Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Madagascar. Itinerary.

I'm retired so I have all the time in the world to travel so long as I have the financial means. Poor George though. He's still a worker bee and while he does get vacation time, he understandably wants to be able to spend it with his longtime partner as well. So, I am grateful to Joe for allowing me to borrow George for a few days.  This will be by far the shortest duration trip that I've been given the cost and expense but hey, you gotta live when you have the chance!  Besides, it's worth it just so I get to harrass travel with George for a few days.

When we finally agreed to go on this trip, we split up the planning responsibilities.  George would look for the flights - not easy given the constraints that I put on him.  I would handle the itinerary which I think is the more difficult of the two tasks but given that I have the time plus if I might say so myself, I am a whiz at planning trips, it made sense for me to handle this task.

I started by searching on the web for ideas for a 7 day trip to Madagascar.  Most trips I came across were for 10 days or more but rare as they were, I did find itineraries for a week long trip.  It also just so happened that I received the 2015 National Geographic Adventures catalog in the mail.   Look what's on the cover.  It's a trip to Madagascar. The Nat Geo trip is a much longer in duration but I figured that the places were going to would be the highlights so I focused on putting those on our itinerary. Using the ideas I found for the 7 day trips plus ideas from the Nat Geo trip, I put came up with a list of the places that I though we could cover in 6-7 days.   As you can expect, I had to cull out a few places here and there as we just don't have the time.  Maybe one day, we'll go back and see what we didn't get to cover on this trip.


On day 1, we arrive late in the afternoon but when I noticed that our hotel was near a crocodile farm, I immediately put a visit to the farm on our itinerary.  George is going to very quickly get a sense of the off beats that I often do on my trips!

On our last two days, I am hoping we have time to explore Tana.  I don't know what tourist sites there are to see but I would be more than happy to just find a restaurant to have a really awesome meal. 

In the end, what I ended up with was really just the real gems of Madagascar and I'm happy with that.  We will have to spend some time going back and forth between the east and west coasts of the country but that's necessary to fit in what I want to fit in.  Hopefully, it will all work out well.

Next, I had to find a tour operator to work with on getting our custom tour put together.  I did some preliminary research on the web and settled on two operators.  I sent them the list of places I wanted us to go to and asked them to suggest the itinerary and their price.  After I received the responses back and reviewed them, I emailed George to recommend that we go with Rija Tours, a local operator.  I much prefer working with the local operators versus the larger companies.  I find I get much better service.

Here's the map of where we're going and how our days will unfold on this trip. 


Next up. Reading up on the places we'll be visiting and learning about Malagasy culture.

Update:  January 31, 2015.  We've selected to go with Rija Tours.  Not only was Rija, the owner offering a very reasonably priced tour based on the itinerary I sent him but he's also been very responsive to all my emails.  It's no wonder that Rija Tours has gotten such good ratings on TripAdvisor.  As a general rule, I prefer to deal with local travel/tour agencies versus large, international operators. I find that the local companies are more flexible when it comes to itineraries and they provide excellent quality service for what you pay.  We're now in the process of paying Rija which is a bit of a challenge as the deposit needs to be wired over.  Also, there's always that itsy bitsy voice in my head that worries that the money will be sent and then I won't ever hear back from the tour operator BUT (knock on wood), I've done this several times before and have never run into any issues.  Keeping my fingers crossed that all will continue to go smoothly with Rija.

Note:  This post was originally published on January 25, 2015.