We knew that MFL would be the nicest lodge during our 3 week trip so we saved it for last. We ended up spending 4 nights which was about the right amount of time. You should know that this lodge is NOT cheap. Our 4 nights were about 1/3 of the entire budget for our 23 day trip so our expectations were rightly pretty high.
This lodge has a lot going for it and if it wasn't for one huge logistical issue and some other small things our stay would have been perfect.
You need to be sure to have the correct expectations regarding your room. You stay in tents, not cabins. Since these are tents there are no places to hang anything except under your tent on the beach. But, they do provide a lot of shelves to store things and a nice charging station. You also need to be aware the the bathroom is outside and down a short flight of stairs. So, that can make the night time "visits" a bit challenging but we found our tent (#3) to be nice and we loved that there was a chameleon hanging out at eye level a couple days.
The only thing we didn't like about our tent was that the afternoon sun shown in it for the last few hours of the day and made it so hot that we couldn't stay there. A sun shade would be nice as well as a ceiling fan.
The food is fantastic and it's great that the beer, soda, and most spirits are included in the price. However, wine is not which is weird. For the price, you would think that would be included as well. I do need to call out the fantastic breakfasts on the sun deck. Fresh bread, fruit, juice, and eggs to order were the perfect way to start the day.
I also love that there is no plastic at this resort. They provide a lot of drinking water in your room but you are also free to refill a reusable water bottle anytime you want in the main dining room.
They provide so many nice touches like extra towels, private guides and local rums. For meals they offer both local and international menu choices so if you want to try some malagasy menu items you are encouraged to do so. They were also great when it came to accommodating dietary restrictions.
MFL does so many thing right that it is shocking to me that the have an absolutely horrible initial transfer to the lodge. They maintain the same schedule on arrival in that guests climb into the boat and go to Nosy Mangabe for some hiking and lunch. This island is worth a visit since it's the only place you will see the B&W Ruffed Lemurs not to mention some awesome reptiles and amphibians.
But after lunch, you then have to climb back into the boat for a 1.5 to 2 hour boat trip across the bay. The problem is that the boat is the most uncomfortable we have ever been in for that long of a trip. There are no seats so everyone sits on cushions (no backs) in the middle of the boat facing sideways. Due to the wind and surf anyone on the right side of the boat gets wet and is in the blaring sun for the whole trip. They do warn you about the spray and provide ponchos but wouldn't it just be better to have an awning on the boat that can come down to protect people? Also, even though the surf was only "average" on our trip the swells were high enough to cause the boat to slam down so much that I would catch air and you had nothing to hold onto so you bang into the person next to you. And, because you are facing sideways it's really awkward on your back and I was lucky that mine was only a little sore after this trip. It was truly a miserable 1.5 hour boat ride to the lodge.
They need to find a different boat that has front facing seats and where everyone can be reasonably comfortable for the transfer. Since you always leave the lodge in the morning before the winds come up the transfer back wasn't that bad but it was still uncomfortable.
For as upscale and nice as this lodge is that transfer in has GOT to be improved.
The only other thing that bothered us a bit during our stay was our guide who didn't communicate very well with us and left us behind on more that one occasion as we took photos. When I got home I also realized that he got quite a few wildlife identifications wrong. I expect a guide at a lodge like this know the different species of mammals and herps that are seen or to say "I don't know" when asked instead of giving the wrong ID. He did seem right on with birds though.
So, while this was still the best leg of the trip this lodge needs to fix that initial boat transfer while still keeping the trip to Nosy Mangabe intact before I can say it was up there with some other world class lodges we have visited in our travels.
The flight by Sky Services from Antanarivo was delightful. It was a very small plane but the views over Madagascar were amazing. I had not realised how hilly it was. You certainly get to see the country well from the air.
We were met at the airport and taken by minibus to get the boat. On the way in the minibus it was interesting to see the villages and local life. We had a breakfast before going on the boat.
We first went to an island where we went for a walk in the forest. We did see a couple of lemurs and a couple while we were eating our lunch.
Then it was back on the boat to Masoala Lodge. Though it was a sunny day the sea was very rough and the three hour crossing was not pleasant and we were very glad to get there.
We had tent number 2. It was a very interesting place to stay and even better when we asked if some of the branches could be pruned back a little so as to have a view of the sea. The bed was very comfortable to sleep in. The bathroom was down stairs in a wooden room and had everything you needed and a generous supply of towels. There was a laundry basket there which was a very efficient system to use wile we were there. Make sure to take the rechargeable Torch supplied when you go to the bathroom at night!! Make sure you take the torch over in the evening as it is exceptionally dark going back to your tent at night.!!!!
The breakfasts were very good with a great choice of things to have and a very good range of teas too. The views from the sea deck were very good and on two occasions we saw whales onl a brief sighting but a lot of people were unlucky. We had rather believe from the website that you would see more at this time of the year. Sadly there do not seem to be hardly any there. Perhaps they have changed there migration roots.
We felt that the choice of food was poor. There was a slight choice at lunch with a choice between green or blue menu. However both had the same starter and usually one seemed to be Beans and rice on most days. In the evening there was no choice at all.
There was a good supply of Alcohol that was include and some great flavoured rums to try. Such a pity that there was no such choice in the food.
We did go to the primary forest with our guide and saw two lemurs a Chameleon, leaf Gecko and some frogs and birds. It would have been good to see more wildlife. The biggest problem was that some of the sections were not only tricky but at times dangerous to the point that I hurt my knee to the extent it was difficult to go up small steps and was in a ot of pain. I was surprised to find there did not appear to be any first aid there especially as you are some way from the nearest town.
We had taken walking poles that we used and would certainly recommend taking one to help with the paths. Also wearing Aqua shoes gave you grips and at times when you went through small rivers they were perfect.
We did do a couple of night walks but again the condition of the paths was a concern and also the lack of wildlife. We never saw any Lemurs on the night walks nor did any other guests who were there at the same time. We saw a couple of sleeping birds, some crickets, and frogs.
WE went on the day trip that was included and that was good. We were glad to be able to use the boat to come back rather than the long walk back. I did go snorkelling but found that although there were some fish and sea urchins I have been spolt by Snorkelling in amazing settings elsewhere in the world. The waterfall was beautiful and good to go in the pool at the base. The problem being that the last part of the path is very very difficult even with walking poles.
The picnic on the beach was fun even when it rained we just put up the umbrellas and the rain soon stopped.
The trip to the village was one of our most enjoyable days. The children sing and dancing in the school were a delight to watch. Then we went into the village where the ladies sang and danced. They were amazing and seemed to really enjoy their performance as much as we did. After this we had the opportunity to buy items that they had made and they were very reasonable. In the evening there was a Madagascar evening and we were supplied with a sarong style cloth to wear in any way we liked. The food was served on a table covered in Travellers Palm. The rice was directly on this and you ate from it in Madagascar style. We did feel it would have been good to have some Madagascar dancing and singing to accompany the meal.
We did go on the sunset cruise in the outrigger canoe which was wonderful and we were lucky to have a glorious sun set.
One of the biggest problems was that we both had stomach problems that continued on our return too. We were not the only ones to suffer when we were there. So make sure you pack Imodium style tablets when you go. Also walking poles and a first aid kit .
Look no further this should be on your itinerary when visiting Madagascar. My wife and I took our 5 and 6 year old. We decided to skip Air Madagascar after hearing all the horror stories and used the charter air service. I believe about 2 weeks before our trip Air Mad cancelled all flights to Maroantsetra anyway so we really lucked out booking the charter service.
Upon arriving we were transferred for tea and snacks before setting off via boat to Nosy Mangabe.
Our guide was Pascal. This guy is a legend and one of the better guides we have ever had on safari. His knowledge about the area, animals and fauna had no end. He was very patient with the children and we stayed with him all 10 days of our trip.
The kids slept in a bunk bed in the tent and my wife and I were in a double. The bathroom is outside the tent downstairs. I recommend packing an extra headlamp or torch for middle of the night restroom breaks and also for night hikes.
The accommodation is right on the beach and you will have the wonderful crash of waves for white noise at night. There is also a lovely hammock outside the tent for reading.
It will most likely rain while there so make sure to have some good waterproof bags and gear. They have a small library with books to read and board games at the restaurant.
The breakfast is served on the sea deck overlooking the water and reef. The snorkeling on the reef is excellent. They have masks and gear but if you have room to bring your own I would recommend it.
Chef Eddie is very good and the food is very fresh and wonderful. Tea is served each day around 4 pm with dinner around 630pm to 7 pm at a communal table.
I would recommend at least 7 days at the resort in order to take in all of the activities and the 10 we stayed allowed us to have more down time and account for a couple of very rainy days.
This place is very remote and I recommend taking a good first aid kit, some antibiotic and betadine with plenty of band aids.
The primary rainforest is legendary and I would spend as much time as you can in there. I would also try to take as many night hikes as you can, usually around 730 to 8 pm.
The staff is very friendly. If you have the room please pack donations for both the preschool and the primary school. I recommend a visit to the schools and village. We also played soccer with the village one Sunday afternoon around 2 pm. Our kids really enjoyed this.
They have a lovely fire each evening on the beach around 530 pm so if you pack some marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers you can have some wonderful smores!!
They kids also enjoyed using the small kayak and paddle board.
I would also highly recommend the hike to the waterfalls, they are gorgeous and worth going to check out.
Maria and Pierre (owners) have done an outstanding job building out this slice of paradise. If you have only one place to visit while in Madagascar this is the spot!!
First, I want to echo Lucky Lindy's comments (her review is below). They happened to be at the lodge at the same time as we were. So as not to repeat most of her thoughts, I will provide a more technical review.
Between the setting on the beach, the wonderful owners and staff, and the food, you just cannot beat this stay.
The lodge is an adventure to get to, which is half the fun. Small plane to an airport in the middle of the jungle (straight out of a movie). Jeep ride through the village to the water, with a small breakfast of fruit and rolls before your boat ride. Speed boat to the lodge, with a stop , at the island in the middle of the bay for hiking and lunch. Then on to the lodge (we saw lots of whales on our trip).
The lodge is in the rainforest on the edge of the park. You can walk to the park and other nearby lodges and villages, but they are far enough off (10-20 minute walks) that you feel the lodge is your own isolated village. The lodge itself also has trails, which we did for the night hikes.
The chalets are typical tents on wood platforms with thatch roofs, but small by typical African standards (enough room for a bed and a couple feet on all sides).. There is no luxury here, but the chalets are right on the beach with a nice balcony and hammock and stairs leading down to the beach (and a nice shower to wash your feet off before walking back up). Cant beat the view or experience. The bed, however, was extremely hard and uncomfortable. While you can roll down the tent covers over the doorways and windows, we always left them open at night to get the cool breeze and more open air feeling. Not to mention the lap of the waves only a few feet away.
As noted on the website the bathrooms are downstairs and not “en suite”. They are actually a smaller unit closer to the ground with a wood walkway leading to it. The walkway is covered by the roof of the chalet so worries when it rains (you are in a rain forest after all). The bathrooms are reasonably large with a nice size shower. There are advantages to how this was designed and done, but I will say it was a pain in the middle of the night to head to the toilet (which at my age I do a few times a night). Normally I walk half asleep to the toilet and back, and then fall right back asleep, but the process of zipping and unzipping the tent, going up and down the stairs etc. woke me up, making it harder to fall back asleep.
Website photos (and more you can find on line elsewhere) of the lodge, buildings, locale, etc are fairly accurate. There is a pdf brochure of the lodge that you can download if you email the lodge for the link. Not sure why they dont have that link up all the time (unless I have missed it or its been added since I booked my stay). The brochure has a lot more pictures and details.
Our guide was terrific. Each party was assigned their own guide for the duration. He was on call throughout the day and evening and we could decide what and when we wanted to do things. He of course would make suggestions. We took several hikes, canoe rides, night hikes and a visit to the local village and school house. We saw lemurs, chameleons and lots of birds. We decided not to do as many hikes, particularly night hikes, as the guide suggested. The setting of the lodge just kind of made us want to relax more.
Breakfast is at a large hut over the water on the rocks on the beach. Beautiful view. We even saw whales one morning, and lots of beautiful fish. Wonderful place to have breakfast (and tea in the afternoon). There are huge portions of eggs, omelets, and crepes (done a dozen different ways). Rolls, fruit, yogurt and cheese. Plenty of food. (there is not meat or oatmeal however). Frankly, with the view and all, you relax so much you don't want to leave. I could have spent half the day just sitting there.
Afternoon tea and cake is also at the seaside hut.
After tea at the seaside hut, there is usually a fire on the beach for cocktails.
And then dinner.
The food was superb.
Lunch would have some kind of starter (one day it was quesadillas that could have been the main course) and a choice of a local dish of the day (say local fish in a stew of local ingredients) or more western item. Dinner had a starter, main course (one night was a shrimp in coconut sauce served in a coconut to pour over rice, another was excellent steaks) and dessert.
Followed by a dozen or more local rums that one of the managers flavored. While i have never been one for rum, I tested all of them. My personal favorite was the coffee. Unfortunately, the rum here is not quite as smooth as the local rums there.
There were several large refrigerators in the main lodge which had wine, beer, sparkling water, soda and juices. No charge. And of course the local rum. Did I mention the rum? :)
The only thing I believe you had to pay for were some of the spirits (not the rum) but as I did not partake of the spirits I don’t know for sure. I do know that I did not have to pay for anything during my entire stay, but for tips of course.
For those interested in the water situation, the lodge gives you a couple bottles of water each night (you can refill) that they say is well water and multi filtered. My rule is never drink the local water when in third world countries, but I did here (they did not have bottled water, only bottled water with gas) and I had no issues.
Mosquitoes and other insects were not a problem for us (may have been the time of year). I did wear repellent as at dusk I did find a few.
I cannot say enough about the staff and owners who were with us the entire time, asking about what we needed, having drinks and dinner with us, giving us ideas on things to do, or just shooting the breeze.
This is definitely a place to go to when in Madagascar.
We stayed in Masoala Forest Lodge for 6 nights on Nov. It was definitely a wonderful time! All their bungalows are built in the forest with private path to the beach. The room was super clean and all staff were friendly and helpful. From there to Masoala National Park, it takes only 10 mins by boat or 30 mins by foot along the beach. We even found lemurs in the surrounding forest during the night forest walk. Except the forest walks, I enjoyed snorkeling,kayaking and the canoe trip, too. There were as many actives as wanted and every part of that area was worth of exploring. Thank you for all the staff in the lodge, especially Aha and Wes!