Lorraine Anthony review 17 Oct 2014
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?
Canoe trip and seeing lemurs
2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?
Itinerary is too ambitious. Be prepared for a lot of driving on very bad roads - on most travel days you will spend over 8 hours driving with only a break for lunch.
3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?
Employed local guides and supported conservation activities in national parks
4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?
Itinerary was too ambitious. Travel times vastly underestimated, most travel days we spent over 8 hours driving. Due to the state of roads and the fact that we didnt have a 4 wheel drive vehicle we spent the majority of the vacation driving. Activity level of vacation was very low. We had to miss out a number of the named activities due to lack of time. Food was generally disappointing apart from Aty Guesthouse, Lac Hotel and on canoe trip. Better to exclude Manakara since hardly any time spent there anyway.
Suggest meal allowance rather than assuming customers will have 3 course meal at lunch and dinner. All soft drinks taken during meals, including water charged for. One evening my husband had a cup of tea for dinner because he was ill, he was still charged for it.
Very disappointed at end of vacation, after 12 hour drive to arrive at very basic Tsarasoa with basic bathroom 100metres outside up the hill, and not at Camp Catta as described in itinerary.
We asked to be moved from Tsarasoa because it was so basic and my husband was ill – moved 2.5 hours away to Ambalavao – Zongra hotel – very nice, clean, hot water.
We fed back to the operator and were told that they would check with the local agents and get back to us - that was on 23rd September and we're still waiting.
Read the operator's response here:
Sorry to hear you weren't happy with the trip. I did try to phone you about 3 weeks ago, but there was no answer and then it completely went out of my mind (sorry!)so understand that we deserve the negative review!. I had spoken to our local agents and there were a couple of things we could have done better which I hold our hands up to - however in terms of the itinerary, this is one of our popular trips and we normally have good feedback from clients. We were disappointed ourselves that we had to change your itinerary slightly before your trip commenced (as we communicated with you prior to your trip) as the train schedule changed about 3 weeks prior to your trip) This did mean you missed out in staying at Amblavao and seeing Anja reserve - which I think may have affected your enjoyment of the trip after all. I am led to believe from our guide you were offered to visit Anja on the way back but as you were ill decided to head straight to Antisirabe. I think there was one additional activity where rain stopped play!
Anyway as a direct result of this train schedule change, we have modified this trip so it is now not reliant on the train at the end of the canoeing part of the trip.
In light of your feedback last month, we had also decided to ONLY use 4x4 vehicles even when we only have 2 people (previously this was only guaranteed if 3 or more people were on a trip). So thank you for that input.
Madagascar in itself is quite a difficult country logistically and any itinerary that tries to explore more than just one area does involve long days on the road. Every year the roads get slightly worse, which increase the travel times further and every year (in September we amend the itinearies accordingly). In Jan / Feb of this year there was more rainfall in Madagascar than usual which accelerated the road surface degradation further. This is reflected in the new 2015 itineraries.
Food also is normally pretty good in Madagascar and were surprised this wasn't your experience.
This is a nature guided trip, so not as 'activity packed' as some of our trips, but there is lots of activites in it - canoeing, trekking, national parks.
We would like to apologise for a few elements of the trip though.
1) drinks should have been included with your meals and we will reimburse you for these - I will email you to communicate refunding this
2) Camp catta was full on the first night so I agreed that we can move you to Tsarasoa (which is the focus of our and our partners reforestation project). They have just built a new bungalow with ensuite facilities which was meant to be ready before your visit. It is now, but this didn't help you. That said I love Tsarasoa and the shared bathrooms (I don't think there is a better view from a toilet in the world! - however if you are not feeling well then 100% agree that a shared bathroom (25m away) is far from ideal. I wish you had decided to stay in this area though (as I believe you were offered to move to Camp Catta on the 2nd day)rather moving to Ambalvao), as it has some of the best trekking in Madagascar and you really get to experience true Malagasy community with the village down the road.
I have to say that 95% of our clients love Madagascar and the itineraries we design for them, however it is a difficult country to travel in (we try to be very upfront about this) and itineries can and do change.
We do however pride ourselves on our trip offerings so do feel sad for anyone who may not have had the experience they hoped for - which obviously you didn't. I will email you regarding our response to this.