Thursday, December 17, 2009

Guest blogger Sara Le Houllier shares some handy tips on making MORE of Madagascar

Madagascar is a glorious, beautiful, delicious country, however, there are a few things you should know before you go that might help you handle the inevitable culture shock. Some of these things you will read now, and understand later, when you arrive on the world’s 4th largest island, but most important of all, enjoy your journey; you’ll want to go back again and again!

Patience is truly a virtue. Whatever time you think you’re going to leave to go ANYWHERE, add at least an hour (emphasis on at least). What’s your rush anyway? You’re on vacation.

Do not cram every second, every day of your trip with activities. Things may change, you may get stuck somewhere, you may have to change your itinerary – do not stress. This is normal. Being flexible means you may see something you never expected and then you will thank the airline that cancelled your flight or the car that never filled up.

When taxi-broussing, you might be uncomfortable, even in the best possible situation (which is the row behind the driver, feet up, only three people in your row, music at a low volume). That’s life, and it’s not forever. Remember: you’re traveling shoulder to shoulder with Malagasy people, seeing stunning landscapes, and eating a lot of rice. It’s a cultural experience that will make for a good story at future dinner parties.

Beware of fancy restaurants. Even the nicest of establishments may shock your stomach into unpleasantness. I have gotten sick more times after eating at a vazaha restaurant than I ever got eating Malagasy food. Eat Malagasy food! It’s great! Especially try the burnt rice water (ranonapango or rano vola) – hot and soothing.

Try to learn a little bit of Malagasy before you go – the people will LOVE you for it. You’ll get some open-mouthed stares and some laughs, but that’s par for the course. I’ll have some resources up on my website in the next couple of months.

Don’t just do touristy things. Spend some time walking around, sitting on benches or beaches, or going to markets. Parks are fun and you’ll see some AMAZING animals and plants, but the people are wonderful as well.

if all goes as planned, Other Places Publishing should be releasing my new Madagascar travel guide in June 2010. In the meantime, if you have any questions about Madagascar, please feel free to email me at the website. If I don’t know the answer, I can direct you to someone who does. Enjoy your trip, and Soava Dia!

Want to head to off to the world's eighth continent? Check out Acacia’s Madagascar Revealed tour. An 11-day tour exploring the major highlights of the south, leaving you plenty of time before or after to do some independent travelling in the northern part of Madagascar. £1,175pp.

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