I recommend a day trip to the nearby beach at Ramena. This beach was frequented mainly by Malagasy, except for the usual set unattractive aging French expats with their ridiculously young Malagasy girlfriends. Its a beautiful white uncrowded sand beach. Arrival is in the village of Ramena, which does not seem to have benefitted much from the tourists, but several simple beachfront hotels offer meals and beer. I reached the beach by bush taxi from Diego (finding the right departure is an adventure in itself for a non-French speaker; none are marked), but it is not expensive to take a taxi and drivers are eager to wait without charge for the return fare. It's a short but bumpy trip of about an hour.
I enjoyed a pleasant lunch in the patio area of what was billed as one of Diego's best restaurants. The menu was filled with French cuisine, but I went immediately for the local specialties. The Romazava reminded my of my grandmother's famous "greasy (turnip) greens," except that they were cooked with beef rather than pork and better spiced. Excellent. The service was impeccable, the waiter spoke good English and even managed to instruct me tactfully on the right way to eat my main dish--over the rice, not separately.
Favorite Dish: romazava!
The airport evidently does not allow taxi drivers into the arrival area, but as the first out the door I was beseiged by a mob of taxi drivers much more aggressive than at the usual African airport. Be prepared ! My trip to Joffreville necessitated a trip into Diego first to get the requisite permit--no problem except for the wasted time..
Getting money in Diego appeared easy but proved difficult. I visited several banks with very long lines and only made it to the front once before giving up, only to find that they would not accept my travellers checks. There are several ATMs, but they remained out of service for long periods. No currency exchange at the small airport. Advice: Get cash in Tana and bring it with you.
I hired Cap Nord Voayges to take me to Ankarana. This is a first class operation, although the service does not come cheap. I was almost embarassed to have a staff of three at my disposal, driver, cook, and guide, but all did their work exceptionally well. The tent and food were excellent, and the guide cordial and relatively knowledgeable (like many Madagascar guides he was well informed about species names and medicinal plants but not about the ecosystems we visited). Everything went off on time and in good order. The firm's main web site is in French, although easy to follow even if you, like me, don't speak the language, and they responded well to e-mail in English. They can supply French, English, or German speaking guides (I communicated with my guide in German because he spoke it better than English), but his English was serviceable. We stayed in a new campground at the East Entrance to the reserve. Camp sites were first class and there was even a flush toilet. I especially enjoyed the very long walk across the park to Green Lake. There are lots of cute lemurs around the camp site and they set up quite a din at night.
Web Site: http://www.cap-nord-voyages.com/