Madagascar – Mandrare river camp

Simply the best camping experience you can have…

Verreaux’s Sifaka in the nearby Spiny Forest

location: South Madagascar

Good for: Tribal culture, Varied wildlife; Lemurs, Chameleons, birds, Baobabs and of course the amazing Spiny Forest.

When to go: Honestly, I think any time of year would be good here! There are only 2 seasons: Hot, rainy season is November to April, Cooler dry season, May to October. Although the camp is closed from January through to the end of March, when it can be really rainy.

Cost: For 3 nights, you would be looking to pay between £1,000 to £1,200, which includes 4×4 transportation (transfer by small plane is optional and additional), full board, all drinks, meals and guided excursions (including national park entrance fees) and a donation towards local community and environmental projects.

Flights/Travel: You can transfer from Fort Dauphin by car or by private plane, which can be organised at the time of booking. The trip to the camp itself is on a very rugged road and can take a long time, but it is interesting and not unbearable – just a little uncomfortable at times. The private plane takes you to just a few minutes away from the camp itself.

Time difference: 2 hours ahead of UK

A glorious double tent, complete with 4 poster bed

Mandare River Camp: Well, where to start? This gorgeous camp is tucked away in the South of Madagascar, well away from anywhere and nestled in the heart of the Antandroy tribal area. As the name suggests, the camp is situated on the banks of the river, a perfectly tranquil place which allows you a glimpse into the lives of the people who live here.

Firstly, this river camp is an environmental concern, which is always a major consideration when we travel, and they do very well at it: providing organic toiletries (which are gorgeous!) to use during your stay (and organic insect repellent), minimising their environmental footprint and investing back into the local community, actively promoting conservation and protection of local forests. Really, the people here at the camp, the whole team – do an admirable job and seem to be achieving great things.

The view of the river from Mandrare River Camp

Whilst we were there (4 of us in 2 tents) Tom and Danielle were the resident managers and they were awesome at it. They are clearly driven by their interest in the wildlife, its preservation and the local Antandroy culture and after only a short time here, I challenge anyone not to feel the same way.

This magical place seems to have everything: The tents are immaculate and have a great, stone built bathroom to the rear and a river view to the front. There are even hammocks to relax in as you take in the view. As camping goes this is glamping, eco-style!

As there are only 6 tents here, it really is an escape from everything. The food here is seriously high quality and you feel completely spoiled at every meal.

The team here are excellent at making you feel like you are a part of one big family and they all work hard to make sure you get the best out of your stay. Hats off the the owners, for their vision and their dedication to making this camp work so well.

Male Madagascan fly catcher in the Camp

Wildlife: Not only are you on the banks of the river, which is a lifeline for the local tribes, you are also close to forests (Dry, deciduous), Sacred forests, the amazing Spiny forests and tribal burial areas. The wildlife we saw here was truly amazing, not just for it’s range of species, but also for the intimacy. The creatures here are so well protected in places, that they are just plain curious. Lemurs bound to see who you are and what you are doing. They stay a safe distance from you but are seemingly unafraid, making this a perfect place to take great shots of these beautiful and graceful creatures. We saw Sifakas, ring tailed, sportive and mouse lemurs in abundance here although thee are more species to see. We were even lucky enough to see one Sifaka dance.

We saw scorpions (don’t panic they are small, reclusive and not deadly), chameleons and a plethora of birdlife, both during the day and at night. There were several Owls around the camp and one in particular, the white browed owl, was a regular attendee after dinner.

Verreaux’s Sifaka & baby in the Spiny Forest

There are no major dangers in Madagascar, their largest predator is the Fossa, which is in decline and rarely seen and there are no deadly snakes to worry about. Even the huge Golden Orb spiders are friendly! No the most dangerous thing about the Madagascan wildlife is tearing yourself away from it.

You can do day and night walks here, both are equally rewarding as there are plenty of nocturnal and diurnal animals here, some you even get the chance to see in both scenarios (sleeping birds and huddled up lemurs). 

What to take: 
• Torches and plenty of spare batteries
• Cool, quick drying clothes
• A fleece (you will be up before the sun sometimes)
• Mossie repellent, although there aren’t many around here
• Binoculars – you will need them for the birds
• Waterproofs and a dry sack to keep your gear safe
• A hat, it can get very hot here
• Basic medi-kit (plasters and the like) you are out in the sticks here
• Comfy walking shoes
• Sun cream

Ringtail lemur in the Antandroy Gallery Forest

What to expect: This area is generally hot and dry, so expect to have to protect yourself from that and keep drinking those fluids. Expect to be amazed, captivated and surprised. I guarantee that every day you will learn something new.

The food really is exceptional, and you will be astounded at just what these guys produce for you from what seems like a fairly basic location.

In the morning you will hear the local tribe singing on their way down to the river, distant and melodious, it is the perfect wake up call.

Expect the ultimate in warm hospitality from Tom and Danielle and the rest of their local team who are knowledgeable and sociable and, of course, expect to be thinking about your return, before you have even left!

You can find the Mandrare River Camp website here >