Notes based on travels to Madagascar June 2023



Madagascar has unique flora and fauna that is quickly disappearing due to deforestation and lack of protection. Small reserves are available, but wildlife in these reserves has become acclimated to humans so behavior is not as “wild”.  For example, in one reserve, lemurs actually jumped on people’s shoulders. In another, they waited perched over the table for handouts.

I believe the window to view the unique wildlife (e.g., lemurs), reptiles (chameleons / geckos / etc.) and flora is closing fast. As such, if you desire to see these areas and critters, go now.

Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world. There is no infrastructure (no power grid, no reliable water sources, limited if any bridges, no real roads) outside of major cities (Antananarivo, Fort Dauphin). In the rural areas, people live in huts. There are no gas stations, stores or medical facilities.

Our group was there for 13 days and traveled from the capital to the west coast (baobab trees and tsingy) to the south (Berenty) to the northeast. We stayed in mid-range hotels and ate mostly at the hotel / lodge where we were staying. Everyone in our group of 11 was sick at least twice. Everyone had travelers diarrhea (at least once), and most people also had a norovirus.


  • Most places have limited electricity – only available at certain hours, powered by solar or generator.
  • Most places do not have consistent hot water (It may be solar heated or heated by fire).
  • Most places have poor water flow and water is drawn from nearby river or pond.
  • Hotels lack soap, shampoo, face clothes and hair dryers. Most provide a small bath towel. Some provide hand towels.
  • Lighting is poor in rooms (outdated power saving light bulbs).
  • Outlets are minimal.
  • Some hotels only provide a sheet on the bed.
  • Pillows ranged from flat, to extremely lumpy (lumps of foam?) and very hard (bolster).
  • Sinks usually did not have a plug and were not deep enough for hand laundry. Pack your own plug and clothing line.
  • Breakfast was included (eggs, fruit, bread, juice, coffee/tea).
  • Most hotels provided bottled water and had more available for purchase.


  • Bathrooms in most places (parks, rest stops, gas stations) are minimal – bring own toilet paper, hand sanitizer, wipes.
    • Many do no have TP, lights or even a seat (hole / squat), no soap.
    • For those of us who are used to camping / hiking and going in the woods, this is not really an option. Not easy to go on side of road due to amount of people.
  • Most places do NOT take credit cards.
  • Not all towns have a bank or ATM.
  • I packed a hat and sunglasses, but rarely used either (except sometimes sunglasses when traveling in vehicle).
  • Air conditioning is rare in hotels or vehicles.


  • Fruit is good – bananas are plentiful, pineapple, papaya and watermelon were most common.
  • Tilapia or a tilapia-like fish is common. It is usually pan-fried and is good, but the fish are small (a few bits at best).
  • Popular vegetables include potatoes of some form, eggplant and squash.
  • Zebu is popular (cow – tends to be tough), chicken usually includes fat, skin and bone and is usually dark meat, pork tends to be tough.
  • Pack additional snacks if you have favorites.
  • Do not trust fresh uncooked vegetables.
  • Rice is common, but not like rice we buy in the US. I believe that this is because it is not sifted thoroughly and has hulls and such.


  • Do not drink (most is pumped from local river) or use for brushing teeth. Do not eat anything that may have been washed with the local water.
  • Most comes out of tap dirty (unfiltered).
  • Bottled water is available at all hotels and snack stops.
  • Crystal is the popular seltzer / sparking water.


  • YES, but in June, not too many. Did not find mosquitos to be much of an issue.
  • Most places had netting around bed.
  • Most places did NOT have screens on windows.


Roads in Madagascar are worse than you can imagine, most are single lane except near the capital and Fort Dauphin. Everything is transported by trucks. Major roads have heavy truck traffic (especially from “Tana” to the port). Trucks travel at 10mph and less if going up hill. Lots of smoke and diesel fumes. Always plan on more time than you think. Limited bridges. If there is a bridge, it is one lane. Trucks break down often and provide additional obstacles on the road (pot holes, ruts, people, carts, cattle, etc.) If there is a ferry, they often wait until they are full.  Roads are the main route for pedestrian traffic, carts and for herd traffic (goats, sheep and cattle).

West Coast – near baobab trees / Tsingy

Dirt road, severely rutted, often muddy, often through fields or woods.

Primitive Ferries across rivers – no bridges.

South – near Fort Dauphin

In town, pavement. Outside of town (heading towards Berenty), roads are dirt and mostly grated, but they are doing construction and the number of construction trucks limits travel to 5-10mph.

East / Northeast from Capital

Major route to port (1 1/2 lanes at best)  – heavy truck traffic, mountainous roads with hairpin turns, although some pavement, it is rare to find a smooth section greater than 0.1 miles. Potholes are the size of a bus. It is common to see trucks broken down in the middle or on the side of the road. 

Medical / Pharmacy

  • Access None – except in major cities.
  • Realize that if you have an issue (serious illness, injury or even a twisted ankle) you may be a day from a medical facility and they only way to travel is by rough road. Limited airstrips.
  • Pack your own pharmacy (normal prescriptions plus anything you might need, e.g., cold medicine).
  • Pack twice as much Imodium as you think you need.
  • Pack antibiotics for travelers diarrhea (twice as much as you need).
  • Hand sanitizer.
  • Alcohol rubs, Neosporin, band-aids for scrapes / cuts.
  • Consider packing powdered gatorade, your favorite herbal tea or other powder in case you get sick.
  • Sunscreen.
  • Bug spray.


  • Warmer than expected [June].
  • Weather in June was t-shirt and shorts weather (70-80s F). However, long sleeves and pants are very helpful when hiking through forests (e.g., t-shirt and long sleeve shirt with light weight hiking pants) both for brush and for mosquitos. I did not need a sweater or jacket.
  • Good walking / hiking shoes.
  • It is possible to have laundry done at most places, but keep in mind that they are using local water (river / lake). I sometimes think our clothes came back dirtier than when we sent them in.


  • Bring extra batteries – both for camera and for flash (keep in mind that you may not have time to recharge everything due to limited time with power and limited outlets).
  • Flash – somewhat helpful at night, but hard to adjust quickly with most animals (e.g., lemurs – good for chameleons), bring diffuser or secondary lights.
  • Headlamp and / or flashlight with extra batteries (remember, there is no power in most places at night).

Camera Gear (what I brought)

  • Sony A7rV
  • 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 with 1.4x teleconverter
  • 24-105mm f4
  • 16-35mm f4 – did not use wide angle except briefly at Baobab Trees – could have made due without.
  • Flash – used one night, I found it too hard with moving subjects (lemurs).


  • Lemurs and more lemurs – so many varieties and different in each region – Awesome!
  • Chameleons – many types.
  • Birds – more limited.
  • Fruit bats.
  • Foosa (not easy to spot).