“Manahoana o!” That’s good morning in Malagasy.
Recently I had an opportunity to check Madagascar (or Mada as locals call it) off my bucket list. (And I’m not talking about the 2005 animated film by DreamWorks! I’m talking about the real island off the eastern coast of Africa.)
Everything about Mada was A-mazing! (Except for the 18 hour flight! That part I could’ve lived without! If you haven’t guessed by now, I suffer from aviophobia, which is the fear of flying. It’s actually not the flying part I have a problem with…it’s the potential crashing, burning, or drowning. I can’t figure out which would be worse, drowning after plunging into the ocean or complete obliteration after torpedoing toward the ground and bursting into flames. Either way, the end result is the same result…a horrific death!) But I digress.
In this blog I’m going to share with you some helpful tips just in case you ever decide to travel off the eastern coast of Africa to this glorious part of the world!
The airline tickets were ridiculously expensive, (I probably could’ve paid the monthly note on a Ferrari or Lamborghini with the price of these tickets!). Nevertheless, I flew Air France from Dulles International Airport to Paris, and then from Paris to Madagascar.
Air France provided 2 in-flight meals along with several snacks. They even offered alcoholic drinks, shockingly AT NO EXTRA COST!
Between eating, sleeping, drinking, and watching movies (finally got to see Hidden Figures & Beauty & the Beast!) before we knew it, the plane landed on the 4th largest island in the world, Madagascar (population close to 25 million).
Where To Stay
This is a picture of San Cristobol, the beautiful new hotel where I stayed, in Antananarivo (aka Tana), the capitol of Mada.
In my humble opinion, this was one of the most desirable hotels in Tana. Everything was so clean and beautiful with modern architecture. And they served complimentary breakfast! And the best part of all, this hotel is brand new. I’m talking just opened up for business the day before we got there. I don’t think I’ve ever been the first patron at any hotel, but we had that rare privilege. (No need to worry about bed bugs!)
And two thumbs up to the owner and all the employees because they opened their doors even though construction was still underway. It’s not like you could tell anyway, because of the hotel’s pristine condition. (According to the owner, they’ll be adding 2 pools, a fitness room and other amenities.)
If any of you are planning a trip to Madagascar, I HIGHLY recommend this hotel. (I saw many of the other hotels in Tana, and with the exception of a few, most appeared run down and in neighborhoods where you’d have to sleep with both eyes open!. (One hotel literally occupied space on top of a rundown, cheesy car dealership!)
Madagascar Time Zone
Mada’s time zone is known as EAT, East Africa Time. There’s a 7-hour time difference between Mada & Maryland, (so when it’s 5 p.m. in MD, it’s 12 a.m. in Mada), which made communication with our family back home quite challenging. (And by the way, if you don’t have Whattsapp…and plan on traveling abroad, you need to get it. It is the best way to communicate without incurring outrageous international charges. WhatsApp is FREE! You can’t beat that with a stick!!)
The native tongue is Malagasy, however, most natives learn French in school and some even learn English. So for those who only spoke Malagasy, I used Google translation, which turned my English message into French and then a French/Malagasy-speaking native translated my message into Malagasy. Phew! It was a bit arduous, but I worked it out!
The people of Mada look like the perfect mix of African and Asian. Very beautiful, indeed!
My trip took place in the dog days of August, one of the hottest summer months in Maryland, but it was wintertime in Mada. The air temperature lingered in the 50’s at night and mid-to-upper 70’s during the day. That. Sun. Though! It was super hot, as if it were sitting a mere two feet from your head.
Remember when you were a kid and you held a magnifying glass over an ant and watched it bake to death? (or am I dating myself?) Well, that’s exactly how the African sun felt, intense and unbearable as if someone held a magnifying glass directly over my skin, burning me alive. But as one of the locals said, “This is just the winter sun!”
I ate at San Cristobol’s restaurant practically every night. I’m a pretty adventurous eater, however, my travel doctor gave me strict guidelines as to what I should and shouldn’t eat. She told me only drink bottled water, never use the ice, eat only cooked foods and never ever eat anything raw. Not even a salad. Ever. So, for the most part, I stuck to the standard American diet.
The official currency since 2005, is the Malagasy Ariary. The Ariary is difficult to come by in many places in the US. I even went to various banks and were told they don’t carry and could not get Ariary. Dulles International Airport didn’t carry it, nor did the airport in Paris. However, one of the first things I did upon arrival to Mada was convert my American money to Ariary. This is what Ariary looks like. Interesting Fact: They do not use coins, only paper money.
I got this big wad of money for just $100 American dollars. (1 U.S. dollar equals 2,900 Ariary), which was enough to hire a chauffeur and tour guide for two days! But I’ll get to that story in a future blog, so stay tuned!
So for now, I say Veloma (which means goodbye).
Join me next time for Madagascar Part 2 when I take you through a nature hike to see lemurs! I promise, you will not want to miss this!!
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Kimberly is the owner of Travel Kimestry. Her areas of expertise include The Bahamas, The Caribbean, Hawaii, Mexico, Europe and ALL THINGS DISNEY. She’s passionate about working with families who enjoy traveling the world. She looks forward to working with YOU soon!