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Madagascar, Off The Tourist Trail

Updated on April 4, 2015

Madagascar - A Unique Indian Ocean Island

Madagascar! Not the film set, but the real island...

The fourth largest island of the world; geologists believe that Madagascar broke away from Africa around 165 million years ago. The island now sits in the Indian Ocean, surrounded by small peripheral islands.

Madagascar is beautiful, a veritable biodiversity treasure trove. It has a wide range of ecosystems, from coast, through to rainforest, and more than 90% of its wildlife unique to the island. For a beach holiday, why not try the resorts around Nosy Be? Here you can find clear turquoise water, tranquility and seafood feasts. But, remember, that's just a tiny portion of Madagascar.

My visit to Madagascar was not for tourism. It was to visit the Boxe Francaise Savate Federation, based in the capital Antananarivo. I hope this article will give you a taste of what I experienced. The photos on this page are mine, and I retain the copyright, so if you would like to use one, please contact me first.

Our Hotel - "First we made the bricks, then we built the hotel"

The main hotel building
The main hotel building

Antananarivo has a selection of tourist and business hotels. We stayed a little way out of the centre at Andoharanofotsy. Our hotel was a little less standard, and a lot more interesting. The owner told me that he and his staff had built it themselves... "first we made the bricks, then we built the hotel".

My room was one quarter of a bungalow, with its own entrance, shower and toilet. The electrics were slightly dodgy, with the light switch buzzing from time to time, and the TV gave me a limited choice of half a dozen snow storms. It didn't seem safe or even possible to have the light and the TV on at the same time! But, the food was very good, and the staff helpful and attentive. At lunchtime, we ate in the garden, next to a pond, and entertained by the hotel chickens. In the evening, we dined in the hotel restaurant on zebu steaks, chicken, or fish that looked like they might eat us! Bananas, fresh from the trees around the grounds, were offered at breakfast.

Our Hotel At Andoharanofotsy - basic, but perfectly comfortable

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My hotel room, inside the bungalow.The outside of my bungalow.A banana tree outside my window.The garden, from my porch.The hotel bungalows viewed from the top of the admin building.
My hotel room, inside the bungalow.
My hotel room, inside the bungalow.
The outside of my bungalow.
The outside of my bungalow.
A banana tree outside my window.
A banana tree outside my window.
The garden, from my porch.
The garden, from my porch.
The hotel bungalows viewed from the top of the admin building.
The hotel bungalows viewed from the top of the admin building.

Who's For Supper?

One thing to be aware of in any adventure travel to exotic destinations is the food. I had some very nice meals in Madagascar, including local specialities like Zebu. This meal looked like it might eat me first. Fortunately, I won, and it tasted ok!

Recently, someone asked me what kind of fish it was. I think it was Tilapia... It had lots of tiny needle sharp teeth!

The World Around Us

Madagascar has a hot rainy season lasting from November to April, and a cooler dry season lasting from May to October. The eastern side of the country gets most rain, and this is where you will find a narrow, steep escarpment containing most of the rain forest. It is drier and cooler in the central highlands of the country, which range in altitude from 750 to 1500m above sea level. Antananarivo, the captial, is in the central highlands. These are the most densely populated areas of the Madagascar, and mostly deforested. In this area, you can see terraced, rice-growing valleys and grassy slopes. The west is the driest part, with areas of semi-desert in the south. This part of Madagascar has tropical dry forests, shrublands and thorn forests.

Madagascan Scenery - A selection of my photos

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Making A Living In Madagascar

Recharge your phone?
Recharge your phone?

Madagascar is a poor country, rated "low" on the United Nations Human Development Index. Agriculture, fishing and forestry are important strands of the economy.

The streets of towns and villages are lined with tiny open-fronted shops, market stalls and sellers sitting around the produce on the ground. I had the impression that almost anything you might need could be found in one of these road-side enterprises. Food, clothes, electrical goods, car parts, artisan crafts, bicycle repair services... If you want some credit for your mobile phone, there are numerous little booths ready to supply you. Driving along one country road, we passed through several areas where all the roadside stalls sold the same things... a zone of hand-made musical instrument stalls, a zone of vegetable stalls selling only carrots and potatoes, and another zone of hand-made wooden truck toys.

Making A Living In Mada - Photos

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Palaces In And Near Antananarivo

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The real place or the tourist destination?

Is it more interesting to see the country and the people as they really are or better to stick to tourist areas?

Historical Monuments

Archaeological evidence suggests that the first Indo-Malayan settlers arrived in Madagascar around 1500 years ago, bringing with them food crops. The terraces of rice paddies and the Malagasy language still hint at this past. Later, Bantu-speaking migrants crossed the Mozambique channel from east Africa.

During the 17th century, European and North American buccaneers based themselves in Madagascar, especially around Ãle Sainte Marie. As trade with European merchants grew, powerful kingdoms began to develop on the island. There was a long period of warring, famine and unrest. Eventually, in 1895, the French captured Antananarivo and the island became an official colony in 1897. Although the French constructed roads, improved education and abolished slavery, they also suppressed the Malagasy language. By the 1920s, Nationalist movements had developed, and there was a revoly in 1947. Madagascar eventually gained independence from France in 1960.

For a taste of history, the palace of King Andrianampoinimerina (1787-1810) can be visited at Ambohimanga. In Antananarivo, you can visit the Rova, a royal palace complex that was home to the sovereigns of the Imerina Kingdom in the 17th and 18th centuries. The largest of the buildings was Manjakamiadana - the "Queen's Palace". It was built between 1839 and 1841 for Queen Ranavalona I. Later it was encased in stone. Tragically, in November 1995, the buildings of the Rova were badly damaged by fire, shortly before they were to join the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Queen's Palace is being restored and will eventually become a museum for royal artefacts saved from the fire.

Madagascar On Kindle

A Kindle is a great way to carry all the travel information you need for your Madagascan adventure. The travel guides below are two of the best available, and sure to enhance your holiday.

Madagascar 101 tidbits to expand your knowledge when visiting Madagascar
Madagascar 101 tidbits to expand your knowledge when visiting Madagascar

This Kindle book is packed with useful information about Madgascar, whether you are reading for interest or planning a holiday to Madagascar.

 
Kindle Paperwhite 3G, 6" High Resolution Display with Built-in Light, Free 3G + Wi-Fi - Includes Special Offers [Previous Generation]
Kindle Paperwhite 3G, 6" High Resolution Display with Built-in Light, Free 3G + Wi-Fi - Includes Special Offers [Previous Generation]

Perfect for travelling, the Kindle paperwhite 3G has an 8-week battery life, and can download the books you want anytime, anywhere. Better contrast and higher resolution than rivals to deliver clear text and crisp images. Capacity of up to 1,100 books.

 

Antananarivo, Madagascar

A markerCapital of Madagascar -
Antananarivo
get directions

People

Boxe Francaise Savate in Madagascar

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Wildlife

Zebu
Zebu

Being on a working trip, I missed out on wildlife. Hopefully, I can correct that in the future.

I saw only domesticated animals, like zebu and chickens. Sadly, no lemurs...

Zebu are domesticated "humped" cattle. They have drooping ears and a large fatty hump on their shoulders. Zebu have many uses in Madagascar. They are used to pull carts, as dairy cattle, and for their meat, which can be tough and chewy. Their hides are used for leather, and their dung is used both for fuel and for manure.

I didn't yet get to see the National Parks, but there are some, and if you have time they are really worth seeing.

Cool Clothing For Hot Weather

Have you ever noticed that the bad guys on the "cops" programs are often shirtless? It may be hot outside, but do we have to join those guys?

The ideal fabric for travelling in a hot climate is strong and soft, something that can be washed frequently and that will dry quickly. For preference, I also like fabrics that protect against UV and have an anti-microbial finish.

One good example is Coolmax clothing which is designed for hot times. Coolmax / ClimaCool is light and keeps your skin dry when you sweat, by wicking the moisture away.

CoolMax Jacquard Mesh Golf Polo Shirt
CoolMax Jacquard Mesh Golf Polo Shirt

Available in 8 colors, these golf/polo shirts are made from 100% Coolmax Active fiber (ClimaCool) to keep you dry in hot weather. The shirts feel soft, light and comfortable.

 

Ducks, Geese & Zebu

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Are You A World-traveller? - Have you been to Madagascar?

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    • profile image

      RinchenChodron 4 years ago

      What an interesting part of the world.

    • flinnie lm profile image

      Gloria Freeman 4 years ago from Alabama USA

      Hi what a great adventure this must have been for you. I enjoyed the country too. seeing it through your eyes.

    • savateuse profile image
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      savateuse 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Thanks for your kind comments!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I sure am not a world traveler and have never been outside the states other than barley getting into Canada, just across the boarder. I got such a kick out of your response to that fish, glad it didn't get you, lol! What a great adventure and learning experience for you, congratulations on having your trip featured on Bravo Squidoo! :)

    • danijelak5 profile image

      Danijela 4 years ago from Serbia

      I am a world-traveller and I like travelling a lot but I haven't been yet to Madagascar. But one day I hope to visit this beautiful destination.

    • weheartjunk profile image

      weheartjunk 4 years ago

      Never been but it looks like a great trip. Morocco is the closest I've physically been to Madagascar. Which isn't that close. But I wanna go now.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      With Travel Channel or Internet, especially with Squidoo, I can go everywhere! Just visited Madagascar. Thanks! :)

    • darksalo profile image

      darksalo 4 years ago

      Madagascar sounds so different from anyplace else that I would love to visit.I used to be content with backpacking, but unless there's at least three or four stars somewhere, fuh-get-a-bout-it !!

      I know. I know, I have turned into more of an armchair traveller and that is why I absolutely love this lense v!!

    • profile image

      DebMartin 4 years ago

      I don't travel as much as I'd like. But I have big plans with retirement. Madagascar will definitely go on my list.

    • observant trave profile image

      observant trave 4 years ago

      I would like to travel to Madagascar, it seems a stunning place. after completing this year, i will give it a try.

    • savateuse profile image
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      savateuse 4 years ago

      @soaringsis: Thanks! Travel is good for the soul :)

    • profile image

      Shayax 4 years ago

      Great lense!

    • profile image

      soaringsis 4 years ago

      Congratulation on your LotD. Thanks for sharing and taking me to another part of the world.

    • savateuse profile image
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      savateuse 4 years ago

      @CampingmanNW: Thanks for your comment - I'm pleased it rought back memories for you.

    • savateuse profile image
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      savateuse 4 years ago

      @InfoCoop: I didn't really know what to expect before my visit, but it was a very interesting experience.

    • savateuse profile image
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      savateuse 4 years ago

      @RajlakshmiHB: Thanks! Madagascar is a fascinating country.

    • profile image

      RajlakshmiHB 4 years ago

      what a beautiful and informative lens .. congratz on LOTD

    • CampingmanNW profile image

      CampingmanNW 4 years ago

      It has been many years since I have been to Madagascar and I enjoyed reading your lens. I visited many places near Antananarivo. Such as Imerina, Alasora, Ambatomanga. I found Madagascar to be vibrant, enchanting and stimulating and someday I shall return. Thanks for a great read. It brought back many memories

    • street2linen profile image

      street2linen 4 years ago

      That fish does look tasty. I'm just so humbled by the people there who are living there.

    • InfoCoop profile image

      InfoCoop 4 years ago

      What a wonderful perspective and one I would have never guessed. Thanks for giving us a glimpse into the real Madagascar. Great photos.

    • savateuse profile image
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      savateuse 4 years ago

      @dudokdudok: Thanks for your visit and your comments. I do hope you have the opportunity to visit Madagascar!

    • profile image

      dudokdudok 4 years ago

      Many Congratulations on LOTD! It was intresting read and I loved the photograph selection. Such a different world and culture. I never had the oportunity to travel and can only read about distant countries from people who been there and documented their journeys and experience. Maybe one day, when boys are older, we will get the oportunity to travel and Madagascar will be in our top 10 places to visit. We would really like that. PS: That fish dish looks realy tasty.

    • Mary Stephenson profile image

      Mary Stephenson 4 years ago from California

      Congratulations on LOTD.

    • RawBill1 profile image

      Bill 4 years ago from Gold Coast, Australia

      Congrats on LOTD. Great to see some photos of the normal every day side of Madagascar.

    • sapientzeal lm profile image

      sapientzeal lm 4 years ago

      Great shots! Well-written lens!

      -SZ

    • savateuse profile image
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      savateuse 4 years ago

      @sapientzeal lm: Thanks for visiting!

    • savateuse profile image
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      savateuse 4 years ago

      @MartieG: Thanks for visiting!

    • savateuse profile image
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      savateuse 4 years ago

      @delia-delia: Thanks for your kind comment.

    • savateuse profile image
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      savateuse 4 years ago

      @maryseena: I think it might have been called tilapia

    • maryseena profile image

      maryseena 4 years ago

      I've never been to Madagascar but what (who) you had for dinner looks familiar. Do you remember what it was called?

    • MartieG profile image

      MartieG aka 'survivoryea' 4 years ago from Jersey Shore

      Learned something new and loved the photos too - interesting lens :>)

    • delia-delia profile image

      Delia 4 years ago

      Congratulations on LOTD! Well written lens with added humor and indeed interesting. I travel but never have been to Africa or Madagascar ...

    • savateuse profile image
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      savateuse 4 years ago

      @ShariBerry: I'm pleased you enjoyed it!

    • ShariBerry profile image

      Sharon Berry 4 years ago from Michigan

      I'm not a world traveller but have been out of the US 3 times. This lens has been a great read and I especially liked all of the pictures. Thanks for sharing.

    • savateuse profile image
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      savateuse 4 years ago

      @yonique88: Thanks! I wish you luck with your travel writing!

    • savateuse profile image
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      savateuse 4 years ago

      @anne mohanraj: Thanks for visiting!

    • anne mohanraj profile image

      anne mohanraj 4 years ago

      A very interesting lens! Congratulations on LOTD!

    • yonique88 profile image

      yonique88 4 years ago

      I am not a world traveler but I plan to be one and write articles about my trips. I would like to be a travel writer someday, and I am in the process of working on that. I really like your lens. It has very interesting content, and congratulations on getting LOTD, too!

    • moneyrat profile image

      moneyrat 4 years ago

      I heard Madagascar is famous for gems stones. :) Cool Lens.

    • savateuse profile image
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      savateuse 4 years ago

      @Jogalog: Thanks! I would love to go back to Madagascar to see more of the wildlife.

    • Jogalog profile image

      Jogalog 4 years ago

      I would love to go one day, especially to see the wildlife. Congrats on LOTD!

    • savateuse profile image
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      savateuse 4 years ago

      @rob-hemphill: Thanks! I would love to visit some other african countries.

    • savateuse profile image
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      savateuse 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Thanks! Yes, some places we saw in Madagascar were very beautifully.

    • rob-hemphill profile image

      Rob Hemphill 4 years ago from Ireland

      Done a little, would like to do more, especially Africa as I used to live in Kenya. Congratulations for LOTD, well deserved.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I've never been to Madagascar but it looks beautiful. Congratulations on getting LotD!

    • savateuse profile image
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      savateuse 4 years ago

      @Vikk Simmons: Thanks! Madagascar was a fascinating country to visit.

    • savateuse profile image
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      savateuse 4 years ago

      @OhMe: Thanks for your kind comment! Madagascar is certainly worth a real visit, if you are ever able to get there.

    • Vikk Simmons profile image

      'Vikk Simmons 4 years ago from Houston

      I've managed to make it out of the country several times during my life but not here. Interesting photos and write up. Congrats for LoTD.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 4 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      No, I am not a World-traveller but I do enjoy taking these virtual tours on Squidoo. Thank you. I sure enjoyed this one. Congrats on LOTD. Well deserved.

    • savateuse profile image
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      savateuse 4 years ago

      @aka-rms: Thank you for selecting this lens! It's really good to be able to show photos of Madagascar to more people!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      The lens really deserves to be the LOTD! Congratulations.

    • Missmerfaery444 profile image

      Missmerfaery444 4 years ago

      Back to say many congratulations on LOTD!

    • aka-rms profile image

      Robin S 4 years ago from USA

      Congratulations, this lens was selected as today's Lens of the Day. You can see the write up at SquidooHQ: http://hq.squidoo.com/lotd/lens-of-the-day-madagas...

    • savateuse profile image
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      savateuse 4 years ago

      @LisaMarieGabriel: Thanks for all your encouragement - maybe you should visit Madagascar too!

    • savateuse profile image
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      savateuse 4 years ago

      @hmommers: Thanks! Do visit if you can!

    • savateuse profile image
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      savateuse 4 years ago

      @hovirag: I took the photos to remind myself of the trip, and to show a friend who is a geography teacher what Madagascar was really like.

    • savateuse profile image
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      savateuse 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Thanks AJ! If you have the chance to visit Madagascar, it's certainly worthwhile.

    • savateuse profile image
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      savateuse 4 years ago

      @jura: I do recommend a visit to Madagascar. I enjoyed my trip, and learnt a lot.

    • nicenet profile image

      nicey 4 years ago

      Well I'm not a rotarian but if I had more money, I'll visit countries where help is needed.

      Thanks for sharing your experience.

    • jc stone profile image

      Jordan 4 years ago

      No i have not been to Madagascar or any other country besides Canada. It many years ago.

    • profile image

      jura 4 years ago

      I know it is a great place to see i wish i could to go,i love the lens.

    • LisaMarieGabriel profile image

      Lisa Marie Gabriel 4 years ago from United Kingdom

      Very, very pleased to see you win LOTD! Well done! :)

    • profile image

      hmommers 4 years ago

      I haven't been there (yet). Congratulations on the LotD! :-)

    • hovirag profile image

      hovirag 4 years ago

      I ove the fact that you also showed the everyday life and reality, not just the "tourist paradise"

    • profile image

      lebanonhotels 4 years ago

      nice lens, i like it

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I have been to many places, but have never made it to Africa - yet! Congratulations on a well deserved Lens of the Day :)

    • savateuse profile image
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      savateuse 4 years ago

      @debnet: Thanks! For many years, I didn't travel, at all. But in the last 5 or 6 years, I have had the privilege of visiting some wonderful places. Madagascar is one that I'd love to visit again!

    • debnet profile image

      Debbie 4 years ago from England

      I like to travel but I've never been to Madagascar. What a fabulous lens. Full of original content and images. Your words bring it all to life! Congrats on a very well deserved LOTD!!!

    • savateuse profile image
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      savateuse 4 years ago

      @RedShoesGirl: You are right, this is a problem in many countries. It's very important to be sensitive to the local environment and customs!

    • profile image

      geetikasingh714 4 years ago

      i will visit this place soon

    • RedShoesGirl profile image

      RedShoesGirl 4 years ago

      Madagascar is in deed an unique place on Earth. You were lucky to enjoy your holiday in that place. :)

      The sad part of the story is that due to tourism a wide surface of forest is being cut day by day, leading to the death of those unique animal and plant species. Many rich persons are building luxury houses for themselves. I know a political figure from my country who bought a lot of land to build himself a domain. I don't know how long we will be able to enjoy any of those species-well maybe there will be some left in zoos :(

    • savateuse profile image
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      savateuse 4 years ago

      @Rosetta Slone: I would love to go back with more time to see the wild life and amazing plants of Madagascar.

    • savateuse profile image
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      savateuse 4 years ago

      @peterb6001: If you can visit, it's definitely worth seeing Madagascar!

    • savateuse profile image
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      savateuse 4 years ago

      @pkmcruk: Thanks! I hope my photos give a idea of the real Madagascar

    • Rosetta Slone profile image

      Rosetta Slone 4 years ago from Under a coconut tree

      I live less than an hour's flight away from Madagascar, so it's extremely easy and cheap to go there regularly. You've captured the country beautifully, although I urge you to return for a hike in Diego Suarez so you can see the amazing wildlife. There's no place in the world like it.

    • worldflashpacker profile image

      worldflashpacker 4 years ago

      Somewhere I really want to visit as part of my own world travels.

    • peterb6001 profile image

      Peter Badham 4 years ago from England

      The closest I've been is watching David Attenboroughs series on it a few weeks ago. You show the other side here, so now, with the help from both of you, I feel truly prepared for a visit.

    • VineetBhandari profile image

      VineetBhandari 4 years ago

      No, but i would love too. nice lens

    • pkmcruk profile image

      pkmcr 4 years ago from Cheshire UK

      Congratulations on LOTD - which is very well deserved! :-)

    • savateuse profile image
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      savateuse 4 years ago

      @ismeedee: I'd love to go back to Madagascar

    • ismeedee profile image

      ismeedee 4 years ago

      It looks like a fantastically simple and relaxing life there, and I'd love it!

    • profile image

      AnimalHouse 4 years ago

      I would like to explore this country! Thanks for sharing this lens.

    • theallin1writer profile image

      theallin1writer 4 years ago

      Very lovely lens! Wish I could see the place in person. *blessings

    • savateuse profile image
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      savateuse 4 years ago

      @Seth Shafer: I would love to go back and see more.

      Thanks for visiting and liking my lens!

    • Seth Shafer profile image

      Seth 4 years ago from California

      My wife and I would love to make it here someday. We crossed Namibia and South Africa off the travel bucket list this year, so hopefully Madagascar soon too.

    • savateuse profile image
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      savateuse 5 years ago

      @crstnblue: thanks for visiting and for your feedback!

    • profile image

      crstnblue 5 years ago

      Great job done!

      Hope to see more similar lenses as yours about places no so well promoted but worth to visit them!

      Thanks for sharing!

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      Never, but put me down in the column of those that would jump at the opportunity.

    • mihgasper profile image

      Miha Gasper 5 years ago from Ljubljana, Slovenia, EU

      No, but it is at the very top of my list!

    • savateuse profile image
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      savateuse 5 years ago

      @hntrssthmpsn: I have a close-up photo of the teeth, but maybe it's too scary to post...

    • hntrssthmpsn profile image

      hntrssthmpsn 5 years ago

      I'm so jealous of your Madagascar adventure! What amazing things you saw! I don't know that I would have had the courage to sample that fish. It does look rather fierce, even on a plate.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Not yet, but I hope to one day.

    • savateuse profile image
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      savateuse 5 years ago

      @LisaDH: I hope you get the opportunity!

    • LisaDH profile image

      LisaDH 5 years ago

      I've never been to Madagascar, but would love to go some day!

    • SailingPassion LM profile image

      SailingPassion LM 5 years ago

      @SailingPassion LM: I meant that I am exploring Greece --ha ha.

      Thanks for the visit and like :-)

    • SailingPassion LM profile image

      SailingPassion LM 5 years ago

      Love finding new places untouched by tourism - I'm not exploring Greece through sailing and have found some delights and hope to write more in the near future as I have several places to write up about - take a look perhaps. Would be grateful of feedback

    • savateuse profile image
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      savateuse 5 years ago

      @dream1983: Thanks!

    • profile image

      dream1983 5 years ago

      Amazing lens, well done!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I would love to visit Madagascar... thanks for the virtual tour!

    • savateuse profile image
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      savateuse 5 years ago

      @SadSquid: Thanks for visiting, and for your comment