Madagascar sounds so incredibly remote, wild and exotic that all I could do when my friends mentioned the idea of going was say yes and think about what that meant afterwards.

Madagascar was the place where most of my friends had always wanted to go, but hadn’t made it just yet. To be honest, I didn’t know much about it. I was only craving some reboot-time, tired of two years of work-traveling and a breakup that left me wandering on the chase of new whys and hows. Madagascar sounded like the end of the world as I knew it. It was the perfect match for my crave.

And yet, despite my philosophical travel intentions and my desire to travel as much as possible, all I could think about was the dynamic image of King Julian singing “I like to move it – move it” with the voice Sacha Baron Cohen.

Some trips change your life and your perception of the world forever - a trip to Madagascar, with its'at the end of the world' reputation is one of them.

original image by Leonora Enking via flickr

But I Learnt Fast

Once the airline and my bank had agreed that I would be able to make this life-changing decision, I needed to learn more. All I had to soak up Madagascar was 10 days of spare time between moving from London to Barcelona.

After some digging, I revived my love for The Little Prince and my urge to see baobabs. I learned that once again, as with so many times before, I had underestimated the size of my destination – and that I needed to choose a part of the almost 600,000 square km that compose the 4th largest island in the world.

I also realized that my basic French was going to save me in this African-Asian fusion of a former French colony. I stumbled upon the following piece of advice: If there is a word in Malagasy you don’t know, just say it in English with a French accent and 80 percent of the time they understand what you’re saying.’ I can vouch for that advice. Malgache c’est la francophonie at its best.

On top of that, I figured that on an island with 22 million people living with less than 2 Euros a day, many of my buttons were going to be pushed and challenged.

I was ready to go.

Some trips change your life and your perception of the world forever - a trip to Madagascar, with its'at the end of the world' reputation is one of them.

Practical Advice

Don’t over-complicate your plans, trust in those that know better than you. This is hard when you think of yourself as a seasoned backpacker, but time is a hard restriction in Madagascar, and it’s quite easy to jump from 3 planned hours to even 6 days in one trip.

Luckily, I had a lot of help from the almost-Malagasi, Anthony Asael, a Belgian globe trotter that runs the beautiful project Art in All of Us, funded by the UN and connecting children all over the world. I was also accompanied by the reliable Gary, a total super-saviour who allowed us to be spontaneous while providing the safety net of having secure transport everywhere.

Try to get your hands on some trustworthy local drivers and guides – they will offer you much better prices than when you book through an agency. Just make sure you let them confirm the travel time a thousand times!

Try to be social and travel some legs in groups. The comfort of a private 4×4 transfer is never cheap anyway, and boarding a taxi-brousse is hardly a question of comfort, but rather about meeting others.

Some trips change your life and your perception of the world forever - a trip to Madagascar, with its'at the end of the world' reputation is one of them.

My way

Now, bare in mind that this was my trip and as Anthony Bourdain says in Parts Unknown – highly recommended btw. -, your trip becomes your own window. Any person with more time, different interests and a different heart, might have seen things in a very different way – almost like an entire different country.

I had decided to join two friends to visit the Tsiribinha river and then continue on my own to explore the Tulear region, looking for charming fishing villages and some solitude. I would meet my friends again in Antananarivo to end our trip.

We arrived in Antananarivo with Kenya Airlines, although Turkish Airlines and Air France also offer trips to Madagascar. Coming from Peru, landing here made me think of my own country a few decades ago. Airport buildings that looked like the 60s and a taxi old enough to challenge any mechanic I knew. And yet, I could charge my phone in the taxi, even if that meant all the lights started blinking. If you land here during daylight you can save your pennies by taking the Navette shuttle bus at a fifth of the taxi price. No disco lights though.

Some trips change your life and your perception of the world forever - a trip to Madagascar, with its'at the end of the world' reputation is one of them.

Along the Tsiribinha river

We left straight to our first wildlife expedition and spent half an eternity on our way to Miandrivazo. I’m not going to lie to you, the wildlife we saw from the road was not too overwhelming – a few lemurs, unique birds, frogs and a couple of crocodiles that prevented us from jumping into the river to escape the heat. What was truly astonishing though was the sight of the baobab trees.

It was like in a picture book. The air was so silent and somehow I felt that this place had been forgotten by everybody else. It was both astounding and shocking in a way.

Some trips change your life and your perception of the world forever - a trip to Madagascar, with its'at the end of the world' reputation is one of them.

Further down the river we witnessed the kind poverty that makes you feel like a privileged tourist who gives cookies to children and then runs away. We saw the endurance of the too-young self-made ‘soldiers’ who protect their belongings and communities with everything they have; felt the looks of those who were not even wondering what would happen in the far future.

But we also witnessed hope. We slept under the stars and talked a lot to the guys guiding us through their country. They shared their favourite traditional cooking recipes, and showed us how to properly barbecue a pineapple. They talked about their plans for the future while balancing in a wooden pirogue boat, and danced when a clearly staged ‘local ceremony’ evolved into an actual party with people coming from surrounding areas, only because they do really love to dance.

Life was pretty simple, but pretty magical as well.

Some trips change your life and your perception of the world forever - a trip to Madagascar, with its'at the end of the world' reputation is one of them.

Finding solitude in Tulear

This magical feeling stayed with me for the solo part of my trip – exploring Belo Del Sur in and the surrounding Tulear region.

It might take quite a while to get there, but I highly recommend exploring the south of Madagascar. Lauren, a Canadian writer and expat who runs the hotel I stayed at in Belo shared with me her struggle to get on travelers’ radars. The south-west coast of the island is relatively hard to access by car, but it is worth the effort.

Some trips change your life and your perception of the world forever - a trip to Madagascar, with its'at the end of the world' reputation is one of them.

I rested for days looking at the Mozambique Channel dreaming about the African continent, that was just there on the other side. One morning I woke up to the best banana bread, ready for a relaxed day of sailing with the Vezo men, and a swim in the empty sea, ready to reflect the most beautiful red sunsets I have ever seen.

Some trips change your life and your perception of the world forever - a trip to Madagascar, with its'at the end of the world' reputation is one of them.

Back in Morondava, I already longed for my tiny beach town – Morondava was hectic in contrast and demanded all my energy to settle back in. Luckily I found the perfect place to do this: a reggae cafe named Jean Le Rasta. Once re-adjusted, admiring the beauty of a sunset over the Avenue of the Baobabs was easy again, despite a group of tourists arriving in their 4×4 all at the same time.

Some trips change your life and your perception of the world forever - a trip to Madagascar, with its'at the end of the world' reputation is one of them.

image by Frank Vassen via flickr

Back in ‘Tana’

Returning to a big city is always hard, but Antananarivo – or Tana as it is also called – is magical in its own way.

The French influence of the former colony remains preserved in a truly picturesque way, with some tiny cafés to enjoy. It is the possibilities and hopes of the future, however, that really leave you thinking. I have stayed in many a hostel around the world, but this was the first place where all casual conversations over a bottle of beer would always turn towards the country’s national development.

Through these conversations I met amazing people doing incredible projects. They were not only looking to discover or heal their souls, but they wanted to change the world. Many here worked to improve or set up roads, electricity, phone signal, water, education all over Madagascar. To state they were inspiring would not be enough – they gave me wings.

Some trips change your life and your perception of the world forever - a trip to Madagascar, with its'at the end of the world' reputation is one of them.

There is no way I can tell you all I have to say about Madagascar; this trip along with everything I saw, learned and experienced keeps coming back to me for so many different reasons.

Madagascar is not easy. It will challenge your comfort zone as much as your reliance on wifi (and electricity, to be completely honest!). But it will also give you the sense that joy and hope grow everywhere, even in a place that seems like the end of the world.


This is a guest post by Claudia.

Some trips change your life and your perception of the world forever - a trip to Madagascar, with its'at the end of the world' reputation is one of them. Claudia is a Peruvian original but adopted by Ireland, and now relocated in Barcelona. Her love for travelling moved her also to Buenos Aires, Bangkok and London. And a bit of luck – and some food obsession – got her in the Worlds 50 Best Restaurants crew. Now she is kicking her own gig and enjoying the best of the trendiest chefs around the globe, while creating great experiences and traveling for pure love.