Madagascar’s main attractions
Antananarivo, the capital
Also known as simply Tana, this over populated, polluted and bustling city is not an attractive place at first look. But tourists should perhaps experience the cultural side before heading off to see natural wonders. Antananarivo offers a few historic buildings and museums to explore, such as Rova, the Royal Palace and Musée Andafivaratra, a colourful lakeside market at Lac Anosy, especially flower market and also a quite few gourmet restaurants – French and Creole – can be found downtown.
East for the Andasibe-Mantadia National Park
Three hours easy drive east from Antananarivo the Andasibe-mantadia National Park is a rainforest hosting a large number of rare and endangered species including 11 lemurs species.
Tourists generally take hikes ranging from 1-6 hours around the park under the supervision of an informed (hopefully! ) local guide.
Adjacent slash-and-burn cultivation for rice plantations, logging and replacement of rainforest with non-indigenous eucalyptus and pine trees is putting this nature reserve at risk.
A ‘wild’ Ring-Tail lemur mother enjoying a piece of pineapple in Berenty Reserve.
South for the Berenty Reserve
Berenty Reserve is a private nature reserve, home to various lemurs including Ring-tailed Lemur, chameleons and birds beside the Mandrake river. It’s in a semi-arid spiny forest in the Atsimo-Andrefana region of the far south of the country.
Also do not miss the elaborate carved and painted Mahafaly (ethnic group) tombs in the area and the extraordinary wind cut sandstone, funny friendly lemurs and wacky plants in Isalo National Park in the Ihorombe region.
West for Morondova
A small coastal town with airport if you don’t fancy a 9 to 12 hour drive drive, Morondova is a relatively relaxing place with few beggars, several decent beaches with small beach hotels and near to a couple of brilliant nature reserves as well as the famous ‘Avenue of Baobabs’ 45 minutes drive away, a grand line of ancient and magnificent specimens that are particularly spectacular at sunset.
Morondova’s just 50 kms south of the Kirindy Forest Reserve that is home to some stunning baobab trees, a huge number of small primates including 8 species of lemur, 60 species of exotic birds, and plenty of peculiar flora.
The newish Kirindy Mite National Park is about the same distance in the opposite direction, south of Morondova, offering the rare tourist a look at baobab forests, many lemur and bird species, beautiful lakes, sea beaches and offshore islands.
Then there’s the Tsingy de Bemaraha 200kms away, a bit of a hike but strewn with weird limestone pinnacles, 50 species of birds, varied lemurs, strange plants and more. 370mi west of Tana.
Nosy Kely near Morondova town is a good place to stay, with comfortable beachside chalets and good French food. Chez Maggie Hotel is well known, offers excellent tours in many languages and worked well for us, though there was a bit of excitement about a snake. Ours, not theirs, and in our defence it was not deadly (there are no deadly creatures in Madagascar, apparently), but it was quite big and coiled peacefully in the middle of the dining table.
North for Montagne d’Ambre National Park
The rain forest stuffed with the usual unusual species including the blue nose chameleon. No shortage of leeches either. Lots of hiking trails and two lovely waterfalls. It’s 500 miles north of Tana and cooler than the coast so you don’t need shorts.
Nosy Be island for expensive beach package hotels, Lokobe Nature Reserve and the usual beach activities plus Deep Sea Fishing.
Ile Ste Marie island (Nosy Boraha) for beach bungalows, coral and kayaking.
Superb, panoramic landscapes, though deforestation is an ever-present issue that is not being seriously addressed.