Best time to travel:
When planning a trip to Madagascar, travellers should have in mind what they do not want to miss from this extraordinary land and what their personal interests are, as each season has its own highlights but the best time to visit is generally April to November.
- Late January – March: cyclone season, peak herp (reptiles and amphibians) season, best time for flowering orchids but very wet
- April – May: low season although rains mostly finished leaving the countryside lush and green
- July – August: peak season due to tourist activity. It is the coolest time of the year and peak whale watching season. However many animals are inactive or hibernating
- September – December: excellent time for visiting as it is the breeding season and the best time for beach holidays as it is generally dry
- October – November: baby lemur season, generally mild weather with cooler temperatures and little rain
Lemurs, baobabs, rainforest, beaches, deserts, trekking and diving makes Madagascar a dream destination for nature and outdoor lovers.Madagascar is an island in the Indian Ocean, only three hours flight from South Africa. It is the world’s 4th largest island with numerous smaller peripheral islands. Madagascar’s split from Africa 160 million years ago and from India 88 million years ago, allowed native plants and animals to evolve in relative isolation. Consequently, Madagascar is a biodiversity hotspot with over 90 percent of its wildlife found nowhere else on earth. It is an island that draws nature lovers who yearn for the unusual.
With dramatically contrasting climatic zones each region has its own complement of plants and decidedly odd animals. Ninety per cent of Madagascar’s forest birds are endemic, as are about half of the island’s 260 recorded birds, enticing birdwatchers from far and wide. There are 19 000 listed plant species, and over 100 000 invertebrates. Orchids and butterfly’s abound. Malagasy chameleons, descendants of the antediluvian monsters, represent two thirds of the species worldwide. Of all its animals, lemurs have received the most attention from the conservation community. But Madagascar is not only about animals, it has beautiful white sandy beaches and reefs for snorkelling. Madagascar is a destination for adventurous travellers who are looking for a unique experience. Dhow island hopping and camping safaris are one of the experiences exclusive to this destination.
Areas to visit in Madagascar
North East and East
- Masoala Peninsula, Nosy Mangabe – The Masoala Peninsula hosts Madagascars largest national park – Parc National Masoala – with three marine reserves. The primary rainforest of Masoala National Park is rich in wildlife. Sea kayak expeditions and whale watching can all be experienced at certain times of the year.
- Andasibe- Mantadia National Park 138 km east of Antananarivo is the most visited of the protected areas. It comprises of the Mantadia Park, a spectacular rainforest, and Analamazaotra Special Reserve. Andasibe hosts 11 species of lemurs.
- Ile Sainte Marie & Ile Aux Nattes – these islands are one of the most popular beach holidays and a paradise for cross-biking (road/mountain) .The coral reefs offshore offer excellent snorkelling and scuba diving. Whale watching is also a highlight of the area.
- North-West & North
- Ankarana Reserve – this bizarre landscape features a fortress like limestone plateau decorated with fields of sharp pinnacles. Wildlife abounds in forested canyons and there are incredible caves and subterranean rivers.
- Montagne D’Ambre National Park – a well known tropical montane rainforest area. Its scenery and crater lakes make it one of the most popular hiking venues. It is also home to the islands two best known waterfalls.
- Nose Be Archipelago – Nosy Be means “big island” as it is the largest in the extensive archipelago off the north west coast and is Madagascar’s largest and busiest tourist resort. Here you will find volcanic lakes, lemurs, rum distilleries, Ylang Ylang plantations and intricate coral reefs to be explored. Coffee, vanilla and cinnamon are extensively cultivated on the island.
- Antananarivo – the capital. Often called Tana, the city has French and Aisian inspired architecture and cobblestone streets that impart a medieval ambience.
- From Antananarivo to the south – culturally interesting and scenically diverse, this is the islands most popular overland route from Tana to Tulear on the south-west coast. Take in the view of tropical rainforests, huge granite outcrops and the bizarre spiny forest.
- Antsirabe – this charming and vibrant highland town has much to offer in terms of picturesque scenery and a world class university.
- Fianarantsoa –Madagascar’s intellectual capital. Surrounded by tea plantations and wine estates.
- Ranomafana National Park – home to 12 species of lemur. This mountain rainforest is one of the richest areas in biodiversity in the eastern humid forest.
- Anja Reserve – set amongst boulders and is home to about 300 Ring-tailed Lemurs.
- Isalo National Park – a hiker’s paradise. Erosion has carved fantastic figures in the sandstone and there is a natural pool for swimming.
South-East, West and South-West
- Fort Dauphin – offers magnificent diversity. It is located on the south-eastern tip of Madagascar’s coastline.
- Mandrare River Camp – near the southern tip of the country. This camp is in a beautiful location and strong attention has been paid to local culture and eco- tourism.
- Berenty Private Reserve – a small protected area inhabited by large populations of sub-desert lemurs and spiny forest. Road access to the reserve is difficult and accommodation basic.
- Andohahela National Park – has an extraordinary variety of ecosystems. More than 90 % of its plants are used in traditional medicine.
- Baie de Lokaro and St Luce – a beautiful spot 20 km north of Fort Dauphin. Pristine tropical forests, meandering rivers, palm fringed lakes stretch from the mountains down the white sandy beach.
- Nahampoana Reserve – is 7 km north of Fort Dauphin. This 166 acre reserve has four species of lemurs.
- Morondava, Baobab Avenue and Kirindy Forest – Morondava is a vibrant west coast town with wide beaches and safe swimming. Kirindy Forest is 60km north by sand road, the best place to see nocturnal wildlife and rare mammals.
- Ifaty Beach, Anakao, St Augustin Bay, Tulear – main attractiions in this remote area are coral reefs, spiny bush and rare birds. Scuba diving is also popular in this area.
- Tsimanampetsotsa – is a shallow saline lake at the foot of the Mahalafy limestone plateau. This park is of most interest to botanists with its bizarre and spectacular desert adapted plants. Two remarkable species of Baobab can be seen here.