Southern Madagascar has some of the island’s most compelling attractions: the gaunt sandstone plateau of Parc National d’Isalo, cut by oasis-like canyons; the towering mountain fastness of Parc National d’Andringitra, with its grasslands and moors on one side and almost unexplored rainforest on the other; the spiny forests and glorious beaches, surfing and diving of the dry southwest; and the seductive rolling landscapes, scalloped bays and diverse forest ecosystems of the far southeast, around the port of Fort Dauphin. This is also Madagascar’s poorest region, however, and more prone to lawlessness – generally manifested in cattle rustling and highway banditry – than the rest of the country.
The climate of the south is relatively more extreme than that of central and northern Madagascar. The Tropic of Capricorn carves through the region, and the dry southern or austral winter brings cooler weather from May to August than in the north of the island. Much of the southwest, spiny forest country, is also very arid, while facing the cyclones from the Indian Ocean, the beautiful forest of the southeast coast is bathed in moist air for much of the year.