Lonely Planet Writer

Just back from: Madagascar

Ellie and her husband snap a selfie on a beach in Madagascar Newly-weds Ellie and Josh enjoy some downtime on the beach © Ellie Simpson

Ellie Simpson, Traveller Communications Analyst at Lonely Planet, recently returned from a trip to Madagascar.

Tell us more… My husband and I spent an epic three weeks on our honeymoon in Madagascar, complete with some of the most extraordinary animal encounters of our lives, insane modes of transport and some proper time out relaxing on the beach.

In a nutshell… Madagascar is a dream destination for the intrepid traveller, and although it can really test you at times it’s always worth the effort.

Defining moment? There are only seven main roads on the whole island, and a great percentage of these national routes are made up of potholes. Some of them even turn into rivers, where a ferryman has to raft over you and your vehicle. It makes for quite an adventure getting from place to place!

A group of Malagasy men help rescue a 4WD that's got stuck on a sandy road A band of locals help Ellie and co out of a tight spot! © Ellie Simpson

On our way back from Tsimanampetsotsa National Park, our driver took us along a ‘track’ that was pure sand. Despite being in a 4WD, of course, we got completely stuck and for a time it felt like we would never get back to our little beach hut. Luckily, a large group of local villagers stumbled upon us on their way home and stopped to help us out. Whipping out their trusty machetes they chopped down the scrub on the side of the road to lay under our tires, and eventually, we were free! As a thanks for their valiant efforts we gave all 12 of them a lift home in the back of the truck, the sun setting and Malagasy tunes blaring out in celebration.

Good grub? From freshly-caught grilled lobster to the tenderest Zebu steak, Madagascar has some of the best value food in the world. The French influence is strong, but Malagasy twists like sauce coco really make the food special. Don’t forget to wash it all down with a large lychee and vanilla rum. Absolute bliss!

An Indri lemur poses in the forest canopy An Indri lemur poses in the forest canopy © Arto Hakola / Shutterstock

You’d be a muppet to miss… The wailing Indri lemurs at Parc National Andasibe Mantadia, just east of the capital Antananarivo. The Indri indri are the largest lemurs in the world, and aside from the fact they are ridiculously cute and strange looking (some describe them as looking like a two year old child in a panda suit), it’s the sound they make that really amazes. Their territorial cries are so loud you can hear them from over five kilometres away; spend a night in the jungle and you’ll awake to the sound of their eerie wailing floating through the misty forest. Get up close to the Indri and the sound is deafening enough to make you want to cover your ears.

Get any souvenirs? While most travellers to Madagascar seem to avoid travelling by the uncomfortable and often terrifying taxi-brousse (Malagasy minibuses stuffed full of people and packed high with luggage), we spent a fair few hours squeezed between locals, chickens and bags of charcoal. Despite these troublesome transits, our favourite souvenir is a battered tin taxi-brousse model which sits on our shelf at home. It reminds us of potholes, smiling children and ring-tailed lemurs.

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Want more behind-the-scenes adventures? Find out what Destination Editor Lauren Keith got up to on her recent trip to Egypt.