INFORMATION  ABOUT  MADAGASCAR  AND  TRAVELING  THERE

PASSPORTS / VISA: You must possess a valid passport, and apply for an entry visa through a Malagasy embassy or consulate.  You may request a visa application from the embassy, or I can supply them directly if you sign on for the tour.  The cost is $80.  The pertinent address in the U.S.A. is:

 

Honorary Consulate of Madagascar

1318 Santa Luisa Drive

Solana Beach, CA 92075

 

The visa application forms in .pdf format can be found and printed HERE

CLOTHING: Comfortable, well-broken-in hiking shoes (consider bringing two pairs so one is always dry and ready to wear), extra socks, light summer-style clothing (cotton is most comfortable in the heat, but also consider at least one set of long pants for walking in thorny terrain or on cool evenings), a shady hat, and a rainproof poncho.  A sweatshirt or light jacket may be comforting when in higher elevations or on cool nights. 

OTHER COMFORTS and/or NECESSITIES: Bug repellent, sun block, a sturdy and trusty flashlight with extra bulbs and batteries, a notepad, a basic kit of health and hygiene needs will get you by.  Some may prefer to bring some hard candies and/or chewing gum for long drives, and a small fan (with an extension cord and currency adapter to convert 220 to 110 volts).  A waterproof backpack may come in handy to protect cameras or other sensitive gear if we get caught in the rain.

COMMUNICATIONS: Sending postcards is easy, but telephoning is sometimes still frustrating. Things are modernizing rapidly though, so bring along phone numbers (and addresses, faxes, and email numbers too) of friends or relatives back home, as things have gotten better every year that I've visited.  Small "Internet Cafes" have sprouted up in some of the cities we visit, so sending / checking email gets easier every year.  We can buy phone cards for international calls at the airport in Tana that are usable at more and more remote telephones each year too.  Sometimes cell phones even work, though I wouldn't count on this luxury.  You may even be able to rent a cell phone at the airport, but it probably will only work well in larger cities.

PHOTOGRAPHY: Don't forget your camera gear for the world!  Pack it in a water- and crush-resistant case - one that's not too heavy (*** see note below) or clumsy to carry afield.  Bring plenty of film and other supplies, flash batteries, and possibly a back-up camera, etc.  You'll want to be prepared to take advantage of all photo opportunities that present themselves; there'll be many!  Even basic supplies aren't always easy to find in Madagascar, especially outside the capitol.

Photography will be one of the main pleasures of this trip for most participants, and it's also one of my personal passions.  I will be happy to advise with specifics of films, equipment, etc. before and during the trip, and will always assist you in the field to the best of my ability.  I shoot slides, and am in the process of becoming proficient with digital photography.

*** It's often possible for you to personally (and very inexpensively) hire dependable local people as porters for bulky photo or other equipment you wish to take in the field.  A complete list of suggested provisions will be supplied later in a letter to all registered tour members.

HEALTH CONCERNS: Madagascar isn't a particularly hazardous place to visit.  Malaria protection is advised as it is everywhere in the tropics.  Immunizations against tetanus and the various hepatitis strains are not required, but are something you should discuss with your personal physician or health department.  I carry some basic antiseptics and ointments for cuts, rashes, bites from lower life forms, etc.  Mild diarrhea at some point is almost unavoidable, so bring along your own favorite remedy.  Malagasy convenience stores are not always stocked with all the comforting products many of us are used to having handy.  Bring an adequate supply of any prescription drugs needed, in their original labeled containers.

   > > >  DO I NEED TO BE ATHLETIC TO COME ON THE TOUR?  No, but you should be in "reasonably good" general health.  My trips are not strenuous, but we do a bit of walking, and some walks are up and down hilly to mountainous terrain during hot and humid weather.  We'll avoid extremely physically demanding pursuits, but mud, bugs, thorns, slippery trails, rocking boats, etc. are factors to contend with at times.  You may sit out any hike at any time.  I certainly don't want to scare off prospective customers, but if you have zero tolerance for these sorts of things, this tour might not be right for you.  We rough it sometimes to accomplish the goals of the tour.

FOOD & DRINKS: Western-style foods are available in the larger cities and at most of the hotels, but choices may still be limited.  Many meals consist largely of assorted fruits, vegetables, French bread, zebu cattle steaks, and lots of rice.  Breakfasts are typically what Americans refer to as "continental".  The food is tasty and healthful, with junk food scarce. I've always found this to be a great place to trim off a few pounds while getting plenty of exercise.  Bottled water in 1 liter bottles, and Coca-Cola & Fanta Orange soda in 12 oz. bottles, is generally available for sale at most small roadside stores.  Beer and mixed drinks can be purchased at hotels and most stores.  You are responsible for buying all your own drinks, even with regular meals, as is Malagasy tradition.

LODGING: We always stay at decent places ranging from rustic cabins to luxury beachfront hotels with air conditioning, bars, and fancy restaurants.  We also tent camp in certain remote areas where no other accommodations exist.  Basic camping equipment is provided.  All lodging is priced based on two people sharing rooms or tents unless a single supplement is purchased additionally (see trip PRICE info above).

<<< BEST GUIDE BOOK: Hilary Bradt's Madagascar Travel Guide is, by far, the best and most authoritative source of info about traveling in the country.  This reference is your best traveling companion (besides me) for understanding many cultural aspects of Madagascar.  It's available now in the travel sections of big bookstores.  Make sure you get the most current edition - the 9th, just out in July 2007!  

QUESTIONS ???: A trip of this distance undoubtedly brings many questions to mind.  Please contact me with any you have so I can help you decide if my tour is what you expect or hope it will be.  I will gladly supply tour members' references from each of my trips if you wish to contact them about their experiences with Blue Chameleon Ventures’ trips. 

   A very "ripe" tomato frog from the northeast coast.   Don't forget to check my  MADAGASCAR  PHOTO  GALLERY  for  many interesting and informative pictures, all taken on my tours !    It's like a photographic "Introduction to Madagascar" in a nutshell.

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