive and friendly and they had frogs in the toilet! We personally love frogs in the toilet and our own toilets at home are now a huge disappointment :) Eden Lodge also amazing with fantastic staff. And super bonus that we were the ONLY ones there! It really was like having our own private beach. Vakona lodge also great. The rooms were underwhelming after Litchi, Bush and Eden but there was nothing wrong with them. In fact our room had a cat on the porch and that was a welcome bonus. Again staff and was great. The physical surroundings of Vakona were just beautiful and Lemur Island was definitely a huge highlight. Just icing on the cake! 

The place by the airport, Relais des Plateau (?), was okay. Our last stay there which was the afternoon/evening before we left they put us in room 5. Directly behind room 5 is where they burn the rubbish. It was quite an unpleasant smell. We discussed going to the front desk but decided since we weren’t staying the night… But I do regret not saying something. But I suggest for future bookings, tell them no room 5. 

Highlights for me are the Tsingy and ALL the lemurs. It was amazing to have lemurs on your shoulder but they were spectacular to behold on in the wild as well. I enjoy seeing as many animals as possible in the wild and we saw a LOT!

Our guide, Stefan, and driver - whose name I can’t recall! - were good. It was a different experience after being with Rija but still good. Stefan didn’t eat with us and we weren’t sure if it was because we are women, or just technically they are off the clock and eating with us is purely a personal choice. But he was great and loved taking pictures for us which was super helpful during Lemur Island. 

Thank you so much! We plan to be back to book with you! 

I’ll get some pictures together.

Molly 

 

Ms Gras-Usry and Ms Norsen
May 24, 2017

'Thanks to Fiona for all organisation. Njeeva was fantastic; he was with us for the whole trip except for Nosy Saba. Please advise the local agency of his conduct and empathy.

Litchi Tree is a brillaint place.

Nosy Saba is totally superb; great staff. Would love to go back'. 

 

Mr Pope and Ms Pyman
December 6, 2016

'Vakona Forest Lodge, Andasibe: lovely location.

Allamanda Hotel, Antsiranana: the food was very good.

Litchi Tree, Montagne d'Ambre: Friendly and characterful.

Iharana Bush Camp, Ankarana: accommodation a bit too basic; got bitten in bed

Eden Lodge: Lovely place'

Mr Foster and Ms Anderson
November 22, 2016

'Overall holiday satisfaction excellent.

Iharana Bush Camp excellent all round, 3 nights here would have been better.

Sakatia Lodge excellent, relaxed, plenty to do and enjoy.' 

Campbell party
October 19, 2016


Overall holiday satisfaction: excellent. We enjoyed the whole holiday with the exception of our stay at Iharana Bush Camp.

Vakona Forest Lodge: we particlarly liked th central building with the open fire which we needed as it was cool and damp.

Litchi Tree: Excellent +++ (food especially). The food was delicious. This is a very special place.

Ankarana Lodge: Good service, comfortable, good food and facilities. Location excellent. I liked the swimming pool. Very handily located for Ankarana.

Iharana Bush Camp: the service was indifferent. The lodge wasn't cleaned all the while we were there.

Anjajavy Le Lodge: excellent +++ Not just a very luxurious resort, but the whole area hd so much interest, with the paleontology, archaeology, as well as the wildlife. A fantastic stay'

Mason family
September 14, 2016

'Your brochure offered us a suitable trip with option to customise sample tour. We had a wonderful trip. Food at Litchi Tree and location at Iharana Bush Camp wonderful. Sakatia Lodge is very friendly. We enjoyed snorkelling especially with Whale sharks!! As we are not divers, a magical experience. Very lucky to be there at right time of year to see Whale sharks'

Mr and Mrs Thompson
November 26, 2015

The quality of all our guides was first rate and really made the holiday as they told us about traditions and beliefs, had a good sense of humour - got us singing and dancing! They also had expert knowledge about the wildlife, history and religion. They could not do enough to help taking photos, helping us climbing up rocks, fending off beggars, translating in shops....

Overall satisfaction: excellent.

Petite Relais Masoala: excellent service and location. Probably didn't need the extra guide with us as the park guide was excellent.

Iharana Bush Camp: stunning location.

Eden Lodge: excellent staff across the board. A great place to relax but four nights was too many...we just got a little bored.

Mr and Mrs Holmes
November 20, 2015


'The trip met with all our expectations throughout. Aside from the cancellation of the flight from Tana to Morondava, all our other flights were on time. A highlight for us was the Kirindy Forest. We enjoyed the setting and the variety of the more unusual wildlife sightings, e.g. the Fossa on the trails around the lodge and also the Giant Jumping Rat, which was fascinating to watch.

A bonus was to spend another night in the area at Camp Amoreux on the return from Bemaraha. All praise to our guide Lova and our driver Fily who took us between camps to maximise our wildlife viewings.

Ankarana: here we visited the Bat Cave and also went on a morning visit to the Crocodile Cave (where we walked through from the entrance to the sunken forest on the other end), seeing a single crocodile in each, as well as many bats in the former. The many stalagmites, stalactites and other weird and wonderful calcareous formations at the crocodile cave were intriguing. Not surprisingly we were the only tourists at the Crocodile Cave due to it being somewhat  remote from the other attractions.

Perinet and Mantadia: (Andasibe). Because of the greater flexibility of independent travel, at Perinet our guide arranged visits to two lesser visited reserves within the park area: Parc Villageos Reserve and Parc Mitsinjo. There we enjoyed closer wildlife viewing with no other tourists in the vicinity, although there was a BBC wildlife team filming at Mitsinjo. Mantadia was  rewarding (and far away from th annoying crowds) and where the guide found a Scaly ground-roller for us after we specifically mentioned our interest in seeing one of the Madagascan Ground-rollers.

We thoroughly enjoyed Bemaraha, paticularly the Grand Tsingy which added a bit of interest to the walking. This was in part due to having to use harnesses in order to scale the pinnacles.  We are used to scrambling about in rocks as this is something that one encounters when walking some of the bigger mountains of North wales or the Lake District, particularly if one deviates off the main tourist routes.  However it will not be to everyone's taste and we did encounter people who had to turn back on the 'classic' route as they were unable to cope with the heights / exposure.  Also the ,rope bridge caused others to falter/turn round. 

By contrast the Tsingy at Ankarana seemed somewhat tame (not so jagged at the part where we went to) but it made up for it with it's size.  However we only had about 2 hours there as we had been to the Crocodile Cave in the morning which linited the time available to us at the Grand tsingy in the afternoon.  (We met some people whose guide had taken them on an 8 hour circuit at Ankarana, which was inappropriate for their fitness levels). 

What we saw of the Petit Tsingy at Bemaraha was a bit tame by comparison, although there was wildlife to be seen (sifakas), which was not the case with the Grand Tsingy on our visit.  We arrived there about 20 minutes before closing time after driving from Kirindy, but our guide managed to arrange for a guide to take us round a small circuit for about 45 minutes. 

In the evening it was good to be able to return to the lodge (Solei des Tsyingy) which was up-market, comfortable and had good views.  The only minor thing about the hotel was the need to order one's evening meal in advance, which is OK except that on arrival on the first day there may not be very much choice avialable for the evening meal, unless one were to arrive earlier in the afternoon in order to place one's order.  Only a minor niggle though.  (There were not many people staying there whilst we were there).

The route to Bemahara via the ferry at Belo-sur-Tsirbihina was enjoyable despite the state of the roads.  Now that the local govenor has some influence in the central government funds have been made available to improve the section of the road north of Belo with new culverts /small bridges being built as well as some straightening out and re-alignment in some sections.  No tarmacing or anything like that but an useful improvements nevertheless. 

Travelling the road north of Kirindy makes one realise the extent of the deforestaion, with areas the size of medium English towns turned into black smouldering landscapes that look like the something out of the Somme.  They seem to clear the land both sides of the road leaving a thin strip of vegetation either side of the road which serves to hide the reality from the traveller.  Quite depressing to see.  

Despite the difficulties facing the guides in Madagascar, we found them to be dedicatedand enthusastic at all times'.

Mr & Mrs Mellor
November 12, 2015


'Having only got back yesterday we wanted to say a huge thank you to you for organising such a truly wonderful holiday which we thoroughly enjoyed'

Mr and Mrs Emerson
October 20, 2015

' Dear Derek

We wanted to thank you very much for all your help with our honeymoon (in July 2015) to Madagascar. We had the most amazing time in a country we'd wanted to visit for many years and it didn't disappoint! The itinerary you arranged for us was fantastic, and we loved the lemurs at Andasibe/Mantadia and the whales in Ile Sainte Marie and the sea turtles at Eden Lodge. Our highlight was the magical tsingy at Ankarana. This completely alien but incredible landscape will live in our memories for years to come. However, the asspect we most appreciated was the extra mile you went to to keep rearranging and re-planning and reassuring each time Air Madagascar changed our plans. We really appreciated all your effort and phone calls - it ended up seamless (from our end!) and some of the 'extras', particularly Anjozorobe, were highlights of the whole trip. We can't wait to go back to Madagascar! '

Mr and Mrs Warland
October 12, 2015

'Vakona Forest Lodge has nice grounds. Easy walk to Lemur Island if we had not already been driven there. Food better than average. Litchi Tree excellent. Seemed willing to consider any limitations on diet (we had none). Menu at Iharana Bush Camp limited but well prepared. Effort to provide individual and friendly service. Didn't mind the wildlife in the room.

Overall planning for a two-week tour was excellent an was tailored to our abilities anthe season. We wanted a more generalised tour than, for example, a birding trip, an got it. I am also interested in loca life an the guides were able to point ou and explain what we observed and something of the overall status of Madagascar. We commend all the drivers who hd to deal with the chaotic traffic on the decrepit roads. The vehicles provided were all comfortable. Recommend to add Tsingy Rouges to the itinerary'

Mr and Mrs Ehrlich
June 22, 2015

Great place to stay in spectacular setting. Resident frogs made us jump! 

H Fuller
September 16, 2013

This place was the most charming and unusual, with stunning views and keen-to-please staff

V Timperley
August 30, 2013

Inharana Bush Camp is a really good place, the set up and design suited the area perfectly, plenty of space for relaxing. 

Atkinson
October 28, 2011
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