Bewitched by Madagascar's eco luxury

Foreign money has taken it upmarket, but what about the locals, asks Meera Selva

It's sunset and the mosquitoes are beginning to bite but I am too busy concentrating to care. I am picking my way through the seashells and zebu horns laid carefully at the base of a baobab tree. It is fady, or taboo, to touch the offerings placed there by villagers anxious to invoke ancestral protection against the cyclones that whip through Madagascar, and it is fady to walk around the tree clockwise. The tree is such a solid presence that it is not surprising that the inhabitants of this fragile island hope that it can turn away a storm.

I had no intention of being bewitched; I was here for a relaxing holiday. After a year as a new mother I revelled in the idea of nights of unbroken sleep, falling asleep to the sound of nocturnal mammals that did not need to have their nappies changed.

Madagascar does not have the infrastructure or capacity to cater for mass tourism. Instead it offers luxurious getaways in remote, beautiful settings. The sheer extravagance on offer in some of Madagascar's resorts sit uneasily with the fact that more than 70 per cent of the population live below the poverty line and rely on small-scale farming to survive. But tourism is vital. Madagascar's president wants to attract foreign investment in environmentally sensitive developments to buffer the country against these cyclones.

Anjajavy, a manicured resort at the edge of a deciduous forest in the Mahajanga province in western Madagascar, represents the type of tourism the island wants to promote. The hotel is owned by French businessman Dominique Prat and is a major donor to the local charity Amis d'Anjajavy, which provides loans tonearby villages to allow people to buy fishing nets, beehives or fertilisers. It also acts as a custodian for the 450-hectare nature reserve at its gates, which is home to mouse lemurs, sifakas and fossas, the mysterious cat-like Madagascan predator. Guests stay in two-storey cabins and can spend their time snoozing on deckchairs on the beach, or taking tea with the malachite kingfishers in an oasis of papyrus reeds and tree ferns.

At Tsarabanjina, a hotel comprising cabins set on a private island of the same name, the extraordinary clear blue sea provides the ideal location in which to forget about the world. Tsarabanjina is the brainchild of South African Richard Walker, who hired 60 local builders to build the 18 bungalows and open-air restaurant and bar. Once the building work was completed, he offered to retrain all the builders and hire them to work in the resort.

Both Anjajavy and Tsarabanjina have helped the local economy. But it would be better if the Malagasy people themselves could design and run more hotels to showcase their eco-system and give them the economic protection from the cyclones they need.

HOW TO GET THERE

Meera Selva travelled with Rainbow Tours (020-7226 1004; rainbowtours.co.uk). An eight-day trip costs from £1,990 per person, based on two sharing, including return flightsto Antananarivo, domestic flights, all transfers, three nights' full-board at Constance Lodge Tsarabanjina and Anjajavy,activities and one night at Palissandre Hotel in Antananarivo.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
Sport
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
News
Robyn Lawley
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
News
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Life and Style
lifeDon't get caught up on climaxing
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Arts and Entertainment
Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint)
newsBloomsbury unveils new covers for JK Rowling's wizarding series
News
scienceScientists try to explain the moon's funny shape
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
As Loki in The Avengers (2012)
filmRead Tom Hiddleston's email to Joss Whedon on prospect of playing Loki
Voices
voices In defence of the charcoal-furred feline, by Felicity Morse
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Day In a Page

    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

    Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

    Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
    Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

    Spanx launches range of jeans

    The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
    Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

    Commonwealth Games

    David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

    Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star