Berenty Reserve, Madagascar

Berenty Photo Diary

Everything But the Lemurs

During our three incredible days at the Berenty Reserve, we were able to see so much. Dozens and dozens of lemurs, reptiles, birds, bats, and bugs. I’ve already written a post about the logistics of organising a trip to Berenty, but here I wanted to share a photo diary of our time there. This is everything but the lemurs as there were too many of those for one post. You can find the lemurs here!

The Room

Bungalow at Berenty Reserve
Bungalow at Berenty Reserve
Bungalow at Berenty Reserve
Accommodation at Berenty Reserve

 Animals

Lizard, Berenty Reserve, Madagascar Radiated Tortoise, Berenty Reserve, Madagascar Scorpion, Berenty Reserve, Madagascar

Berenty Reserve, Madagascar

Chameleon, Androy, Madagascar
Owl, Berenty Reserve, Madagascar
Lizard, Berenty Reserve, Madagascar
Sleeping Chameleon, Berenty Reserve, Madagascar
Bird, Berenty Reserve, Madagascar
Three-eyed Lizard, Berenty Reserve, Madagascar

We saw the cycle of life in full effect a few times as well 😉

Chameleons Mating, Berenty Reserve, MadagascarSpider Tortoises Mating, Berenty Reserve, Madagascar

Snake eating a bird, Berenty Reserve, Madagascar

yes, that is a snake eating a bird

Flying Foxes

Flying Foxes, Berenty Reserve, Madagascar
Flying Foxes, Berenty Reserve, Madagascar
Flying Foxes, Berenty Reserve, Madagascar

Berenty

Spiny Forest, Boabab Tree, Berenty Reserve, Madagascar
Baby Boabab Tree, in Berenty Reserve, Madagascar
Garden, Berenty Reserve, Madagascar
Spiny Forest, Boabab Tree, Berenty Reserve, Madagascar

We saw an 850 year old Baobab tree, which made my Little Prince loving heart very happy. Boabab Tree, in Berenty Reserve, Madagascar Boabab Tree, in Berenty Reserve, Madagascar

Don’t forget to check out the lemurs, here!

Spiny Forest, Berenty Reserve

Christmas at Berenty Reserve

Guys, we went to Berenty Reserve and I finally saw lemurs!! Hundreds of them!

We knew we wanted to stay around Fort Dauphin for most of Gareth’s trip, mainly so he can see where I’m living and help sort out my flat (thank you, G!!). But we wanted to do something special over Christmas which led us to Berenty.

Berenty is a small, private reserve about 3.5 hours from Fort Dauphin, and one of the most famous in all of Madagascar. It’s one of the best places to see lemurs in the country, and where primatologist Alison Jolly studied lemurs for over 50 years. If you’re into lemurs, this is your spot.

Logistics

Transport

You need to organise transport to and from the reserve directly — you can’t just turn up. They can arrange this from Tana, but in Fort Dauphin the Le Dauphin hotel is their sister site and you can arrange things there. You’ll be picked up from the hotel early in the morning with a driver and a guide. The drive out is part of the experience, with a few stops along the way to see the changing landscape. We had a fantastic drive out, you can see some of the pictures below.

Drive to Berenty from Fort Dauphin Drive to Berenty from Fort Dauphin Spiny Forest, Drive to Berenty from Fort Dauphin Chameleon, Drive to Berenty from Fort Dauphin

Food

There is a restaurant at the reserve, but nowhere to buy snacks. The restaurant is a fixed menu — continental breakfast (with or without eggs) in the morning, and three courses (starter, main, dessert) during lunch and dinner. Breakfast is from 6 – 9, lunch from 12-2:30 and dinner 7-10. The food was good but not great — though this lobster on Christmas Eve was quite the treat.

Lobster Dinner Christmas Eve Berenty Reserve

Electricity and Water

The reserve runs on generator power, so there’s electricity from 5am to 9am, 11am to 3pm and 5pm to 10pm. This is generally fine but as it’s the peak of summer, nights without a fan or air con were HOT. There is also running water, flushing toilets, and showers with hot water. (YES, PLEASE!)

Accommodation at Berenty Reserve Grounds at Berenty ReserveAccommodation at Berenty Reserve

Cost

The cost for transport and the guide is €157 each. While we originally thought this was a bit high, after having experienced the level of service, it felt like such an incredible deal. It includes the driver, gas to/from the reserve, a guide who provided us with three (long) walks a day (7-11 am, 3-6 pm, and 7-8 pm), room and board for both driver and guide, and entrance to the reserve and museum.

It’s another €62 each night for a double occupancy room. Meals are 19,000 Ariary each for breakfast and 36,000 Ariary for lunch and dinner, however on special occasions (Christmas Eve), there is a special menu that was €22 each. Water, and most drinks, are 6,000 Ariary.

The experience

Ring-tailed Lemur at Berenty Reserve

You see SO much at Berenty. You’re basically guaranteed to see all the different types of lemurs that live in the reserve, and you can get quite close to them! We also saw chameleons, flying foxes, snakes, so many cool bugs, tortoises, and a crocodile. We saw so many incredible things, which you can see in the photo diaries here and here. Our guide JP was incredible — he was SO knowledgeable about everything and just such a nice person to be around.

Ring-tailed Lemur at Berenty Reserve

In all, if you’re in Southern Madagascar and at all interested in lemurs, Berenty Reserve should be top of your list!

2018 Wrap Up

Wow, another year nearly over! 2018 honestly went by so fast I’m struggling to write this post — my brain does not compute.

There were some pretty big things that happened this year though. For starters, the vast majority of my friends got married! I went to seven weddings this year and there was only one where either Gareth or I weren’t in the wedding party! It was such a wonderful, love filled year and I’m so grateful I was living in London (and able to get to Boston) for everything!

There were also some great trips —

I went to Paris in February to visit Faye and meet Ross, which was so lovely. FAYE I MISS YOU COME TO MADAGASCAR!

Eiffel Tower, Paris Paris, France

Ibiza for a hen do, where we stayed in the nicest villa and went proper clubbing. I haven’t done that since I was 21 and brand new to LA!

Ibiza

Egypt and South Africa, which were huge life highlights I’ll never forget.

jumping rhino, kruger, south africa

Pyramid, Giza, Egypt Sphinx, Giza, Egypt

Greece, easily one of my favourite places on earth.

Boston, to see my fam and watch some of my best friends get married.

Madagascar, where I’ve moved to work on HIV and WASH projects for the next year.

Ring-tailed Lemur at Berenty Reserve

Regarding my 30 before 30, I crossed off four (and a half) items. Go to Egypt, South Africa, Greece, work in the field in Africa, and I’ve started my masters.

This year was big professionally and educationally, and moving to Mada has been pretty big personally as well. Being apart from G after having lived together is a new kind of hard, but it’s also teaching me so much about the world, myself (to be corny), and of how much I’m capable.

Also I’m quite enjoying looking back at wrap ups for 2016 and 2017 and seeing how much has/hasn’t changed. One more year to 30!

Parthenon, Athens, Greece

48 Hours in Athens

Athens was a bit of a surprise to me — I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did, which is the best kind of trip!

We had about 48 hours in Athens and had a pretty good mix of sightseeing without feeling too overscheduled, and I think if you’re looking for a chilled few days filled with amazing food, I’ve got the itinerary for you.

Where to Stay

Plaka, Athens, Greece

We stayed in Plaka, which I’d recommend. The area was adorable, very walkable, and central to everything. We stayed at Antisthenes Apartments which was cheap, clean, and great air conditioning, so all in all I’d recommend it if you’re looking for basic but pleasant.

Where to Eat

We ate all our meals on Lysiou Street, which is one of the most famous in Athens. It’s full of adorable houses, cute tavernas with outdoor seating, and all the food was delicious.

Getting There

If you’re staying in Plaka, it’s an easy transfer from the airport. Just jump on the metro to Syntagma station where you can either walk from the famous Syntagma Square, or change to the red line and hop off a few stops over — our place was right next to the Acropolis stop.

Day One

We got breakfast at the airport and the journey to our flat and checking in took us until about 13:00. From there we decided step one was finding us some gyros, and you should do like we did and go to Kalopsimeno. It is cheap and fast but oh my god has some of the best gyros you can find. We didn’t have better our entire trip, so be prepared for your gyros game to peak day one.

Mount Lycabettus, Athens, Greece

It’s an easy walk to Kalopsimeno from Plaka, and from there you’re nearly at Mount Lycabettus. Depending on when you go and how hot it is, you may prefer a taxi. We walked but the heat was a bit insane and the hill felt steep. At the top you’re rewarded with an incredible view of the city and the Parthenon.

Parthenon, Athens, Greece

Take in the sights and then treat yourself to a cold beer (or wine! all the red wine was chilled which was much appreciated by yours truly) and maybe some ice cream. We chilled up there for a while with a pack of cards, and it was a really lovely way to spend an hour or two.

Mount Lycabettus, Athens, Greece

On the way back, route through The National Garden which has the Arch of Hadrian, Temple of Olympian Zeus, the Zappeion, and the Kalimarmaro Olympic Stadium of the 1896 Olympic Games. It’s kind of insane how many structures from the Ancient Greeks are still standing — it’s hard to walk more than a few minutes without spotting something.

Arch of Hadrian, Athens, Greece National Garden, Athens, Greece

Head back into Plaka and window shop the various vendors — there are some genuinely nice things amongst the standard tourist fare.

We had dinner at Zorbas, where I got my first taste of Moussaka, which was the start of a real love affair. This whole area is the best for food. All the places are on steps and super adorable, and they were all quite lively.

After dinner and a few drinks, get an early night so you’re up bright and early for the Acropolis.

Day Two

The Acropolis opens at 8 am, and you should aim to get there early to avoid lines. Grab a pastry for the walk and be ready to spend a few hours checking out the ancient citadel. We didn’t go with a guide or headphones, but if they are in your budget I imagine hearing all the history whilst looking at the ruins would be so interesting.

Parthenon, Athens, Greece Parthenon, Athens, Greece Parthenon, Athens, Greece

Parthenon, Athens, Greece

Grab lunch back on Lysiou Street, we went to Yiasemi which had more amazing gyros and some pretty stellar tzatziki.

After lunch, head down to Monastiraki, where you can see Hadrian’s Library and the Ancient Agora whilst visiting the flea market and doing some shopping. If you’re heading to the port, from here it’s just seven stops to Piraeus. Try not to be too sad your time in Athens is coming to an end — you’ll be back, right? And you’re hopefully on your way to another amazing spot, like Paros or Crete!

Santorini Hike

Why I Didn’t Like Santorini

First let’s acknowledge that I’m incredibly lucky and privileged to have been able to visit Santorini at all. However, if you travel frequently, you’re bound to visit a few places you like more or less than others. Santorini was one of those places I liked less. That said, it is gorgeous and I’m sure quite a few people feel the magic there that was lost on me. It’s also worth noting that we planned to spend 24 hours there, but due to an ferry strike were unexpectedly there for 4.5 days.

Oia, Santorini

My biggest issue was the amount of tourists in Santorini. For example, take the photo of Gareth and I below. To get it, we had to wait in line for 15 minutes , and once you got there if you took too long people shouted at you. It was stressful and packed and really (for me) took away from the beauty.

Oia, Santorini

Likewise, the sunset was gorgeous. However, to get a good spot you need to arrive about two hours early. This photo was taken 90 minutes before the sunset and believe me it only got more and more busy. Afterwards, it took us about 25 minutes to get back to the road due to the crowds.

Oia Sunset

Every picturesque location was filled with professional photographers doing photoshoots with tourists who had hired them. Everyone was dressed extremely well, and the entirety of Oia felt like one big photoshoot. Like the the main reasons tourists in Santorini were there was just to get a photo of themselves there.

Oia, Santorini

I spent about an hour doing the same, mostly because we needed (free) things to do to fill our time. Then I got fed up with the whole vibe and put my camera away for the next few days. We left Oia, which felt unbearable, and moved down to Perissa which was far less touristy. It was more of a beach town. We spent a day sitting under an umbrella on the black sand beach, having a completely different trip than the Oia focused one we had planned.

Santorini Black Sand Beach

I think I have a fairly high tolerance for tourists. I’m from Martha’s Vineyard and while I much prefer the winter, I adjusted to everything being crowded long ago. I went to Cinque Terre last August and was told I’d hate it due to all the tourists at that time of year, and again not only did it not bother me but it’s one of my favourite places I’ve ever been. There were 100 times more tourists in Santorini than in MV or Cinque Terre.

Oia, Santorini

I’m also going to be a bit controversial and say that while there were many gorgeous parts of Santorini, I don’t think the overall beauty compared to anything we saw in Paros or Crete. There are cheaper, quieter, and more beautiful places to visit in the Greek isles. I think if you only have a limited amount of time, I’d really suggest leaving Santorini off your list!