Review: Miavana, Madagascar

Miavana

Miavana, Magagascar
Room type:
2 bedroom villa
Duration:
13th > 18th September, 2017
Booked with:
 Charity Buzz

Miavana is the latest in a line of ultra-luxury, all-inclusive resorts with prices north of $4000/n that seem to be popping up with more regularity that a North Korean nuke. Like a UN weapons inspector, it felt only right I went to check it out.

Pre-sales

I was first made aware of Miavana back in May ’16.  Rumours begun to circulate of it, like it was some archaeological find that would reshape human history.  No, this was far more important: it was the founders of North Island deciding to try their hand once again –  this time in Madagascar.  I have no doubt you will have heard of Madagascar, but if you’re reading this blog then you are going to be into luxury travel and you will very much know it is not famed for that.  Or really anything at all.  So for someone to setup the first ultra-luxury resort there and price it at $5000/n has massive balls.  As all stories that begin with someone with massive balls, things got hairy, and then delays were inevitable.  Genius and insanity: such a fine line.  Fortuitously, said person spending their wealth was not me, so I could just look on in admiration, rather than sheer panic.

The lack of a website, or any photos, or any reviews, or realising that Conde Nast manages to write thousands of words without giving a single opinion on the property.  Or there still being any reviews.  None of this would put me off.

I heard “something something creators of North Island something something” and was sold.  So whilst already considering visiting, I saw it come up for auction on Charity Buzz.  Destiny started to whisper.  As the auction flew into the final 10 minutes, destiny began to stab me in the heart with a needle that turned a beach holiday into a serious workout.  Having won the auction, I was more jacked up than a cocaine snorting honey badger.  I was going to Madagscar and it was going to be awesome.

Not pictured: me dressed as a honey badger. Pictured: Madagascar.

Getting there

It turns out, getting to Madagascar is not awesome.  Getting to Miavana is even worse.

It’s very rare I bother writing much for this section, but hold onto your butts, as this is a long ride.

When I started looking at Miavana, I was told that they were working with Airlink to have flights available to Nosy Be twice a week as of September.  Madagascar said no.  Progress here is a faux pas.

This means your terrible choices are either: fly into Nosy Be from Johannesburg on the once-a-week flights that leave and arrive on a Sunday, then pay $5000 for the helicopter transfer to Miavana.

Or

Fly into the capital of Madagscar, stay at their one-and-only 5 star hotel for the night, leave at 4am the next day to fly on two separate planes to Diego Suarez airport, then pay $1400 for the helicopter transfers.  If the second appeals to you, then I know you have never been to Madagascar.  Watching the film does not count.  Neither does looking at pictures of lemurs, even if they are endlessly cute.  Put those pictures away now and listen, as this may be the most important news today; even more so than those government health warnings you ignored about that food you’re currently shovelling in.

Madagascar sits deliberately at the end of the world.  As luck would have it, it’s an island, so it’s completely separate, just as a favour to you.  I have been to enough countries that dance with poverty, but Madagascar calls their bluff and laughs in their faces whilst doing a jig.  It exists 30 years behind any of them.  The infrastructure is as bare as a strippers waistline; the economy seems to consist solely of Internet cafes, and everything aimed at tourists just comes with a desire to rip you off, and then put their hand out and ask for more.  Anytime someone tells you Cambodia is what Thailand was 20 years ago, know that Madagascar dreams of being what Cambodia was 30 years ago.

So pick your poison: money or time.  I chose time, but would strongly advise you spend the money to avoid experiencing Tana.  This is, of course, if you are coming from Johannesburg, otherwise you’re pretty much screwed and I wish you a beautiful time in the capital.  If you do go for the Tana route, for €40 per person (yes, they charge per person for a car transfer), you will be picked up in the hotels car without air con, by a driver that doesn’t speak English, to be taken to a hotel in excess of €200/n (yes, they charge in Euros) that regularly has power cuts (yes, they actually had power), as well as having sound isolation designed in a paper factory by a man with no ears.  Some fine chaps decided to stay awake partying until at least 4am.  They are probably still going now, but we had to return to the airport, so we’ll just never know, gosh darnit. Between the flight transfers from Joburg to Tana, getting to the hotel, going back from the hotel to the airport, Tana to Diego Suarez and helicopter to Miavana, you will be at least £4000 down.

We booked to return on the Sunday, as the flight leaves at 2:45pm, whereas every other day it’s around 9am.  That would have given a pleasant final day. Yet just a few days before arriving, I get an email from Expedia saying our flights were now at 9am. Then just 24 hours later they were changed to 11am, and our departing flight was moved to 20 minutes earlier. Air Madagascar’s dedication to punctuality is not to be admired. Even though our departure was only 4 hours earlier than expected, I still perceived it as ruining our last day, so we decided to extend by a night and do 5 nights instead. Miavana took over our flights and managed to move them for free for us.

This they do well, but where they need to step in is well before you become a guest at their humble abode.

I am not one for hand holding. I have been more than capable of looking after myself since I learnt to make beans on toast last year.  But this was back before Madagascar, a time I didn’t default to the foetus position anytime someone came to talk to me.  A man can only take so much.

Miavana need to step in from the moment you land, as the arrival experience into Madagascar is less appealing than a meth den managed by Nicolas Cage.  After someone checks your passport, you pay for your visa, then after the police check your passport – and after three more random people check it – you will have people grabbing your luggage from your hands and trying to force your it from you, as if you are legally obligated to give it to them.  I would hate to see how they asked out a lady to the prom.  No means no, fellas.  Telling them no does not work.  Trying again doesn’t either.  Asking your driver to tell them also doesn’t, as he does not speak English.  Being followed to the car, where they stand still trying to take your luggage, and then driving to your hotel, 1 hour away, seemed to do the trick.  If you want to experience becoming famous, just without doing any of the hard work or without sleeping with a Kardashian, then this is the place for you.  You will be touched, harassed and likely violated by a series of strangers faster than a Michael Bay movie gets a 10% Rotten Tomatoes score.

Once you go back to the airport the next day, make sure you drop by the VIP lounge – a room with 6 chairs in a circle, a picture of what I assume is the President, and nothing else will await you, Your Highness.  Then you will begin to board the plane and wonder whether it was a good idea not to have signed that lasting will and testament before you left for this holiday.  As you begin to descend into Diego Suarez, you will really regret that you left 10% of your wealth to a cat charity and begin to wonder why on earth those cats need so much money.  Will they really need that 75” TV made from rhino horns?  Can cats even count?  If you manage to land during the high cross winds and still have use of your limbs, you are fortunately greeted by the Miavana staff, who take you into a VIP lounge that actually does a good job of passing as one.  Apparently Miavana will build their own VIP hanger shortly.  Drinks and cold towels greet you, so you can wipe your sweating brow and tears, but there is only so much they can do to help with the soil stains you must live with for the 35 minute helicopter flight over to Nosy Ankao, the home of Miavana.

Get to the chooopppaa

Fortunately Miavana do not put your lives at the hands of contractors, and instead have full-time helicopter pilots that use the resorts own helicopters.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen this anywhere else before, but I was certainly grateful for it, as the ride over, even during strong winds, was perfectly relaxing, not only down to the music the pilot put on and the turquoise scenery, but also the large number of humpback whale and turtle sightings.

Upon arriving, the head butler welcomed us and took us on a short buggy drive to the main resort, where the GM, Front Office Manager and a stiff glass of mango juice greeted us.

Beach piazza

Setting

Flying over the ocean and seeing Miavana, it was clear something special was awaiting us.  The turquoise oceans were as beautiful as anywhere that private islands lurk, and the shores, soft sands, and erm bleached coral did their bit to add to the scenery.  The pictures and marketing material do not exaggerate what you will find here, and given time, I would be surprised if it does not become a major tourist destination.  It may take more time than I have on this earth, but by god they’ll get there eventually.

On that note of private islands, calling Miavana a private island is what is known in the travel industry as bullshit.  It is definitely an island, and no one should dispute that; I’ve thoroughly checked.  Yet just because someone owns it, does not negate the fact that there are villages that already existed and will continue to exist on the island.  You wouldn’t call it a private island, just like you wouldn’t invite your wife for a love making session and then look puzzled when she throws a fit that you invited the neighbours over too.

It’s private if all the islanders leave

If I were being generous, I would say the villages gives a unique selling point of being on a tropical island, whilst being able to engage in a culture too – something not seen in competing properties.  How you feel about this is down to you, yet I will brand you a foaming racist if you don’t like it.

It feels private, so maybe I could consider some leeway, were it not for the price tag.  Security are everywhere, so safety is not the issue.  They may even be watching me this very instance, so I need to be nice in what I say.  But island exploring is part of the fun of a private setting.  With such clear skies, soft sand and beautiful beaches, this should be part of the adventure.  Yet Miavana has not even finished the 14 villas they reference on their website – only 8 are finished, and your cycle path that is referenced in the beautifully and unique island brochure only exists to take you from villa 1 to 8, as nothing else exists (credit where it’s due: all the stationery is so beautiful and well put together, but I doubt that will help them finish the other 6 villas any quicker).  So if you have dreams of going around making nee naw fireman noises then your dream will be short lived – trust me.

Beach piazza

Stay List

A week before arrival I was contacted to go through our stay list in more detail.  The call did not give me the best of beliefs in what would greet me at Miavana, as it was posed more as “are you sure you want this, as it’s a bit tough to get in Madagascar?”, than “that is the greatest thing I’ve ever heard in my life, let me get two of them and rub them into your thighs for you whilst I’m at it”.  Ok, maybe not that keen.  Fortunately Miavana delivered.  They delivered on every single item on the list, and then some.  The kitchen was so stacked that we may have increased the poverty levels by removing all the food from the islanders and possibly everyone else in the country.  If I ate it all, I would have single handedly exceeded the maximum weight limit on a plane.  I was overwhelmed with the food and drink options.  Even Martha Stewart would be impressed with the amount in the kitchen.

Villa kitchen

We were given a very thorough room initiation, which included the most beautifully presented welcome pack I have ever seen, a hand written welcome note with the wifi access codes in, and 2 Miavana hats.  I have never seen a hadnwritten note for the wifi before, but it suddenly became clear why they offered it: to distract you from the fact that it barely works.  This is not one of my classic exaggerated points.  The Internet was almost completely inoperable, with it only working maybe once every few hours, and strangely most of the time between 2 and 6am.

Welcome hats

A day later, the Front Office Manager kindly provided a 3G SIM card that I could put into my phone, but even then it was very sporadic when it would work.  You could be in the same spot, without moving, and it would completely lose any signal at all.  I felt like we were scavenger hunters, desperate to find that sweet Internet gold once again, by walking around aimlessly within the resort, hands held high, reaching for the stars, in order to get those magical 2 bars that would give us Internet once again.

Rooms

Beach facing villa

The villas are absolutely spectacular.  The design, the materials, the views, the space and the feel of it are immense.  The colours used within the villa and across the entire resort are so elegant.  I am unsure of the square meterage of the villa, but MEGALOTS may help you comprehend it.  It is truly a stunning villa, with it easily surpassing Laucala, and up there with North Island and Iniala as one of my favourites.  My initial thoughts were to be wowed by it – and they still are – but after settling down, taking a few deep breathes and realising that I’m unable to be happy for long periods of time, I remembered that the architect and investors of Miavana were also those of North Island.  Then I started to look at how similar they were regarding facilities and layout.  This is definitely not a bad thing.

Villa entrance

For those who have been to North Island, stop me if you’ve heard this before: you enter into the open living area, which is surrounded by glass doors that fully open; to the bottom right you have your kitchen, to your right your bedroom that leads through into the semi-outdoors bathroom; to the left, a study room.  A large, circular plunge pool, loungers, multiple outdoor showers await, huge amounts of grassy land with beach access awaits you.  There is even a similar AirPlay system for your music and a hose by the beach to clean your feet as you walk in.

Master bedroom

We ended up in a 2 bedroom villa, which is identical to a 1 bedroom villa, yet has an additional bedroom on the lefthand side that is not connected to the main villa.

Bedroom view

My advice on North Island was probably not something widely circulated around when the plans for Miavana were being discussed, especially as I described the outdoor toilets as Satan’s turdhole, and hearing that at a boardroom meeting would have made my year.  A shame, really, as they may have avoided some of their mistakes, such as deciding once again to have the bathroom still, kinda, open.  For eager readers, you will know the bathrooms at North were to mosquitos what shit is to flies, and as a result your options of going to the toilet were to either not see and make a mess, or turn the light on and get ravaged by a hoard of mozzies.  They say ignorance is bliss, so the former really does look like the better option, but you will have to look in your butlers eyes the next day knowing what you caused, and what he had to clean up.  It will be super awkward and probably should be avoided as a Facebook status update.

Study room

During our stay, the winds were intense for 3 of the 5 nights.  To you, dear reader, it will come as a blessing that I managed to witness the island with calm winds, as it meant I got to experience first hand the full scale of the mosquito assault.  During high winds, the little turds cannot hang around long enough to turn my face into a overcooked pizza, so I had already noted that mosquitos was not an issue on the island.  Then came the calm before the (mosquito) storm – I became target practice for the sociopaths.

My face now looks like I went 6 rounds with Mike Tyson, and then he bit me.

Unlike North, the mosquitos were not seen buzzing around the toilets.  No, they were more sneaky here.  They were calmly waiting for the perfect moment, when my guard was down, to unleash hell.

To some degree, the design of the villas is actually quite clever, with the lack of windows and no ceiling on any of the showers allowing the wind to move around the villa.  It can give the sense of mystery as to where the breeze is always coming from.  Yet where wind can get in, so can mosquitos.  When there is high wind, the doors are rattling, the sheets are flying around the place and the temperature can drop.  It feels very much like a work in progress, but one that is easily fixed – install some glass panels that you can close with the flick of a button.  It would be interesting to know how you would shower if it was heavily raining, as there is no roof.

Furthermore, there are no blackout blinds.  Unlike the lack of spa, or Internet, or movies, or food options, we were actually warned of this in advance.  I was hoping I could cope with it, but it was false hope.  Singita Lembobo and Sweni had a novel way of offering blackouts with a sheet that just went around the bed, rather than the entire room.  As the bathroom to the right of the bedroom is only separated by some sheets, they would need to offer something similar, otherwise the entire room needs blacking out.

Living area

Then there’s temperature control.  With a villa so big and a resort built using solar panels and trying to be eco-friendly (if there really is such a thing with luxury resorts), it is hardly surprising there is not air conditioning in place.  They have instead implemented some system that pumps air around just the bed, so you keep cool at night.  No complaints here, if it had not broken down for our last two nights.  Our final night we had to move to the second bedroom, where due to the mosquito net not being setup until the last minute, we were savagely attacked all night.  My future appearance on Worlds Most Handsome Man is now in taters.

So what do you get for your $5,000/n?  No air conditioning, or blackouts, or Internet, or movies, or English speaking TV channels, or privacy.  You do however get plenty of mosquitos, a huge amount of space, easy access to the beach, a kitchen stocked with enough food and booze to keep a Weight Watchers instructor up at night, and a design that blew me away.

Bathroom

Yet what can they do about privacy?  Twice we had people just show up at our glass front doors, to see if we needed anything.  There is no privacy button.  There is no walkway to access the villa, like there is at North.  You just arrive and can immediately see in.  From the beach, your villa is easily viewable as other guests will walk past on their way to the main area – the beach piazza.  At North, the land had grown enough to prevent this.  What most interested me has been the puff pieces by other travel publications, with one stating that there is complete privacy.  With no other reviews out there, what is being sold is not the reality of what exists.  They tried so hard to replicate North with the villas, all without offering the beach front privacy, and spacing between the villas.

Bathroom

The villas are seriously beautiful, but there are also some serious flaws here that need resolving.   At times it felt like we were there to do their snagging for them.  The front glass door would not close one night, so two butlers needed to come and spend 10 minutes trying to get it to close.  The glass doors were a nuisance throughout, with the strong winds making them either difficult to close, or impossible not to slam shut.  The phone lines sometimes would not work.  The power went off on our final day.  The Internet and movies, I’m told, are being changed to a satellite provider come October and railings have been installed for blackouts, and I’m sure they will figure out the issues with their temperature control system.  Yet the privacy and murder death kill of mosquitos should be at the top of their list.

Amenities

With it either being a case of the island nowhere near complete, or a matter of budgets, everything is concentrated in just two main areas: the activities centre and beach piazza.  There were more discussions of “jam tomorrow” with a sunset bar being created near the helicopter at some point, yet until then, you are not going to be venturing far off anytime soon.

The beach piazza is an area designed for eating, drinking and relaxing, whatever the time of day.  It is an area I doubt I could ever bore of, as it is so well designed.

  • Dive centre
  • Small gym
  • Bar
  • Museum
  • Boutique
  • Wine cellar
  • Large infinity pool, with views out onto the Indian ocean and, if you’re lucky, the barge
  • Ridiculous number of sitting areas, both indoor and outdoor
Dive centre

Spa

There isn’t one.  Whilst there was time to build a museum, a place designed to preserve time, they ran out of it when it came to the spa.  Miavana has now been open for nearly 6 months, and not a brick has been lay for a spa.  Instead you have treatments in your room, which are very reasonably priced around £90 for 60 minutes.  What was less reasonable was the treatment offered, with the masseur initially appearing to be endlessly thorough, but evidently only looking to waste time.  The lack of any music and having the treatment ending facing down on the table only added to the less than luxurious experience.

Activities

Miavana is the ideal place to come if you are dealing with a porn or gaming addiction, as the lack of access to the net will have you cured in no time.  Sex addicts should stay away, as Diego Suarez has more prostitutes per square meter than anywhere else in the world.  Allegedly.

Unfortunately, to pass the time, you will struggle, as there is not a great deal else to do here.  So if you’re sat down with your estranged wife and consider a “let’s give it one last chance” holiday, hoping you will find that spark again during those beautiful moments of fun and laughter, then you better think twice before coming to Miavana.

We can entertain ourselves just by each others company.  I can entertain myself with photography.  Yet I do not really fancy traveling to one of the most remote places in the world, and pay some of the highest prices, just to achieve that.  The struggle to find meaningful activities outside of diving were some of the biggest tell-tell signs of Miavana being not only a new resort, but the only resort in the area.   With no one else having done the exploration before, it all needs doing from scratch and it was felt.

On the first day, we were told by multiple members of staff about the guided walk.  I thought I was going to witness the worlds largest group self combustion, so excited were the staff about this walk.   It sounded like it was going to rival Man on Wire and we would explore new depths of the universe; a documentary would be made on it, that would have a limited worldwide release.  The walk was more hyped than Mayweather vs McGregor. And just like that fight it was designed to humiliate white folk: us.

Please see a list below of all the interesting things we saw during our 90 minute walk:

Ok, now that’s over with, let me discuss the interesting things we saw on our tour to the lighthouse, through the local village.

Right, so I guess we’ll just move on.  Nothing to see here.

This tree killed itself after going on the walk.

Whilst there are not exactly exciting activities, they could easily be made more interesting.  Some activities can sound dull as watching dry paint get a bit drier, but can be delivered in an interesting way that makes them memorable.  At Iniala, cycling to a nearby temple would not be something I would have considered to be fun, yet the guide made it so.  At Amajiwo, visiting a nearby village and seeing them make pottery was also excellent due to the guide and information.  At Amanpulo, the tour of the island brings up interesting facts, even if you do not see much wildlife.

I will not blame the staff for this, as they just have not had the time to prepare for it.  The staff were amazing.  Every evening from around 6pm there are drinks over by the bar with the activities staff to discuss what you wanted to do the next day.  This became our daily social, with conversations often going on for several hours and the staff not having to fake the enjoyment, as they had free booze to keep them entertained.

Play time.

Out of the activities we did, only three stood out: my partners wine tasting with the sommelier, taking a complimentary, ~20 minute, helicopter transfer to another island to go trekking to see black lemurs, and whale watching.  We did whale watching early one morning on a boat, yet whilst there were a lot of whales around, there was not a great deal to see.  Instead, whilst coming back from the lemur trek, they seemed to be fully out in force, breaching the water and putting on a magnificent display.  It was incredible.  And so was the lemur trek, which truly does give the feeling of being amongst yourselves out in the forest – notably, because we were.  There is some rough terrain, so it is not for the faint-hearted, but the pay off was worth it.

Even Billy Bob the lemur had a good time.

There is room for improvements outside of the current lack of engaging activities.  We wanted to swim with whales, and even had it printed on an itinerary, only to find out we were not allowed to do so.  Apparently animals also have feelings and don’t  like you jumping on top of them, shouting “yeehaa”.  We also found that two of the activities we booked ended up being with the only other couple on the island: the boat whale watching, and then a visit to another island to see the birds.  At this price point, group activities is not something I expected.  With the latter, we decided not to go, only to find out that Steve Goodman, an expert in wildlife was doing the tour for them.  A shame it was not communicated, as we would have gone.

Whale watching from the helicopter

As with everything at Miavana, it is what is coming that is the most intriguing – lemurs will be introduced onto the island.  Whether this is good for the eco system or results in the next 28 Days Later, time will tell.

One of only 150 remaining black lemurs in the world

Food

Would it surprise you if I mentioned that the chef was ex-North Island?  Of course he was.  He was also incredibly talented.  Even though our villa’s kitchen resembled Willy Wonk’s Chocolate Factory, I still somehow managed to find space to eat some of their delicious food.  Every day the menu changes, and the style of food changes too: some days it’s pizza from pizza stove, others it’s a collection of a large variety of dishes, then it will change to fine dining and simple.  The pizzas were a real highlight for me, with Dominos, after 12 years, now being relegated from my “Champions” list of suppliers.

Now here’s the kicker: there are only 2 options for starters and mains for all your meals.  Only 2 options is further a problem when, due to my allergies, I was often restricted to just 1 option.

Sunset picnic

The chef came to say hello, just as I was in my knit-picking mode of saying how it was weird he had not come to say hello.  Just to rub it in my face, he even emphasised that he did not like to interrupt people with his life story during their first day.  Point well made, chef.  Point well made.

He did make it clear he would do his best to create alternative dishes, but I’m always uncomfortable with being asked what I want and instead want to see suggestions.  The issue seems to be the ability to procure the food to the island of the quality expected.  Once again, I would not have such an issue with this were I not paying the prices they are charging.  They set the price point and therefore set the expectations. If I want caviar at 2am then I get it, not looks of sheer panic that I came for lunch when they did not expect it, as we received on the penultimate day.  They had no menu, and therefore could only offer what we had for dinner the night before, as we were due to have a picnic.  A picnic that contained dishes that I was allergic to.  A picnic where we were not asked what we wanted.  The flexibility is just not there.  Hopefully one day they take a look at the picnic board that North Island has and copies it.

The beach piazza has plenty of seating for meals, including one under cover, but with sand as the flooring.  Either at night or during the day, the setting was perfect, albeit for the hard, wooden chairs, that went for form over function.  The temperature could drop significantly in the evenings, so even though I refused to give up my shorts and t-shirt, I did have to wear a blanket, because, yes, I am 5.

My partner was not greatly impressed by the inclusive wine and champagne offering, but if you’re feeling flush with cash, for just $670 for a bottle of Krug Grand Vivee or LP for $465, you can enjoy your evening knowing your money has gone towards buying the President a new private jet.  Madagascar import taxes on alcohol can apparently go up to 450%, so you can also add dry (enter month you plan on staying here) as part of your stay too.  If you do go with the inclusive list, it is free flowing, with refills coming more often than a mosquito to your room.

Service

The service was incredibly slick.  Prior to joining Miavana, the GM was at Ellerman House for 9 years, leaving as GM. Just a week prior to our stay at Miavana, we were in Ellerman House (yet another property I need to review) and had an incredible stay with service that pushed well beyond what I could have expected or even dreamed of.  The same already exists at Miavana.  Perhaps having just 2 other guests helped.  Or perhaps because I have not written a pleasant review in quite a while and feel guilty.

Beach piazza, sans sand.

We were given 2 butlers for our villa: the butler manager, and a new trainee.  Both did an excellent job, and really paid a lot of attention to our preferences with snacks and drinks, ensuring the kitchen somehow managed to expand the more time we spent there.  After the 3 hour long lemur trek, we also returned to a bath, including a bottle of champagne and some smoothies.  Perhaps my favourite though was the Front Office Manager getting me a 3G SIM card to use, after he witnessed the distress in my eyes are not having the Internet.  Sure, it still barely worked, but it gave me hope again.

The entire staff were just so wonderful, with a massive desire to ensure we’re happy, without being overbearing.  This really was throughout the entire team.  We had many conversations with everyone, from the GM, to the chef, to the waiters and even security showing us a chameleon he just found.  There were smiles galore from everyone, and the 6pm evening drinks was a great idea for guests to meet, or for staff and guests to chat away.

I really, really liked the service here, yet I think a few tweaks and they will be on their way to rivalling with the best out there.  Here is what I would do to improve the overall service:

  • Put more focus on the butlers, so you are not being asked by multiple people what you want.  It never made sense why the activities team would ask what we wanted for breakfast.  This felt very similar to Laucala, where everyone is asking the same thing, yet unlike Laucala, it actually ended up happening.
  • Copy Iniala by asking guests what interaction they want with their butlers prior to arrival.  This was the least interaction I’ve ever had with one.  North Island has a rope you can put up that tells your butler not even he can enter, so this also goes back to the privacy settings that are a major issue.
  • Get the entire team aware of guest preferences.  When we went out on our whale watching trip on the boat, our butler should have prepared our favourite snacks and drinks.
  • Offer turndown gifts.  C’mon, it’s $5000/n.  Give me some pointless gift I can pretend I appreciate and will definitely take home, but likely leave behind.
  • All villas are provided with golf buggies, and often we would return to find them properly parked, but other times they were not.  Realise your guests are lazy and follow suit.
A fire created just so I could photograph it. Now that is service.

Departure

After having no sleep due to moving rooms on our final night, then getting face raped by mosquitos, then getting woken up by security shining their lights outside our villa, we got up around 6am to find no power and the villa phone not working.  Taking that extra night didn’t seem so smart.

The final goodbye felt a bit underwhelming.  At Ani Villas, we asked them not to bother coming in so early to say goodbye, as we had to leave around 6am.  Yet every single member of staff did and waved us off.  At Miavana, we had a fantastic connection with some of the staff, yet the goodbyes were spread out the night before, rather than a well orchestrated one on departure.  Fussy?  Sure.  I understand that most goodbyes from resorts are not sincere, but at these prices I expect an Oscar winning performance filed with real tears.

The GM was also traveling back to the mainland, so came with us in the helicopter.  Once again, we attempted and succeeded in some last minute whale watching in the helicopter as we made our way back.  They also kindly provided with us some lunch, as they knew we had a 3 hour wait at Tana airport before we flew back to Johannesburg.

As we departed the island, it was raining, there was no power, and mosquitos were everywhere.  The guests who arrived the night before were in for a treat.

Finding out you will soon have Internet

Worth Knowing

Your activities available will greatly alter depending on the time of year you go.  We were at the end of their Spring, which meant that the high winds were dying down and the heat wave would soon be on the way.

The Good

  • Frequently changing, excellent food offering
  • Freaking lemurs
  • Perfect beach

The Bad

  • Getting here
  • Overly expensive for what is on offer
  • Knowing if you came a year later everything would be far better

The Luxurious

  • Fantastic service
  • One of the best villas I’ve ever stayed in

Conclusion

Miavana is a tropical paradise, yet one bathed in potential, rather than its current reality.  What do they currently have going for it?  Service, food, amazing villas and the possibility to explore something new.  That is not enough at this price point – a point I’ll forever come back to.  It feels like the owners looked at what they did to North Island 11 years ago, felt it went well, so with just a sprinkle of copy/paste they’re done.  There is too much global competition for that to be the case.  The staff were amazing and cared so much about making it a success, but there is only so much anyone can do when what is sold differs to what exists.

This is not a matter of whether the resort is truly beautiful (it is), or the food is amazing (it is), or the service is fantastic (it is), or whether the lemurs I kidnapped will grow a new colony back in England (no comment), but whether you can get something similar elsewhere for less money.  I know you can.  You know you can.  If you are reading this review (and well done for getting this far), you will likely have stayed at those places.  Even if money means nothing to you, the time and inconvenience of getting there may.  If I wanted to create my new hippie cult, I would tell you that I leave with some very fond memories, which I suppose are priceless.

There is a real level of arrogance in the owners to believe they can launch a resort at this price point, with this little to offer – it is just not good enough.  Arrogance levels that almost match a useless blogger from England telling them what to do.  Don’t let this think Miavana is not a great experience, but not at this price point.  Maybe not even at half of it.  Unlike those that may be heaping praise on it right now, I pay to stay in these resorts, and I’m fully aware of what can be offered and what it costs.  Worse of it: it is an introductory rate, with the prices going up in January to $6000/n.  They either have tongue firmly planted in cheek, or head rooted up arse.

This is the let down of being an early adopter.  I would not repeat my mistakes of Four Seasons Ten Trinity and arrive on opening night, so felt 5 months after opening would be safe in the hands of the North Island posse.  We were still far too early.  This is not an issue that the staff can resolve, but something the directors and owners need to take a long, hard look in the mirror.  There are frequently promises of tomorrow, yet I’ve been there before.  I’ve heard grand ideas at too many hotels, only to see them never happen.  I’m not sure I have belief in Time and Tide to deliver on this, especially as they decided to open a property far before it’s ready and then fill their marketing with lies.

So for a room that offers no privacy from either your butlers, or people walking by on the beach; a property that is not on a private island; a list of activities that will bore you to death; no Internet and movies; no spa; no cycling routes; limited food options and the worst transportation system since the day before the wheel was invented, you must ask yourself: would I be better elsewhere?

I wish them every success, but I cannot recommend them at this price point.  In the last 18 months I have stayed in: North Island, Fregate, Laucala, Amanpulo and Iniala.  I would pick any of them ahead of Miavana at this stage, even though the service, at times, was better than all of them, but service alone cannot win this battle.  Why come here, when you could go to North Island and avoid the terrible journey, or even go to Iniala for half the price?  So whilst I had a good time and am pleased to have stayed for the 5 nights, I could have certainly had as good a time, and better, somewhere else, for a lot less cost and hassle.  Were I to return, I would not do so for at least 18 months, but by then something else will have come along that will be more convenient and better priced.  Even if Time and Tide fixed all the issues with the resort, they still have to deal with the infrastructure of Madagascar – a thankless task.

I wish them the best of luck because it is fair to say Madagascar’s luxury tourism industry depends on Miavana succeeding.  If Miavana does not work, then no other developers will come, and Madagascar’s future looks to depend on that.  So instead of giving money to charity this year, go to Miavana instead.  It’s what Jesus would do.

Villa #2 pool

One Comment

  1. This is utterly hilarious and brilliant!!

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