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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?

Yes, I'd like to discover the country, good and bad

Yes, I'd like to discover the country, good and bad

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    • Meganhere 3 years ago

      I like to experience the country and its people. The tourist areas bore me.

    • RinchenChodron 3 years ago

      I always want to see the people as they really are! Otherwise I could stay at home.

    • Gloria Freeman 3 years ago from Alabama USA

      I would like to see the country and people as they really are.

    • anonymous 4 years ago

      I think I would prefer the local exposure but maybe a bit of both....good question.

    • AlexBPearl 4 years ago

      The former,naturally.


    • darksalo 4 years ago

      I prefer either according to who I am travelling with and what my mood is like

    • openplaces 4 years ago

      Thanks for sharing, I feel like I have been to Madagascar now... I don't think I want to go there though!

      Although I do like to meet people in a real setting that would be good.

    • DebMartin 4 years ago

      Staying with and around locals is a great idea to get the real flavor of a country. And then maybe asking those locals to give you a tour of a tourist center or two so you see those tourist areas through the eyes of a local. Plus, paying a local for a tour is a great way to help supplement someone's income.

    • RajlakshmiHB 4 years ago

      experiencing a new culture and tradtions has it's own beauty

    • CampingmanNW 4 years ago

      Most definitely to spend time with the people where they really live. I have done so in every country I have ever visited. It makes a world of difference in your understanding of not only the country, but it's people and their culture.

    • InfoCoop 4 years ago

      I always prefer getting familiar with the local culture.

    • Sharon Weaver 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      I am always going off the beaten path and explore the out of the way places. This looks right up my alley.

    • Bill 4 years ago from Gold Coast, Australia

      I always like to get off the beaten track and explore the further reaches of my destination. As an Aussie, it always drives me mad when I hear people talking about their visit to Australia. I ask them "where did you go?" and they reply "Sydney!" And then I go "What!, that is all! That is not the real Australia. You have not really been here!"

    • Michelllle 4 years ago

      Hate tourist traps. got to explore.

    • Raimause 4 years ago

      I think that it is good to get off the beaten path and to really experience the countries culture. However, some tourist spots are there for a reason, because they are really cool natural wonders or attractions. Ideally, you would be able to experience both.

    • Sharon Berry 4 years ago from Michigan

      I like your style and think it best to get off the beaten track. By the way, you are very brave to have eaten that fish, I don't think I would have been able to.

    • smillingbelle 4 years ago

      Both at times the tourists sites aren't authentic enough.

    • Rob Hemphill 4 years ago from Ireland

      Get off the beaten track if you want to see the real lives of locals - and it's more fun.

    • Stephen J Parkin 4 years ago from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada

      To me it depends on the nature of the country and the political situation. There are places that it is not safe to leave the "tourist" destinations. My preference is to meet the locals when it is safe to do so.

    • 'Vikk Simmons 4 years ago from Houston

      I like to d both as I want to get a feel for the place.

    No, I prefer to stay in areas that cater for tourists

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      • Brian Stephens 4 years ago from France

        I like to visit the points of interest mainly, but if I get a chance I do also like to see how the people actually live in a country. So it's a bit of both really, but when you are on holiday, time is limited and you want to make the most of your vacation.

      • Nancy Tate Hellams 4 years ago from Pendleton, SC

        I like a little of both: I like to go where the locals go but also don't want to miss any of the interesting tourist sites

      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 -
      get directions


      Boxe Francaise Savate in Madagascar

      Click thumbnail to view full-size



      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

      Click thumbnail to view full-size

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

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          RinchenChodron 3 years ago

          What an interesting part of the world.

        • flinnie lm profile image

          Gloria Freeman 3 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

          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.

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          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!!

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          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

          savateuse 4 years ago

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

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          Shayax 4 years ago

          Great lense!

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          soaringsis 4 years ago

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

        • savateuse profile image

          savateuse 4 years ago

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

        • savateuse profile image

          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

          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.

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