Madagascar

Lemurs, baobabs, rainforest, beaches, desert, trekking and diving: Madagascar is a dream destination for nature and outdoor lovers – and half the fun is getting to all these incredible attractions.

Madagascar is unique: 5% of all known animal and plant species can be found here, and here alone. The remarkable fauna and flora is matched by epic landscapes of an incredible diversity: you can go from rainforest to desert in just 300km. Few places on earth offer such an intense kaleidoscope of nature.

Madagascar is the world’s fourth-largest island, with 5000km of coastline, 450km of barrier reef and 250 islands, no stay in Madagascar would be complete without a few days on the island’s shores.

Madagascar has been populated by successive waves of migrants from various corners of the Indian Ocean, each bringing their own customs and beliefs. This cultural melting pot has evolved into an intricate set of beliefs and rituals that revere ancestors’ spirits.

What’s on offer in Madagascar?

Nosy Be - Magagascar

Nosy Be

Nosy Be’s is Madagascar’s biggest and most popular tourist destination and it’s easy to understand why – located off Madagascar’s northwestern coast, this small island is blessed with exquisite sand beaches, glittering volcanic lakes and diverse flora and fauna. What’s more, despite its popularity, Nosy Be has remained refreshingly unspoilt and free of rampant development, with low-key beach bungalows more the order of the day here than glitzy commercial resorts.

Ankarana Reserve - Madagascar

Ankarana Reserve

Ankarana consists of an “island” of tsingy, or limestone karst pinnacles, and a forest which is penetrated by numerous caves and canyons. Some of the largest caves have collapsed, forming isolated pockets of river-fed forest with their own perfectly protected flora and fauna. These pockets are home to a large number of animals.

Sainte Marie Island - Madagascar

Sainte Marie Island

This long, narrow island off Madagascar’s east coast might be just the piece of heaven you’re looking for. Also known as Nosy Boraha, its lush islets, bays and coves will provide the same privacy and mystique they did for the legendary pirates that held out here after their plunders in days gone by. The waters are endowed with significant coralline growth and offer first-class diving; or if you prefer being ‘onboard’, take a traditional pirogue ride in the calm bays – from July you can witness the migration of substantial groups of humpback whales. And for history lovers, a visit to the pirates’ cemetery of Saint-Pierre is a must.

The Pangalanes Canal - Madagascar

The Pangalanes Canal

This series of natural rivers, man-made lakes and waterways, which extends roughly 600km along Madagascar’s east coast, is primarily a working canal (used for fishing and transportation), but it’s worth an excursion to experience a number of unspoiled beaches and small villages on its banks, and the procession of boats on its waters. Stop off to visit one of the coffee factories, take time to chat to the fishermen as they dry their catch of eels; or venture on to the Palmarium reserve – also named Ankanin’ny Nofy or ‘dream nest’ – on Ampitabe Lake to spy lemurs and an array of fascinating carnivorous plants.

Andasibe-Mantadia National Park

Andasibe-Mantadia National Park

A place of great beauty and biodiversity, Andasibe-Mantadia National stretches across 154 square kilometres, and is now divided into two distinct sections – the smaller ‘Perinet’ Reserve to the south and the larger Parc National de Mantadia to the north. The region is swathed with thick tropical rainforests – made up of lush ferns, tangled lianas, hundreds of orchid species and myriad other jungle flora – teeming with a diverse array of endemic wildlife. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you hear the peculiar call of the Indri, the largest living lemur in existence, which can reach up to one metre in height.

Antananarivo - Madagascar

Antananarivo

Antananarivo is Madagascar’s capital city, perched on top of a mountain range close to several nature reserves, including Tsingy de Bemaraha, with its fantastical limestone spikes. Founded in 1625, it has a rich historical heritage that is complemented by scenic landscapes traversed with a multitude of hiking routes. The city is also known for its bubbly nightlife, with live music played regularly at various clubs, bars and hotels.

Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park - Madagascar

Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park

The subject of geological fascination and scientific wonderment, this reserve would suit the more robust explorer. Its canyons, gorges, swamps, forests and lakes are home to an astonishing array of fauna and flora, many of which have not been fully recorded. This is mainly due to the largely impenetrable labyrinth of limestone ‘forests’ that make up the Great and Little Tsingy of which the park consists. The tsingys (tsingy means ‘where man cannot walk barefoot’) are karstic plateaus whose groundwater has gouged out caverns and fissures into the limestone over millennia.

(The park is only open from May to December during the dry season.)

Ranomafana National Park - Madagascar

Ranomafana National Park

Rare and exotic fauna and flora await in the 41 600-plus hectares of tropical rainforest that make up one of Madagascar’s most popular – and spectacular – national parks. Established to conserve this unique biodiversity (and subsequently declared a World Heritage Site in 2007), the Ranomafana National Park is home to 12 species of lemur, one of which is the critically endangered golden bamboo lemur, discovered here in 1986. There is comfortable accommodation in nearby Ranomafana village, and within the park, there are camping facilities and a privately owned ecolodge.

Isalo National Park - Madagascar

Isalo National Park

Centuries of years of wind and rain erosion have whittled the landscape of Isalo National Park into a series of deep gorges, wide canyons and bizarrely shaped sandstone rock formations, punctuated by palm-lined oases and sprawling grasslands. This uniquely spectacular scenery makes the park a magnet for hikers, with treks ranging from a few hours to several days. Besides the striking vistas the park affords, visitors will also be able to enjoy cooling off in the natural swimming holes dotted across it, and catch glimpses of the resident lemurs and other wildlife.

Our top Madagascar packages:

Please call: 01227 753187 for a tailor-made Madagascar itinerary.

Fast Facts

BEST TIME TO VISIT: The cooler, dry months tend to be from May to October, with the hot, rainy season generally lasting from November to April. The hot, humid east coast has the heaviest rainfall and the driest regions are in the extreme south. The mountainous regions experience the lowest temperatures. During the dry season, mornings can be a little cold.

 

TIME DIFFERENCE: GMT +3 hours.

VISAS: Visas are required to enter Madagascar and are obtainable on arrival.

LANGUAGE: English local languages.

CURRENCY: The Malagasy Ariary.

FLIGHT INFORMATION: There are no direct flights from the UK to Madagascar but indirect flights are available.

FLYING TIME FROM UK: Approx. 12 hours to Antananarivo.

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