Christine, Digital Nomad, Travel Expert
Madagascar travel guide
Madagascar Travel Guide
Madagascar, the fourth-largest island on earth is a place like no other – a destination of bizarre topography, amazing people, and a huge list of species found nowhere else on this world.
If this island is top on your bucket list, check out this guide that will help you plan your holiday with ease;
The best Attractions to visit in Madagascar
1. Nosy Be
Located on the northwest coast of the country, Nosy Be is the most fabled beach destination in Madagascar. The island is packed to the brim with classy resorts that overlook the stunning coastline of the Indian Ocean.
Nosy be is also a gateway to other islets such as Nosy Tanikely, one of the best snorkeling spots in the country. You just need to wade out less than 50 meters into the water from the beach, put your face in the water and you’ll be staring down at a beautiful coral reef with an astounding collection of marine-life.
2. Tsingy de Bemaraha (stone forest)
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site over 3 decades ago, the stone forest is still the hardest attraction to access in Madagascar yet the most spellbinding and peculiar panoramas in the world.
If you can brave through a 5-7 hours endurance test of driving on a 4x4 on a tough, dry and rocky terrain, then you can delight your eyes with a world wonder, in northwest Madagascar – an otherworldly landscape littered with dumbfounding limestone formations.
With grey sharp and jagged rocks jutting out from the ground, hiking up to the top of Tsingy is such a unique adventure.
The climb/hike is strenuous (even worse if you’re afraid of heights) so it helps to be reasonably fit.
It involves stairs, ladders, crossing bridges, and crawling through narrow limestone carvings but it’s a once in a lifetime experience.
3. Ranomafana National Park
For most nature lovers, Ranomafana is the first introduction to the beauty of Madagascar. Founded in 1991, this national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site offer an ultimate rainforest experience as it teems with a great array of wildlife.
Besides being famous as the location where the golden bamboo lemur was first discovered it’s also fabled as a host to the finest hot springs in the country.
4. Avenue of the Baobabs
Probably the most iconic attraction in Madagascar, Avenue of the Baobabs is simply a stretch of a dirt road lined by the gigantic Baobab trees between Kirindy Reserve and Morondava.
With an estimated lifespan of 800 – 1000 years, these trees are a sight to behold and out of the 9 species of the Baobab tree, six of them are endemic to Madagascar.
Baobabs trees are succulent which means during the rainy season, they store lots of water in their huge trunks.
This adaptation enables the tree to produce fruits even during the dry season, which is the main reason why it’s dubbed as ‘The tree of life’.
Despite the surging rate of deforestation as most locals turn land into farms, the baobabs are still highly regarded for their cultural significance. In fact, besides over 300 uses of these trees, Malagasy people believe that the spirit of their ancestors resides in baobabs.
You should be here by sunrise or stay late for the sunset. For some reason the sun adds some extra allure to the baobab trees - the mix of red, orange, and dark blue creates those perfect shots moments.
5. Lemur Island
Madagascar is probably most famous thanks to the lemurs – cute primates with pointed snouts, big eyes, and long tails only found in this island (and a small population in Comoros).
If you want to come up close and personal with these creatures Lemur Island is the perfect place to visit. Here, they have lots of rescued lemurs most of which were domesticated and kept as pets.
Since they’re used to being domesticated, the lemurs in this nature reserve can confidently pose on your shoulders for a photo!
Major Cities/Towns in Madagascar
· Antananarivo also known as Tananarive/Tana
· Helville also known as Andoany
· Mahajanga also known as Majunga
· Toamasina also known as Tamatave
Best Places to Stay in Madagascar
· Constance Tsarabanjina Madagascar
Located in Tsarabanjina, a tiny islet in the northern part of Madagascar, this resort is the epitome of tranquillity.
With just 25 thatched villas set at the edge of a tropical jungle and overlooking the pearly beaches of the Indian Ocean, this place on a private island is so secluded making it a great spot for a relaxing getaway.
For $400 in low season and $800 in peak per night for double rooms, this luxury hotel offers excellent value for money given that meals, laundry, snorkeling, and kayaking equipment are all included.
· Isalo Rock Lodge
Set atop sandstone formations and overlooking the vast Isalo National Park, this lodge is a great base for adventurers who would like to experience Madagascar’s wilderness.
Besides having multiple trails that weave through the park, nature lovers will also enjoy encounters with ring-trailed lemurs that frequent these areas.
· Meva Guesthouse
Meva Guesthouse is set in an old charming colonial building in the outskirts of the capital, Antananarivo, and super close to Ivato Airport.
From here, you can easily venture out to explore the attractions in the city center which is approximately 8km away.
The guesthouse boasts a beautiful fully equipped kitchen where you can prepare your meals and there are grocery stores barely 10 minutes away.
It costs $25-$30 per night per person depending on the season.
How to get around
With underdeveloped but improving infrastructure, it can get frustrating driving through the roads in Madagascar.
The best way to get around is by guided tours or hiring a car together with a driver.
Travel Packing List and Tips
· Pack some anti-malaria tablets
· Bring a filter bottle or stick to bottled water bought from reputable retailers
· Hand sanitizer and wet wipes
· A hat
· Health insurance
Must-try Food in
· Tilapia à la Malagasy – this is basically tilapia fish made and served the Malagasy way
· Hena Kisoa sause