Madagascar Travel

The Avenue of Baobabs near Morondava, Madagascar Pictures

The Avenue of Baobabs near Morondava, Madagascar travel. Photo by Bernard Gagnon.

Why Madagascar travel?

The fourth largest island in the world, Madagascar encompasses an astounding selection of unique plants and wildlife species such as baobab trees, lemurs and radiated tortoises.

Madagascar also offers the inquisitive tourist the bizarre burial sites of the Mahafaly tribe, strange rock formations, spectacular landscapes, the French-speaking capital in Antananarivo that is just about worth a couple of days and good beaches with diving and snorkelling locations.
What the place doesn’t have is too many travellers!

Julian with Berenty Lemurs, Madagascar

I enjoy female company in Berenty Reserve, south Madagascar

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.

A Sifaka on the hop, Berenty, Madagascar

Berenty Sifaka lemurs prefer an elegant  dancing movement to plain old walking.

Madagascar downsides

• Public transport is unreliable and some grasp of French is vital for individual travellers, so horrible as it may seem, consider a package tour if you have special interests and/or limited time in Madagascar.
• Appalling deforestation (85% gone up in smoke) is putting the exotic flora and fauna on the endangered list.
• Crime is on the up, especially in Antananarivo (Tana), so observe Safety suggestions.
• It can get extremely hot. We recorded 61C/142F there on one occasion, in the shade. Ridiculous? Hmm, I was drinking water constantly yet didn’t pee for 3 days.
Malaria.
• Just about every park/reserve requires a permit.

Antananarivo lake and flowering trees, Madagascar, Africa

Antananarivo, the not-very-interesting-nor-safe capital city of Madagascar.

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.

Madagascar activities

a traditional Mahafaly burial site, Madagascar Pictures

A traditional Mahafaly grave in south Madagascar adorned with horns of plenty (actually zebu) and beautifully carved wooden totems.

• Looking for exotic birds, animals and plants.

• Hiking around the parks and reserves.

• Mountain biking: Many locations will hire them, including Tana, Nosy Be, and Fort Dauphin. People are usually very friendly. If you bring your own bike then ensure it’s tough as roads will be rough and don’t forget basic spare parts.

• Diving and snorkelling: in the north of the island such as Ile Ste Marie (northeast), around Nosy Be (northwest) and near Tulear.

• Whale watching: off Ile Ste Marie (humbacks in the channel between Ste Marie and Madagascar, July – September).

• Local Culture: In Tana try to attend a ‘hira gasy’ local folk music/dance on Sundays.

Madagascar best seasons

A man with a chameleon on his nose in Madagascar Pictures, wildlife safari November

I was sitting in an outdoor Berenty bar and asked this South African herpetologist where all the chameleons were….He reached into the nearest bush and slapped this surprised fella onto his face. I looked more carefully at vegetation after that.

Best: May-October (winter, dry season)
Worst: December-March (rains, storms)
This is a large country with 6 different climatic zones ranging from an extremely dry southwest region to often wet eastern area that hosts some surviving tropical rainforest so the weather will partly depend on tourist target activities and destinations.

Length of stay:
Minimum worthwhile stay, not incl. flights : 10 days – since domestic transport is unreliable and distances are great.
Recommended: 3 weeks +

Guest room Invasion of ring-tailed lemurs, Berenty, Madagascar map

Just 30 minutes after arriving and the Berenty concierge crew is hard at work reorganising my room.