With its musical name, Indian Ocean atmosphere, French connections, and faintly bizarre flora and fauna, Madagascar is truly unique. Even its baobab trees offer a lesson in biodiversity: while the African continent has only a single species, Madagascar has six.
This remarkable island nation is dotted with precious swaths of rainforest, where frogs chirp, chameleons sway, and hats fly through the trees. But of course, it’s the new lemurs that shine: with fox faces, bright eyes and fluffy fur, they’re creatures everyone wants to see. Luckily, Madagascar’s best nature guides have a great knack for finding them.
Travel restrictions and entry requirements
Visitors from the UK can apply for a free 30-day tourist visa upon arrival at Ivato International Airport, Antananarivo. As of August 11, 2022, incoming travelers are not required to present proof of their Covid-19 testing or vaccination status. There are no Covid-related restrictions in Madagascar.
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Best time to go
May to November brings the best, driest weather, with temperatures ranging between 20-25C during the day and 10-15C at night; Perfect for the jungle. To spot baby lemurs and see the birds in their brightly colored breeding plumage, visit from September to November. To see humpback whales around Île Sainte Marie, July and August is the best.
If your priority is to escape the crowds, you’re not melting in the sun, and you’re focusing on the arid south (or brace for heavy downpours in the north), the hot months , quiet from January to March is worth considering .
Top Cities and Regions
Andasibe-Mantadia National Park
Imagine a rainforest, and it certainly looks like Andasibe-Mantadia: a forest of shady green ferns, waterfalls, and majestic hardwoods, their branches entwined with vines. It takes about three hours to drive here from the capital, Antananarivo, a journey that offers a glimpse of the rural poverty that has led to Madagascar’s conservation woes. But while many hectares of forest outside the park have been cleared for farming and reforestation, Andasibe-Mantadia continues to exist. A local guide will lead you along speckled paths in search of sifakas, bamboo lemurs and indris, large lemurs whose howls echo through the trees.
Popular with French and Italian tourists, the island of Nosy Be has a fragrant ylang-ylang (pronounced ) Noosh Beh) has sandy, palm-fringed shores that beach vacation lovers dream of. Although it has more hotels than anywhere else in Madagascar, it has not lost its character. During the four-day Donia Festival in May or June, the island comes to life with local bands striding around. There are also rat lemurs, zonosaurus and other rainforest creatures in the Lokobé Reserve.
Isalo National Park
A target for visitors landing from Antananarivo to Tuléar in southwestern Madagascar, Isalo National Park features inviting hiking trails that lead through epic Jurassic landscapes. Striking rock formations, seemingly assembled by giants, are scattered across the plateau, between sandstone cliffs and gorges. Although rain is relatively rare, streams meander through the park, filling swimming holes and nurturing refractory palm trees.
Baobabs Alley and Kirindy . Private Reserve
Impressively photogenic, Morondava’s famous baobab boulevard is an icon of Madagascar – as is the mysterious fossa, an elusive, short-haired mammal related to the mongoose, but that looks like as a cross between a cat and a dog; fans of Madagascar The movie learns they are the evil enemies of King Julien. You can track them down in the dry deciduous forest of the Kirindy Reserve, where giant gerbils and dwarf mouse lemurs are also found.
Berenty Private Reserve
If you want to capture close-up shots of Madagascar’s most playful, quirky primates, head to Berenty. Looming along the boardwalk and around the grounds of this old primate research center are ring-tailed lemurs with curious expressions and long striped tails, along with Verreaux’s sifakas, apes. silly fox with a dancing gait. It’s not the most natural setting, but it’s an enchanting place to spend time.
Best secret destination
Masoala National Park
Breathtakingly remote but well worth the effort, Masoala National Park in northwestern Madagascar is a vast coastal rainforest, teeming with treetop life. Tucked away in a delightful little eco-lodge and you can design your own little adventures – kayak along quiet creeks with a bird-ready book, or spot chameleons in the foliage hanging on the beach. With a nature guide, you can head deep into the woods during the day or (even better) after dark, for close encounters with red ruffled lemurs, lizards and frogs.
Saint Mary’s Island
Much quieter than Nosy Be, with only a few places to stay, the unspoiled island of Sainte-Marie, also known as Nosy Boraha, was a hideaway for pirates in the 17th and 18th centuries. Now it’s better known as a whale refuge: at the end of June every year, humpback whales migrate from Antarctica to raise their young in the calm waters between Sainte-Marie and mainland Madagascar . Local conservation organization Cétamada, which works with marine biologists to protect whales and their habitat, can advise on how to watch whales by boat without harming them.
Tsingy de Bemaraha
The gray limestone outcrops, needles, crevices and caves found in northwestern Madagascar are UNESCO World Heritage Sites listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. They are called chain, smart enough, means ‘where you can’t walk’, but locals have solved this problem by creating steps, trails, rope bridges and walkways, allowing people to Hike healthy and agile through the rocky maze full of thorns. Unexpectedly, perhaps, sifakas and curly-haired lemurs have created existence here, as have many species of birds, including cuckoos and birds of prey found only in Madagascar.
best things to do
The primates of Madagascar have evolved in isolation for more than 60 million years – long enough for them to bear little resemblance to monkeys, apes and humans. They mainly live in forests and, tragically, due to rampant logging, their habitat has been reduced to isolated pockets. One of the best ways to help reverse this trend is to visit national parks and community reserves as a paying ecotourist. There are over 100 species to discover. When hiking in the woods with a guide, you’re sure to find some people, jumping over trees, or gazing into the distance enticingly.
Nature walk at night
If your heart is pounding at the mere thought of walking through a rainforest after dark, relax: Madagascar is one of those magical places where dangerous animals are completely absent. Boost your courage, grab a torch and follow your instructions: your reward will be a sneak peek into a secret world. Sweeping the trees to catch your eye and listen for calls, you might spot dwarf lemurs, comet moths, owls and perhaps even the satanic leaf-tailed gecko named in the theatre. Interestingly, you will also spot sleeping birds, huddled in tree branches; Dedicated guides will make sure you don’t disturb them.
Madagascar is the world’s second largest island nation, with a spectacularly diverse landscape. Many visitors book a guided tour of the highlights including transportation, but it’s also possible to travel independently.
Because of the long distances and many of Madagascar’s rural highways in poor condition, the best way to explore some areas is to get around with Air Madagascar. Unfortunately, they are notoriously unreliable, changing flight dates and times without notice; prepare accordingly.
Above ground, public transport tends to be rickety and crowded, so hiring a taxi for short outings and renting a car with a driver/guide for longer trips is better than a one. good investment.
How to get there
Madagascar is located in the Indian Ocean, off the east coast of Africa. For all but the most hardworking sailors, the only practical way to get there was by plane.
There are currently no direct flights from United Kingdom to Antananarivo. The cheapest route is by Kenya Airways, which flies over Nairobi in 19 hours. A faster alternative is Ethiopian Airlines, which flies over Addis Ababa in 14.5 hours.
Money saving tips
Airlines, tours and hotels offer low season rates from mid-January to March. In terms of weather, this can be a tough time to visit, with heavy rain pouring down the central and northern regions, and tornadoes hitting the east coast. In the south, however, rainfall remains low year-round.
Frequently asked questions
How is the weather?
Tropical: humid in the northeast, arid in the southwest and temperate in the central plateau. The coolest and driest months are from May to October.
What time zone is it in?
What currency do I need?
Ariary Malagasy (MGA). Tourist businesses accept ariary and euro. You can exchange pounds at the bank or withdraw the ariary from an ATM.
What language is spoken?
Malagasy and French. Tour guides speak multiple languages, including English.
What health precautions should I take?
Consult your GP about antimalarial drugs and vaccinations.
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