Madagascar – The Litchi Tree, Joffreyville

Picture: The smallest chameleon in the world…leaf chameleon

Madagascar, location: Indian ocean, approx. 250 miles from East Africa. (Worlds 4th largest Island).

Joffreyville location: Found at the Northern tip of Madagascar, close to Amber Mountain rainforest reserve.

Famous for: Lemurs, Chameleons, Mongoose and Tenrecs, as well as a range of other endemic flora and fauna).

When to go: It really depends on what you would like to see. There are two distinct seasons in Madagascar, wet (November – April) and dry (May – October). The temperatures soar in the wet season and a lot of the roads, especially in the northern rainforest regions, become impassible. So for this particular area you would be wise to travel in the dry season. There is always plenty to see, but if you are keen to see more reptiles and exotic bugs, the closer you get to the wet season the better. However, the trade off is that there is more rain and potentially leeches.

Picture: Sportive Lemur, more ‘sportive’ at night – very cute     

Cost: Cost varies, depending on the accommodation chosen, the agent used and of course the duration of your visit. Suffice it to say that if you visit Madagascar for 2 weeks you will be looking at from £3,500  upwards, per person. Costs will usually include a guide and a driver throughout your visit.

Flights/travel: You can fly to Paris, and then from Paris get a direct flight into Antananarivo (capital of Madagascar). The journey from Paris is approximately 10.5 hrs. Once in the captital, unless you are flying with hand luggage only, you will be advised to stay overnight, to allow for any luggage complications. The following morning you will take an internal flight to Diego Suarez (approximately 45 mins). There are many airports in Madagascar, but few good roads, so you will often find flying, quicker and more comfortable over long distances. From Diego, you will be driven in a 4 x 4 to your destination Joffreyville, less than 5k from the Amber mountain reserve.

Time difference: 2 hours behind GMT

Picture: The rooms at The Litchi Tree                                       

The Litchi tree itself: The litchi tree is a lovingly restored French colonial estate committed to a sustainable development approach. The main building provides a lounge, bar, restaurant and terrace area and the rooms are located separately in the gorgeous grounds. The rooms will take your breath away! They are spacious and beautifully furnished using local craftsmanship and local materials (responsibly sourced). The decor is modern and welcoming – dark wood and sumptuous fabrics, a wonderfully comfortable, large four poster bed and a leather upholstered recliner chair. Take a look…>

Herve, the owner really is an exceptional cook and will serve you a wonderful array of food during your stay. The breakfasts are truly amazing and Herve even bakes fresh breads and muffins for you daily. He is enthusiastic and passionate and makes every guest feel special.

The Electricity is only available from 5pm to 10pm, but there are candles supplied if you should need light outside off these times.

The water is solar powered and although warm, don’t expect piping hot, mind you after a day in the rainforest, this is quite refreshing.

Wildlife: Just on the short drive from the village to the Litchi tree, we found many chameleons (during the day and at night), some spectacular spiders, and at night we were treated to seeing ring tailed mongoose and mouse lemurs jumping through the trees. Make sure you meet the resident radial tortoises that also live on the grounds.

Picture: A crowned Lemur in the rainforest reserve                  

Amber mountain reserve: Renowned for being one of the richest and most diverse reserves in Madagscar, this rainforest reserve is amazing. The scenery is stunning and so lush it is almost luminous in places. As for the wildlife, there is plenty, from beautiful birds and butterflies, to lemurs, chameleons, leaf tailed geckos and golden orb spiders (up in trees, before anyone panics). There are seven types of lemur found in this region, we saw two of them and quite frequently too. You will also find leeches, but they are small and easily flicked off.

The trails are many and varied. Most are level and relatively easy to navigate, but you will find that the ground can be uneven and slippery, especially in the rain, so good shoes are a must. If you climb up through to the higher trails you will be rewarded with amazing views over the canopy, and it’s well worth the ascent, you will also be rewarded with some spectacular waterfalls. You can spend a good two or three days here at least, trekking for up to 8 hours per day.

Joffreyville: The village is quiet, colourful and very picturesque. You will see a lot of french colonial houses that have been left to decay at their own pace, but are still beautiful nonetheless. The main attraction in the village would be the convent school, which is a small walk (10mins) from the Litchi tree, they have a small gift shop selling local crafts as well as some very pretty gardens that worthwhile seeing if you have the time.

What to take: 
• It’s a rainforest, take waterproofs if you have them. Ponchos will do.
• Not a necessity, but leech socks during the wetter times if you have them (available online or at some airports).
• waterproof bags to protect cameras and other items (waterproof rucksack covers/liners are good for this.
• A small high powered torch and some replacement batteries.
• A warm sweater, it can get cold here at night and you will want to do the night walks.
• A hat, waterproof if possible.
• Good quality insect repellent (I used Avon’s skin so soft – which I find very sucessful).
• Comfy walking shoes, waterproof if possible.
• long hiking socks.
• Lots of memory cards for your camera.
• Binoculars
• Antibacterial hand gel.

Picture: Stunning adult chameleon                                            

What to expect: In the rainforest – An early start and an adventure! There won’t be swarms of tourists although you may pass the odd couple on the trails. The jungle is not a quiet place, but it is tranquil and you will find that you will see more if you keep your voices low and avoid loud busts of noise. You can expect to be surprised, overwhelmed at times, startled at others. The rainforest is a rich and largely unspoilt area where you can just sit and watch, or walk and explore at your own pace – just make sure you keep your eyes and ears open or you might miss something spectacular. Sadly, expect a couple of leeches, they don’t hurt and they are very small, honestly the idea of them is much worse than the reality.
At the Litchi Tree – Pampering, relaxation, a laid back lifestyle with good food and great company and stunning views of the surrounding area. They even have some good wines here… thanks to Herve.

A great destination all round.

We arranged our trip with Audley Travel, and I have to say I have never felt quite so well looked after. From initial discussions and the tailoring of our trip (plus several changes along the way!) they were patient, knowledgeable and kept us informed at every step. We were looked after by Donna, who has extensive first hand knowledge of Madagascar and who called us both before we left and after we returned to make sure everything was OK. I really cannot fault this company  and we will be using them again.

You can check out their website here…> go on, you know you want to…

You can check out The Litchi tree website here…>