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Mandrare River Camp fits firmly into the ‘difficult to reach but well worth the ride’ category. A good three hour drive from Fort Dauphin, the journey to the Camp is very much part of the appeal, with the route leaving the glistening coastline past lush foothills, zebu herders and small villages before descending to a far drier ecosystem on the other side of the mountains.
The Camp itself sits pretty on the banks of the eponymous Mandrare River with just six safari-style tents set in the shade of elegant tamarind trees. The tents are very comfortable, with locally hand carved furniture and big bathrooms with solar powered hot water and lighting. There are lovely views of the river and the sacred mountains beyond from the porch areas of each tent.
The charming camp staff set up for meals in varying lovely shaded spots around the camp, and the quality of the food is universally outstanding. Breakfast is served at a thoroughly civilised hour with pain au chocolat so good a Parisian patisserie would approve and freshly squeezed fruit juices. Lunch tends to be a barbecue, again using fresh local produce, and the dinners are a three course affair served by the light of hurricane lamps.
Away from the camp itself there are a range of activities on offer from refreshing dips in the river to walks in the local spiny and gallery forests. The gallery forest in particular is sacred, and the place to spot Ringtail Lemurs (as in King Julian from Madagascar fame). Another four species of lemur are resident in the area as well, from Verraux's Sifaka and White-foot Sportive to Grey Mouse and Grey Brown Mouse varieties. Meanwhile the human residents of the region are members of the Antandroy tribe and the camp can arrange cultural visits to understand a little more about their fascinating culture. This riverine region is also home to that most iconic tree, the baobab, best seen at sunset as the bark begins to glow red.
Guests can enjoy something of a sound safari at Mandrare River Lodge, with constant calls of the resident birdlife and the sound of children singing by the river drifting across the camp.
Isabel, Original Traveller