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WINGS Birding Tours – Information

Madagascar

Tour Information

Note: The information presented here is an abbreviated version of our formal General Information for this tour. Its purpose is solely to give readers a sense of what might be involved if they took this tour. Although we do our best to make sure what follows here is completely accurate, it should not be used as a replacement for the formal document which will be sent to all tour registrants, and whose contents supersedes any information contained here.

ENTERING MADAGASCAR:  A passport valid at least six months at the time of entry and with at least three blank pages for an entry stamp, and a Madagascar tourist visa and an on-going air ticket are required. You may obtain your visa in advance, although it can be obtained (for a fee of $33.26, at the time of writing, payable in cash only) upon arrival at the airport in Antananarivo. Travelers who opt to obtain an airport visa should expect some delays upon arrival.

Evidence of a yellow fever vaccination must be shown only if you are coming directly from an endemic zone.

COUNTRY INFORMATION: You can review the U.S. Department of State Country Specific Travel Information at http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/country/madagascar.html, and the CIA World Factbook background notes on Madagascar at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ma.html

PACE OF THE TOUR: On this tour we don’t have terribly early starts to get to the habitats, the exceptions being Mahajanga with a 5-5:30 a.m. breakfast, and Ifaty around the same time. On the extension we’ll want to leave to cross the Bay to Cap Masoala before the wind picks up, and so will have an early start there.

There are some instances where good general fitness is required: At Ranomafana, the walking is on steep to very steep (and often slippery) dirt trails, with many tree roots traversing the path; there are no flat areas in the Park.

At Ifaty and Ankarafantsika, we walk on sand. Downhill descents are steep and long, and there will be pressure on the knees for long periods.

Elsewhere, we may be away from the vehicle for up to five hours although it is usually a fairly steady pace and consideration will be given for the less agile.

In places like the spiny forest of the southwest, we may have to step over spiky fallen Didiereias, and other shrubs, as we search for the special endemics located in the sandy substrate. Walking on sand can be arduous, but it is carried out very early in the morning before the air becomes uncomfortably hot. The excursion is usually all over by 10 a.m., and we have a relaxing time until late afternoon.

HEALTH: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all travelers be up to date on routine vaccinations. These include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot.

They further recommend that most travelers have protection against Hepatitis A and Typhoid.

Malaria: The CDC says that chloroquine-resistant malaria has been detected in Madagascar. Please consult with your doctor for the currently recommended alternative prophylaxes. 

Yellow Fever: The CDC says there is no risk of Yellow Fever in Madagascar.

The most current information about travelers’ health recommendations can be found on the CDC’s Travel Health website at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/madagascar

Smoking:  Smoking is prohibited in the vehicles or when the group is gathered for meals, checklists, etc. If you are sharing a room with a nonsmoker, please do not smoke in the room. If you smoke in the field, do so well away and downwind from the group. If any location where the group is gathered has a stricter policy than the WINGS policy, that stricter policy will prevail.

Miscellaneous:  Biting insects are generally very scarce.  Leeches occur in the rain forest, although few at the time we are there. We recommend using insect repellents with a high concentration of DEET. 

Water is generally unsafe to drink. We shall provide bottled water for all excursions, and will always have a supply on the bus when travelling, and it will be available on the table for lunch and dinner.

CLIMATE: The climate varies from place to place, but in September it will usually be mild to warm (mids 50s to mid 70s F) everywhere except in the early mornings at Perinet, Ranomafana and Antananarivo. The warmer areas are during the middle of the day at Mahajanga/Ankarafantsika and Ifaty (highs about 80 F). In all cases it is a dry heat, however the extension to Cap Masoala is usually warm and humid during the middle of the day. Some typically light rain showers are possible

ACCOMMODATIONS: We stay in good-quality hotels or bungalows with private bathroom facilities in each room. Nights on the Cap Masoala extension are spent in comfortable bungalows, but it may be necessary to double up, as there is limited space. There are three bungalows with clean, tiled private bathroom facilities. Hot water is available on request, but in buckets and only cold water for showers, but constantly available.

Internet: All hotels, except at Ankarafantsika and Masoala, have Wi-Fi access from the restaurant, but please note the connection is not very good.

FOOD: Most of the meals on this tour are at quite a high standard, featuring excellent seafood on the coast and the opportunity to try some tasty traditional foods. Past participants have found the food to be particularly excellent in Perinet, Ranomafana, Isalo, Tulear and Ifaty; very high standards are also attained in Tana, Mahajanga/Ampijoroa and Maroantsetra. Our meals at Cap Masoala (on the extension) are usually more basic but still good.

Food Allergies / Requirements: We cannot guarantee that all food allergies can be accommodated at every destination. Participants with significant food allergies or special dietary requirements should detail exactly what is required when placing the booking, and bring appropriate foods with them for those times when their needs cannot be met. Announced meal times are always approximate depending on how the day unfolds. Participants who need to eat according to a fixed schedule should bring supplemental food. Please contact the WINGS office if you have any questions.

TRANSPORTATION: For the main part of the tour (Antananarivo to Ifaty), we use a two-wheel drive Bus. Generally small buses and mini-buses are used when on the other tour sections. While most roads are paved and in excellent condition, the road from Ambalavao towards Fianarantsoa is currently in a bad state. The roads on the high plateau are tortuous with many twists and turns. Participants should be able to ride in any seat in our tour vehicles.

During this tour we’re obliged to use air travel provided by the national carrier Air Madagascar, an organization known for changing flights times up to the very last minute. We’ll hope for the best but it’s possible we may have to adjust our schedule “on the fly.”

Apart from the lake excursion at Ankarafantsika, the only boat trip on this tour is on the extension where the crossing to and from Cap Masoala from Maroansetra can be bumpy. If you suffer from motion sickness appropriate medicine should be taken. All valuables, travel documentation etc., should be enclosed in a waterproof cover and not left in the pocket where it is liable to get wet. Equally the crossing can be as flat as a millpond, but the precautions should still be followed. Squalls can appear suddenly.

Updated: 01 December 2016