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Country Guide

Information for eager travellers

Madagascar is a huge country, bigger than France, and so offers a great variety of activities and things to see and do. These range from spending some time in the cities, exploring the history and the bustling markets, to delving into the National Parks and forests, or relaxing at some of the coastal towns, perhaps doing a bit of snorkelling or scuba diving.

There are also a wide range of places to stay in Madagascar to suit any budget. If you would prefer to choose your hotel in Madagascar based on its location, there are excellent accommodation choices in Antsirabé, Nosy Bé, Fort Dauphin and Antananarivo.

Madagascar is one of the most biodiverse-rich countries of the world. Unique combinations of landscapes, people, history and culture offer the traveller a unique and inspiring experience. Madagascar is a country that is quickly becoming a 'must see' on the travellers' map, and for very good reasons: animal species that can only be seen (and heard!) in Madagascar; a fascinating mixture of Asian, African and Middle Eastern cultures; and a welcoming aura of peace and kindness unlike any other.

Come see exotic and enticing Madagascar for yourself!

What you should know before booking

Island’s weather information

Madagascar’s sub-tropical climate can be enjoyed year-round, however the main rainy season lasts from late December to March and can include cyclones, so this period is probably best avoided. The ideal time to visit Madagascar is from April to mid-December but travellers should be prepared for all weather conditions as occasionally the weather can be unpredictable.
 
Given the vast size of the country, the climate varies depending on the region. During the rainy season in the north, when temperatures are around 30ºC, the central areas will be drier and cooler, with temperatures around 25ºC, and the southern and western coasts will be the driest parts of the island.
 
The best time to visit Madagascar depends on where you want to go and what you want to see. July to September is peak tourist season due to the excellent weather and is the ideal time to see humpback whales. While lemurs can be seen year round generally, October and November are excellent for the chance to see baby lemurs. During September to December when the weather is hot and relatively dry, beach holidays are ideal, combined with lemur and chameleon watching. Visit during April to avoid the peak season and enjoy the lush landscapes, quiet parks and beaches, and bounding lemurs.

Things to See and Do in Madagascar

National Parks

Wildlife Tours through National Parks are essential to observe Madagascar's extraordinary endemic plant and animal species over 80% of which are native to the Island, do not miss the chance to glimpse lemurs, tortoise, geckos, and chameleons. Madagascar has a number of very impressive National Parks and natural reserves around the country. At 152,000 hectares, the Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve is one of the largest, and is located in the northern sector of the Anstingy region of the Bemaraha Plateau. This reserve features untouched forests, tranquil lakes and mangrove swamps, which are home to some of the unique flora and fauna of Madagascar, including rare birds and the infamous Madagascar lemur. The only regions currently able to be explored by visitors are the southern region, known for its limestone formations, and the northern forests.

Périnet and Mantadia National Parks were joined together to create Andasibe Mantadia National Park, making it Madagascar's most visited and also most popular national park. Located relatively close to Antananarivo, it features a host of incredible flora and fauna. Included are the world-renowned lemurs, as well as a number of different species of birds, reptiles and invertebrates. Visits are made even more interesting by the local guides, who offer an excellent commentary on many of the plants and animals found in the reserve. You also will not want to miss out on a trip to the Baobab forest.

Coastal Activities

For those interested in diving or snorkeling in Madagascar, the major centres include Nosy Bé and the nearby islands of Nosy Mitsio, Nosy Radama and Tanikely, Nosy Lava, Toliara and Ile Ste-Marie. Of these, Toliara is also known for other activities such as fishing, sailing and relaxing on the beach and Nosy Bé is known as a good tropical, sun, sand and sea holiday destination.

The scuba-diving centres are mostly centred in the north and west of Madagascar. The East Coast of Madagascar is not recommended for swimming due to the amount of sharks. Due to this, many towns along the East Coast have municipal pools to cool off in.

Whale watching off the East Coast of Nosy Boraha, also known as Sainte Marie, is an experience not to be missed if you are here from June to the end of September.  Large groups of humpback whales migrate annually from the Antarctic to the sheltered waters around Nosy Boraha where they calve, nurse their young and engage in their spectacular courtship rituals.

Take a trip on the only train service in Madagascar from Fianarantsoa to the coastal town of Manakara which was once a booming colonial town with vast coffee plantations and is now a pleasant seaside town growing in popularity, ideal for rest and relaxation.

Other water-sport activities available in various areas include water-skiing and sailing (at Ambohibao, Antsiralse and Ramona) and river-rafting in the Highlands.

Markets

Zomas (markets) are the best place to look for various souvenirs or gifts, and are a great place to go shopping. The biggest and most famous markets are in Antananarivo, but almost every city or town throughout the country will have their own zoma. Some of the more popular ones include Toamasina, which is the country's main port, and Fianarantsoa, which offers some of Madagascar's best arts and crafts.

Even if you are not wishing to purchase anything, they still provide an interesting experience, and offer a chance to see a fascinating side of Malagasy life. The best idea is often to first visit government stores, which give a good general guide to the sorts of prices you should aim for in the markets. Bargaining in the markets is the order of the day, and can yield some great buys.