Madagascar: Masoala Forest Lodge

Read more about my journey to Madagascar: Masoala Forest Lodge

The one to three-hour boat crossing for anyone who has problems with motion or sea sickness is a challenge, I can’t lie to you. All I can say is take the tablets, as it is well worth a visit and you don’t want to arrive feeling seasick.

Our crossing took one and a half hours in the bigger boat owned by the lodge but can take up to 3 hours if they fetch you in the smaller boat.

There is normally a minimum stay of 3 nights required and I can understand why – firstly there are lots to see but also that boat crossing can’t be done every day.

There are stunning views of the forest-covered in mist as you sail up the coastline. And you need to be aware you can get wet so wear suitable clothes although there are jackets on board you can use – take one they are well worth having!

The boat moors just off from the shore and we get a rubber duck to paddle us to shore where Sandra who is Swiss and co-owner of the lodge awaits along with Duncan, a South African from Cape Town who is the new lodge manager welcome us with a refreshing drink.

May is the start of the cooler weather so we did not have the hot summer days which could be experienced later in the year and for me would be a problem as I can’t take too much heat, and this lodge does not have fans or air conditioners but the rooms are raised which allows for the cooler air to circulate under the rooms which will make a difference in the summer months.

The camp has 6 well-proportioned tents set up on a platform covered by a thatched roof which helps to keep it cool, a bathroom with flush loo and hot gas shower is accessed from your room off the back of the tent, with a hammock to lie in during the day. The tents are all facing inwards and not out onto the ocean and this is because the local pathway for the villages runs along the beach which would mean a lack of privacy, plus the vegetation does give some protection from the elements and wind coming off the sea at certain times of the year.

One of the many Orchids to be found on the island

There is a separate communal dining area, with an honesty bar (ie you write down what you have to drink and pay later) I would imagine its quite a challenge for them as they have to get all supplies from the town when they boat goes through so if they run out of something its a couple of days before they can restock.

The back of house facilities are simple and it’s incredible the good wholesome food that the chef turns out, which was always plentiful and tasty and big platefuls too – the Malagasy people believe in big portions.

There is a small village near the camp and Sandra and Pierre have a Malagasy partner called Felix who also happens to be the guide that takes you on your walks into the Rain Forest. Together they are also involved in assisting the school to get teachers to teach the children in the village so that they don’t have to walk for miles to find a school – a nice touch in giving something back to the community around them.

After unpacking, and having a large 3 course lunch we set off later that afternoon for a walk down the beautiful beach which has lots of rock formations that stand out near the shoreline to a river where a locally-made canoe waits to take us upriver into the forest, it was so beautiful and tranquil and the river was so clear you just wanted to jump off and go for a swim (but I didn’t).

We had a few good bird spots along the way like the Madagascan Blue Coua, Kingfisher, Paradise Flycatcher, the Frances Sparrowhawk and we heard the call of the Hooked Billed Vanga but didn’t see it, unfortunately, it’s not the right time of the year for them in the area.

Madagascar has a number of birds, flora and fauna as well as chameleons that are found nowhere else in the world which is a big attraction to anyone that has these passions and would like to follow them.

Sandra and Pierre, also do kayaking trips from the camp and you can even do an extended one for a week if you like through them. There is a lot to keep you busy that even 3 nights in camp may not be enough. There are night walks to see the nocturnal insects and lemurs like the Eastern Woolley Lemur and Greater Dwarf Lemur which we saw along with a couple of birds just sleeping on a branch in the forest – it was quite strange to see a Madagascar Pygmy Kingfisher up close sleeping

Madagascar seems to have a lot of snakes too, but the interesting thing is that they don’t have any poison ones and somehow this lets you feel more comfortable to view them up close.

We saw a beautiful small Tree Boa (yes a snake and I am not a fan of snakes) which was incredibly patterned and another one called a Stenophus Sp which was lying in the dark quite close to the dog in the camp an in fact the dog had been playing with it before we got there.

We also got to see a stump-tailed Chameleon at night as well as a Damselfly and some type of moth emerging from its pupa which was interesting.

The following morning, we set off by small boat to the actual national park area which is a good walk down the beach normally from the camp but because of time, we decided to go down by boat. The rain forest is not named a rain forest for anything, so if you don’t want to get caught in the rain take a rain jacket and wear good shoes as it is very slippery.

Red Ruffed Lemur only found in the Masoala Rain Forest

The ladies decided not to take rain jackets as we had enough to carry with binoculars and cameras and yes you guessed it, it poured down, and we got soaked to the bone, but it was warm so there was never a moment we were cold, but we were drenched and luckily we were enjoying ourselves so much we had a really good laugh about it. You walk in a circle from the beach up the hillside meandering along a path and we were lucky to see two pairs of the Red Ruffed Lemur that can only be found in the rain forest, they are always really high up in the canopy of the trees and had to photograph against the light coming in through the top of the trees but I was lucky to get a couple. We also had a fleeting glance at some Crested Ibis which I was told are becoming extremely rare as the local people catch them to eat as there is a lot of meat for them. At the end of the walk, we also saw a Madagascar Buzzard on the edge of the forest along with a Spine Tailed Swift.

Our guide Felix (and part shareholder in the lodge) had the most infectious laugh and has a wealth of knowledge of the medicinal properties of the plants which were also extremely interesting and backed by Rija our guide from Tana.

After getting back down to the beach we then made our way back to camp along the beach area drying out a bit along the way – it was not a strenuous walk either so anyone could do it.

Back to camp for a good lunch to replenish our stomachs after a long walk, it got a bit damp in our clothes and when a little wind came up I was quite cold so after lunch I opted to go for a shower to warm up and landed up spending the afternoon reading my book in my tent and had a short sleep, thereby missing the short kayaking excursion later that afternoon which was really enjoyed by some of the others.

The rain had started again and I was quite glad to be warm in my little tent I have to say. We met later for dinner and an early night was had by all after all the fresh air and exercise.

Up early the next day to make our way back by boat to the town of Maroantsetra to catch the private charter flight across to the western side of Madagascar for the next step of the journey to Anjajavy.

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Sheena Knox

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