Things that may make a big difference to your stay
Luggage and bags: We travel with hard shell suitcases that have combination and key locks, as these are harder (but not impossible) for thieves to raid as you're passing through airports (a huge problem throughout Africa, including South Africa). They are also useful if you are going to leave your case in your hotel room and don't want to leave stuff lying around that might tempt the domestic staff to indulge in a spot of 'affirmative shopping'. However, we can now justify this as we are middle aged and tend to use more 'respectable' modes of transport than I did in my backpacking days! We would recommend taking two smaller cases rather than one large case, which can be heavy, unwieldly and difficult to fit into restricted space (eg. light aircraft).
Always carry a collapsible spare bag 'just in case' to accommodate those extra purchases!
Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Maybe we didn't do our research properly, but when we first visited, we were (pleasantly) surprised by how high Tana is at 1475m (over 4,100 feet). Thus, extremes of heat experienced elsewhere in Madagascar are moderated by the altitude - this would hold for most of the High Plateau that forms the 'spine' of the island. It can therefore get pretty cool in the evenings, especially after rain (we visited in late November and again in mid June). I would therefore suggest packing items that you can layer to give you extra warmth (and discard with decency, piece by piece as it warms up), and also include a light showerproof jacket
Photo Equipment: As with everywhere, always bring more camera chips than you think you'll use - they're so small and light that they really won't make a difference!
Make sure that you bring a battery charger with the necessary adapter (Madagascar uses the European two pin plugs)
Miscellaneous: I always travel with the following items in the developing world:
* a toilet roll (I have a fantastic fabric toilet roll holder with a drawstring that I bought in Phalaborwa, which goes everywhere with me)
* a water bottle holder that we bought in Peru on honeymoon. This simple but ingenious contraption is ideal for hiking, as it holds plastic bottles up to the size of a 2 litre Coke bottle and is worn over the shoulder, keeping hands free but water bottle close to hand
* a plug that fits all sizes of plug hole (amazing how many sinks and baths don't have one)
* a packet of kiddie's wet wipes
* a 'bum bag' (are they still called this?) You know, those glorified money belts that you wear around your waist to frustrate pickpockets
* plastic ties which you can use to secure the zips on bags
* a trusty Swiss Army knife (since 9/11, it is a huge frustration not to be able to carry this essential in my hand luggage) - used for absolutely everything, including removal of plastic ties!
* ear plugs to dull background noise in hotels and on public transport
* an airline eye mask (useful for trying to sleep in rooms where the curtains don't keep out the light effectively)
* a cheap sarong, which can be used for a multitude of purposes, from light blanket to sling
* photocopies of key documents (passports, tickets etc) stored in a separate place from the originals
* a stache of English Breakfast Tea bags, because I'm a middle aged fart! Outside Commonwealth countries, the locals - particularly Americans - have no idea how to make tea that any self-respecting Brit would touch! If I'm travelling somewhere like Madagascar, where I know that fresh milk is not reliably available or where water quality may be suspect, I'd carry South African rooibos (red bush) tea or another herbal tea that would make boiled water palatable.
In Summer (Dec-March)
Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Raincoat or sthg lighter with water-repellent material (windbreaker). Linen & cotton gear. I don't recommend sandals if you're walking. Rain and walking in the city are not always comfy neither clean. Loafers are OK, walking shoes: not necessary if only for urban Tana.
Toiletries and Medical Supplies: For Tana specifically, you'd find everything in pharmacies there.. but bring your medical prescriptions and your usual stacks if you're on some treatment. Would I remind you of anti-malarial treatment and hepathitis meningitis vaccinations ?
Photo Equipment: Sthg with a good telelens for the city being on many levels, it allows (and requires !) some more sophisticated cameras.. well, if photography is your stuff. Also, notice the brighter light in summer, sometimes humid but less than on coastal cities.
Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: No beach urban Tana. ;-)
Miscellaneous: Patience... be it being stuck in a traffic jam or going (sometimes) through some red tape.
- School Holidays