Idyllic tropical beaches are what first draw many visitors to Madagascar. Still, this immense island also hosts a fascinating assemblage of exotic wildlife and a unique fusion of African and Asiatic cultures. Explore our list of the best things to do in Madagascar and see why you should consider this country as your next holiday destination.
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The old town’s main square is overlooked by the Cathédrale d’Ambozontany, an imposing brick-faced Catholic edifice. A popular overnight base or lunch stop in the vicinity of Fianarantsoa, Lac Sahambavy, is a pretty artificial lake surrounded by pine plantations and overlooked by the legendary Lac Hôtel.
This tailor-made trip to Wild Madagascar discovers dusty desert canyons, and lush rainforests teeming with wildlife and trek through national parks. Explore the bustling capital Tana, then stop by the beach at Ifaty where you'll encounter forests of baobab trees and wandering tribesmen.
The park also ranks as one of the country’s key ornithological destinations, with more than 110 species recorded, and it supports a wide variety of colourful orchids. Popular night walks along the main road through the forest offer a great opportunity to see nocturnal lemurs, chameleons and an array of colourful tree frogs.
As is the case with Nosy Be, Sainte-Marie offers great swimming, snorkelling, diving and whale-watching opportunities. While it lacks the spectacular volcanic scenery and lemur-filled forests of its western counterpart, it compensates by being less overtly touristy and considerably more affordable.
Tropical island beaches, lush rainforest, stunning wildlife, and the bright red clay houses of Antananarivo await you on this tailor-made trip to Madagascar. Get your fill of culture in the capital Tana, snap beguiling wildlife, and revive and reboot on stunning white-sand beaches.
Visiting the island between July and September is one of the best things to do in Madagascar for whale watching. During this time several thousand humpback whales gather in Antongil Bay to breed, and they can frequently be seen breaching and lob-tailing. Day visits or overnight camping trips to Nosy Mangabe must be arranged through the national park office in Maroantsetra.
Rising from a succession of stunning uninhabited beaches to a series of tall peaks, the park protects an extraordinary diversity of wooded and wetland habitats. It is an important stronghold for several localised birds.
Nosy Be’s reputation as a tourist trap isn’t entirely unjustified, and things do tend to come across as pricey by comparison to the Malagasy mainland, but there is far more to the island than just another stock tropical beach resort.
Scenically, it’s a fantastic place, with a backdrop provided by the volcanic cones of the Mont Lokobe and Mont Passot.
Not to be confused with the Parc National de Kirindy-Mitea, the Réserve Forestière de Kirindy is a small privately-managed conservancy and research centre that runs about 65km (39 miles) north of Morondova. Kirindy is renowned as the most reliable site for seeing the fossa, Madagascar’s largest carnivore.
The centrepiece of this vast protected area is the world’s largest ‘stone forest’, the so-called Grand Tsingy, a labyrinthine karstic formation that stretches almost 100km (60 miles) from north to south. Its jagged black limestone pinnacles are incised with neat linear valleys to resemble endless rows of city blocks when viewed from the air.
A short dirt track runs north to La Fenêtre de l’Isalo, an elevated rock arch that offers spectacular and very photogenic views, especially at sunset. Heading on towards Toliara, dusty Ilakaka past Ranohira has mushroomed from a hamlet of half-a-dozen houses to a bona fide boomtown since the discovery of sapphires there in 1997.
Also known as the Ambatoatsignana Forest Zone, the reserve incorporates 17 pockets of east-coast littoral forest. Guided walks into the largest of the reserve’s forest blocks (Sector 9) can be arranged out of the rustic Antanosy village of Manafiafy, which is also renowned for its powerful local shaman and as a centre of traditional mangaliba music.
One of the best things to do in Madagascar is to hike one of the shorter trails in the park. They are more rewarding for wildlife, simply because they leave more time to stop and search for smaller species, but the longer trail takes you to some worthwhile scenic spots.
Nosy Be is widely regarded to be the best place in Madagascar for viewing marine wildlife, thanks to its profusion of offshore reefs and a wide choice of well-equipped dive and boat operators. Other good sites include the reefs on either side of Toliara, Île Sainte-Marie, Baie de Sainte Luce and Plage de Ramena near Diego Suarez.
Amply compensating for these caveats, however, is the island’s unusually high level of endemicity, which embraces at least four families. 36 genera and 105 species were found nowhere else in the world, along with another two families and 20 species shared only with the islands of the Comoros or Seychelles.
The footpath ends at a small lake overlooked by a stilted wooden viewing platform from where you’ll see some fearsomely ginormous Nile crocodiles showing off their daunting dentition. Amenities include a restaurant specialising in crocodile-meat dishes, and a good craft shop.
Guided walks are best undertaken in the early morning or late afternoon, when these enchanting monkey-like creatures tend to be most sociable and active, often sunning themselves on the rocks or coming to the reservoir to drink.
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