Fiona Herring
Fiona Herring Travel Specialist
"Not everyone realises what superb beaches are found in Madagascar… in the north west, but also the south and on Ile Ste Marie."

Tulear Reviews

'Dear Derek

We chose Madagascar as a joint destination with ourselves and the Keens and it was Chrissy who did the research on which might be the best travel company to use. She found Rainbow Tours, and in fact they used the company some years ago for a trip in Africa.  To our minds her choice has been excellent and we finish the trip with a high regard for the company.  

All the arrangements have worked wonderfully well.  We have been very pleased indeed with our guides and drivers and the hotel accommodation has been right on the button with one exception.   More specific comments are below.  We have rated each hotel out of 10 and allocated the rating recognising the type of hotel we were in (e.g. Setam Lodge and Relais de la Reine are in different categories and marked accordingly)

Arrival and first night: The flight from Paris was fine and we were safely greeted by Vola and Mamy on arrival and installed with no trouble at the Relais des Plateaux - the ideal close to airport location. It provided exactly the service that was needed.  8/10

Day one and Couleur Cafe.  This is an excellent choice of hotel. Charming style and ambience, beautiful well maintained gardens and a high standard of service from the staff.  The decor was wonderfully amusing and the whole style of the place suited all four of us admirably.  We got our first taste of Ti Punch here and continued with them for a good part of the trip.  10/10

Days 2 - 4 Setam Lodge. The drive from Antananarivo through Antsirabe to Setam provided us with the most wonderful scenery despite the distressing poverty which is such a feature of Malagasy life. We were struck by people's industriousness as they went about the business of keeping body and soul together and by the smiles and friendliness we encountered.
Setam Lodge was good forest accommodation although the food was pretty unexciting. We suspect that it was probably the best available anywhere in the area, so no complaints from us. And they managed to put a comet moth just outside the dining room for us to admire and wonder at!  8/10


We enjoyed our first proper rainforest walks and were rewarded with some good lemur sightings.  The second of the two days was particularly enjoyable as there were very few other people in our area of the forest and so we were not fighting for viewing vantage points.  Chantal, the local guide, and her spotter did a great job of finding us some wonderful sights including a beautiful painted frog and the giraffe "bug". It was fascinating to observe how they listened and watched in order to show us the range of forest wildlife.

Day 5    Anja Park and Varangue de Betsileo.  Needless to say the ring tail lemurs of Anja Parc  stole our hearts, with lots of "Ooohs' and "Aaaahs" as they leapt around us.  With respect to the accommodation here we suspect you are in a bit of a bind with little else available within easy driving distance.  

To be honest while the location was very attractive and the rooms spacious and clean, our hosts were clearly doing everything on the cheap.    The only bedroom chairs masquerading as bedside tables, no water glasses (or water for that matter) and a measly bit of soap in the bathroom, two wire hangers, no curtains on the glass paned doors so that to have any privacy it was necessary to close the door and window shutters, leaving the room in the dark. In response to  the question "do you have a hairdryer?",  our hostess said that as she had short hair she did not see the need for one!  Dinner was a poor affair and the only wine available virtually undrinkable.  The final straw was that they charged for water at breakfast and left the offer of eggs until the last minute when we were rising from the table. We turned them down politely.

Recognising that there is probably not a lot of choice as to hotels, we wonder if Rainbow Tours were to have a discussion with them they might up their game.   Even if they were to charge 10 euros more a night that would be a reasonable trade off to get some of the amenities which ought to be standard. Rating 3/10


Days 6 - 10  Relais de la Reine.  Well,  what a wonderful contrast! A beautiful hotel, the most glorious gardens, charming staff, great food, Ti Punches some of the best.  The only thing to spoil it all was the news that Trump had won!!  Rating 10/10
Here too our walks were splendid and the Black Pool that we found at the top of the ravine was paradise. A great stay.   And then on to the Zombitse Transition Forest which too was wonderful.  The sifakas performed magnificently for us.  The Arboretum visit which followed was also very interesting and much enjoyed especially by the Keens who are much more plantsmen than we are.  

The overnight stop in Tulear was fine (Rating 8/10) and we were very sorry to say farewell to Vola and Mamy (sp?). They were a splendid team and really took trouble to make sure that we were well looked after.  Mamy drove superbly and at no time did we have the slightest sense that he was not in full control of our safety. It was also touching to see that he quite clearly looked out for Vola as well!  She demonstrated liveliness, humour, a strong sense of responsibility for our well-being and good knowledge in responding to our questions. In particular she was very good in controlling things on the occasions that we stopped and left the car, making sure the begging children did not crowd us and that each got his fair share of sweets or bread.  

Days 11 - 14 Vakhona Lodge After the somewhat hair-raising drive from Tana to Vakhona (one of us felt really quite uncomfortable with this) we actually had the most magnificent stay here. Our new guide Stephan and driver Nyna were again charming and the local guide we had here (Sacha?) was very knowledgeable indeed. We really enjoyed him and his little twists of gentle humour. They went to a great deal of trouble to make sure we were not in crowded spots and yet still managed to get some wonderful lemur, indri and bird sightings for us.  

The lodge itself was very well appointed, beautifully set in the forest, and the food was good - and of course the Ti Punches!  We left with great reluctance, but at least we had the up close and personal experience of the lemurs just before we left!  Rating 9/10

So finally on to the last week at the Ravintsara.  Once more a really wonderful hotel, charming staff whose only wish is to make sure we had a fully relaxed and comfortable stay.  The massage and spa treatments were of excellent quality, food was good and varied and the view from our bungalow over the channel was peaceful.  The gardens were absolutely beautiful. A perfect end to our stay  so we go back to London and France with great reluctance but feeling well set up for the winter.  Rating 10/10

Thank you for your help in arranging this trip for us.  We will remember it with pleasure for many years to come.

If you would like to contact us regarding any of these comments please don't hesitate to do so.  In the meantime our very good wishes to you

Hilary and Kazia' (part of Keen party)

 

Ms Smith and Ms Kantor (Keen party)
December 6, 2016

'We undoubtedly feel we made the right choice of tour operator, paricularly in respect of accommodation, guides and logistics. Local knowledge shone through. Quality of all these factors added greatly to the enjoyment of the holiday. Very good to have included Tsimanampetsotsa National Park (also Herilala's favourite). We felt things got steadily better the further south-west we got. Where else do you offer good holidays? 

No question - we will definitely strongly recommend Rainbow Tours if anyone asks us about Madagascar. Thank you for being the very helpful and informative details and for the copy of the Bradt Guide'

Mr and Mrs Bush
December 5, 2016

'Hi Derek,

Ref; Madagascar Adventure 2016.

We returned home safely on Wednesday 16th November from our Madagascar adventure; our can we thank you for organising such a wonderful trip for us. From the start to finish we did not experience an issue with the itinerary you had organised for our needs. 

Our guide and driver were superb, throughout the trip, our guide La-la and driver Dude. Dudes driving was superb considering the condition of the roads at times, I will never complain again about the pot holes of the UK roads. Our driver was very careful never took his eyes off the road, and we never experienced a back jarring moment no matter what the condition on the road was in. Our guide was superb, and his knowledge of wild life was most helpful. On many occasions, I would borrow the wildlife books he had in his position to study the creatures we saw daily.  It was also a pleasure that La-la had an avid interest in insects as well has the larger creatures we would encounter. This pleased him, he told us most of his clients are only interested in seeing Lemurs, reptiles or birds. At times we would both be on our knees photographing the smallest creatures we could find. We would then cross references them in the text books for accurate ID. We could not fault the accommodation you had booked us apart from minor teething troubles, we were warned of before leaving,  missing  sink plugs dodgy electrics. It was quite a blessing to  be shut off from the outside world with hardly any Mobile or Internet connections at times.

Relais des Plateaux 1night and day room was most convenient for the airport. Staff helpful our rooms and the food in the restaurant were good.

Vakona Forest Lodge was a nice setting food plentiful and enjoyable a nice start for our incredible journey through Madagascar. Our lodge was elevated. Iit was nice to sit outside and admire the scenery and many birds and other creatures in the vicinity after our day's trip out in the National park. We also enjoyed the night walks at this location and the many strange nocturnal creatures we would encounter. Friday 4th November, it poured of rain all day and the only day we experienced rain on our trip. However, the rain did not stop us from getting out and seeing some amazing wildlife.

Couleur Café 1 night, what a stunning setting looking over the plains and mountains, in the distance, and too be able to relax in the swimming pool after our journey. The French couple who owns the hotel  are most helpful and try their best to make you welcome. The food is ok but limited, but this did not spoil our stay here. It was nice wondering around the grounds taking photos of the many different types of birds and butterflies around the grounds. The electricity here is limited for use only at evenings. The hot water is from Solar thermal and appears to fluctuate in temperature at times. However, we were not disappointed and enjoyed our one-night  stay.

Setam Lodge, 3 nights

The lodge is set in an elevated position looking out over the forest area with good views. All the staff here are more than helpful, and the food was good. Our guide seemed to know nearly everybody at each destination. He often became our translator with the non-English speaking staff. With his advice, we would most times try the local delicacies on the menu. At each national park or reserve we visited, our guide had handpicked and booked in advance his favourite park guide and scout. Not once were we disappointed with his choice their local knowledge and knowing exactly where to find each creature are amazing.

Varangue du Betsileo 1 night,

After many hours on the road, we arrived at our destination around 5pm. Our bungalow for the stay was huge and comfortable. Like most of the places we have stayed at the bathroom sink did not hold water, this fell into minor comparison with the way some of the Madagascar people have to live. Some of the conditions their people live are truly third world. We have been to many countries around the world in our time. However, some of the living conditions we encountered along the way were an eye-opening experience in its self. No one should have to live under these conditions in the 21st century. Madagascar as something so unique from the rest of the world it should be a top destination to visit. The country appears to have the wealth beneath its feet and not capitalising on it. We found most of the Madagascar people warm, friendly and helpful.

Relais de la Reine 2 nights,

What a delight it was to stay at this marvellous French owned hotel it was a dream, the accommodation is splendid, the food great. A nice place to relax for a couple of days after a long day’s journey. The view of the surrounding area from the lounge is magnificent. The hotel seems to be cut into the actual rock face. There were many steep steps, so a torch with you after dark was essential. The pre-dinner-free  bar snacks with your drinks was a nice touch. My only fault would be the steps down to the lower dining area are open with no hand rail. The lodge we stayed in was stunning and the ground surrounding the hotel with its own abundant wildlife was a delight. I and our guide ventured out for a night walk around the grounds with the intentions of spotting the Eastern Scopes Owl. We were not disappointed with the guide’s scopes owl call recording, within a short time, the Scopes owl swooped in within a few feet from us. An amazing experience the owl is so tiny even in comparison to the UK’s Little Owl.

Le Paradisier 2 nights,

We have arrived in heaven for 2 nights; Individual bungalows were lovely. You had your own veranda and own outdoor chairs and hammock overlooking the sea only a few meters away. We missed the sunset at Relais de la Reine due to cloudy weather conditions. Sitting on the veranda the first night watching the sun go down was truly stunning. Our bungalow was large and comfortable, although we did feel a little vulnerable to nature. No worries the bungalow was sprayed at evenings with insect iced and mosquito net also standard for the bed. Main area, including restaurant/reception/pool area all of high standard. Helpful staff, although English speaking limited. The restaurant and a terrace overlooking the sea were a delight it made you wish you'd like to stay on forever. Our guide recommended we depart for Zombitse National Park at 5am 12th November to avoid the heat during the day and other tourists. And the best opportunity to see as many birds has been possible before it got too hot. This turned out to be good advice we had a fantastic morning bird watching and seeing other creatures. By the time we returned to the hotel at around 10. 30am the temperature was getting unbearable. It was nice to relax for the rest of the day before we joined up with our driver and guide in the evening for a farewell dinner together.

Everything about this trip has been memorable from our visit to the destination show at Earls Court and visiting Rainbow Tours stand and speaking to your friendly helpful staff.

Having Derek Schuurman with is extensive knowledge of Madagascar organising our trip for us. The trip has been tiring at times trekking through the undergrowth and up the steep slopes. However, the rewards out way the disadvantages thousand times. I will be the rest of 2016 categorising the many different species of wildlife and fauna we encountered on our journey into Madagascar.

We cannot praise Rainbow Tours and all their staff at home and abroad that have truly made this a holiday of a lifetime, an experience we will never forget.

If you wish to use any part of this article, you have our permission to do so.

We look forward to travelling with Rainbow Tours again.

Kindest regards Steve & Pat Garten' 

Mr and Mrs Garten
November 21, 2016

'Excellent holiday.  We had out own 4x4, guide and driver and all were excellent. There is mention in this form of car and guide but no mention of driver: our lives were in his hands for 10 days and he was excellent, both in driving, handling our luggage, always opening the doors for us. Drivers are an integral and important part of all holidays; please give them recognition. The holiday was excellent in all respects. The changes we made to the advertised tour because of our ages (79 and 70) worked out very well. Would recommend your company to anyone - and we saw loads of lemurs!!!'

 

 

Mr and Mrs Linwood
November 1, 2016

'Jessica was absolutely excellent. She always made sure everyone got the most out of the trip, according to their abilities. Setam Lodge had lovely food - the best on the trip! Another day in the park (Ranomafana) would have been good'. 

Mr and Mrs Brooks
October 26, 2016

Hi Derek

Some feedback for you....

First of all, another fabulous trip for so many different reasons....

The flight out - what a lovely surprise to travel Premium Economy, what a difference that made, not just in the comfort and service aspects but ultimately getting through Tana airport in 30 minutes rather than over 2 hours - thank you so much.

The Relais des Plateau is such a refreshing first and last stop with no worries about getting to and from the airport and so comfortable.

All accommodation was great - hard to choose a favourite, very good choices.

To our delight plenty of lemurs and birds and absolutely fascinating travelling through such varied landscapes, villages and townships. Thought provoking to compare their world to ours, humbling to see how they manage their lives, always with a smile on their face. It has left us with much to think about.

The itinerary was great and the whole trip went very smoothly. we are always singing your praises to our friends and family and I am sure we will have other trips with Rainbow Tours.

So once again, thank you very much for a great experience.

Chris & June

 

 

 

Ms Elgar and Ms Lawrence
October 24, 2016

'Gersica was superb and success of the holiday was all down to her. She is a treasure! Air Madagascar were for once very reliable. The pace of the tour and some distances travelled seemed unrelenting towards the end but we would not have missed any of it!.

We loved Les Dunes (Ifaty). Chilled out in bungalow overlooking beach. The Malagasy traditional meal at Setam Lodge was the food highlight of the tour. 

Gersica could not have been better organised, more considerate or more attentive. She is one of the best tour leaders we have experienced in over 30 years of travel on small group holidays'. 

Mr and Mrs Johnson
October 20, 2016

'We loved the country and the people. This has been a fantastic trip. Our itinerary couldn't have been better. I really liked the pacing. Mora mora......  I wish that we could help this country protect their precious natural resources and improve the quality of life for the people. There is so much potential here.

Thank you again for making this a trip of a lifetime.

All my best,

LP'

Ms Parnell and Mr Blaise
October 18, 2016

'We had a wonderful holiday - thank you. Our guide Gersica was fantastic - one of the best we have ever had and we have been travelling for years! She went out of her way to ensure each individual's needs were met and is so knowledgeable, too'. 

Ms Pearson & Ms Chippendale
October 12, 2016

'We had a great holiday - your itinerary was super - thanks!.Highlights: Relais de la Reine Hotel + Isalo National Park. Sheer variety of terrain and habitats. Quality of the guides, in particular Djato and the driver Barry. Exceptional passion and dedication. Local guides at Andasibe-Mantadia, Isalo and the Ifaty Spiny Forest'

Mr and Mrs Lacey
October 6, 2016

'We had such an amazing time in Madagascar. We were in awe of the beautiful scenery and abundant wildlife. We found the people to be friendly and welcoming.

Maison Gallieni: we had a wonderful first night here. Lovely dinner.

Couleur Cafe: excellent comfort, service, location and facilites. The evening meal was goog, breakfast buffet was not as good.

Setam Lodge: Service, location, meals and faciliities excellent. Comfortable rooms, could do with an update/ renovation but pleased that they were dry and not damp. It was also cold in Ranomafana and they had a heater which was useful.

Relais la Reine d'Isalo: It was a special hotel set in a beautiful landscape. The lady owner of the hotel was very friendly and appreciative.

Anakao Ocean Lodge: surpassed our expectations. Beautiful lodge on a very secluded beach. Wonderful meals created from whatever fish/seafood was caught fresh each day - we really liked this ethos especially as it helps the local fishermen in the nearby village. The speedboat transfers there/back added to the experience.

Vakona Forest Lodge: main building was lovely. A great setting for breakfast and dinner. It was a disappointment that the rooms were not of the same stanard and that the staff could not understand why why we were not happy with a damp room.

We really appeciated Derek getting in touch with us and our guide Njiva when we were having difficulties with or internal flights and for checking that we were OK and that we were still happy with the service from our guide. We were also grateful to Njiva fror staying in Tulear another night and making sure we were on the flight back to Antananarivo the next day. He was wonderful at the airport and and organised everything for us there so that we did not have to worry. We could not have asked for better service from our guide at the airport. We feel that we may not have made it onto the flight from Tulear if it were not for him! '

 

 

 
Mr and Mrs Cunningham
October 3, 2016

'Njiva was a fantastic guide - thoroughly recommend him. Driver, Dodo, was also very good. Overall holiday satisfaction (Classic Madagascar overland: the RN7 route): excellent. 

Vakona Forest Lodge is a lovely place but they wanted us to leave the bar/seating area by around 9pm. 

Setam Lodge: good in all respects. Location excellent.

La Varangue de Betsileo: Service and comfort: excellent. Location, meals and facilities all good. 

Relais la Reine d'Isalo: excellent.

Moringa Hotel: good in all respects; excellent meals.

Princesse Bora Lodge: Comfort, meals and facilities good; service and location excellent.'

 

Ms Godfrey and Mr Naylor
January 25, 2016
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