Welcome to the complete guide of visiting Madagascar. Find the top destinations, when to go, Madagascar tour companies, flights, tourist attractions, health, visa information, where to stay and so much more.
As you are visiting Madagascar, you will need to know the different things about the country because they will guide you through your whole stay in the country. We are going to look at the when you should visit the country, the requirements that are needed before you enter the country, the languages spoken and other vital information that will make your trip to Madagascar calm without interruptions.
The Best Time To Visit Madagascar?
Madagascar is an all year round holiday destination country and you can go for a safari any time that you feel like it. But remember that most of the time it is the activities that you want to do that determine when you are to visit the country.
Located in the Eastern part of the East African coast, Madagascar is an Island that has a lot to offer when it comes to trips and all you need to know is that you need to be prepared for the weather conditions that keep on changing from time to time are in the area. And since the best time depends on the activities, below are some pointers on when the best time is for one to go to this island.
If you are into lemur trekking, the best time to visit the country is between October and November during the winter season and this is because during this time, the Lemurs are often seen on ground level which makes easy to trek and you also get the chance to take a few photos. And during this same period, most of the lemurs give birth and therefore give you a chance to see both the lemur babies and pregnant lemurs that are almost giving birth.
There are two peak seasons for tourists in Madagascar and these are April to November. This period is a dry season and many tourists can be seen flocking the country to view the different tourist attraction sites in the country. It is also known as the festive season and you will get to enjoy the beautiful culture that is portrayed by the Malagasy people but not that since it is a peak season everything will be priced highly from transportation costs to accommodation facilities and if you are not a fan of large crowds, then this is not the best time for you to visit Madagascar.
The other peak season for tourists in Madagascar is from July to October and this normally is the start of the winter season and if you are to visit during this period, you should pack appropriately that is long sleeved clothes and sweaters or jackets that will help you keep warm and do not forget to pack insect repellent to ward off the insects especially at night.
Getting A Visa To Madagascar
The Madagascar visa prices greatly differ depending on the season but in most cases they are always between 35 to 37 euros. Before you go the country, you will need to fill in a migrations form and the visa form including a health form which will be asked for as soon as you land in the country.
If you are coming from a country where there are fatal diseases like Hepatitis B or yellow fever, then you are required to come with the health cards to show that you have been cleared or immunized from the diseases.
And not forgetting, it is better to walk with all the above documents as you travel to all your tours within the country because immigration officers might ask for them abruptly. The visa can go for as many days as up to thirty days and this gives you ample time to tour the country and get to know all the different hidden treasures of this wonderful island.
The Madagascan Currency
When you visit Madagascar, you will have to exchange your money at the forex bureau since most of the transactions are always done using the local currency. The local currency is known as the Malagasy Ariary or MGA and most people normally exchange their money from the airport because it is known to be cheaper than when you enter town. Your trip will be made quite easy if you have a visa card as these are accepted more than the dollars but if you do not get the chance to actually exchange your money at the airport, you can also go the different banks located in the city.
About Madagascar Tourism
The Republic of Madagascar is an island nation lying on the Indian Ocean, East of the African coast. It is neighbored by other island nations like Mauritius and the French Territory of Reunion in the East, French Territory of Mayotte in the North East and Comoros. Madagascar measures 587,000 square kilometers which makes it the fourth largest island in the world and the 47th largest country worldwide. It is the 52nd largest country in population and 174th in population density with a population of 21,290,000 people and a density of 35 people per square kilometer.
Most of the Malagasy people practice farming as a money making venture. However, the island nation is one of the world’s poorest countries with about 90% of its citizens living below the poverty line. Madagascar has also been called the “Eighth Continent” due to its unique diversity in wildlife, flora and its people and culture. Madagascar has two seasons, a hot rainy season from November through to April with cyclones caused by collision of the North Western Monsoon winds and the South Eastern trade winds and a cool dry season from May to October.
How To Get To Madagascar
There are several flights that can get you into the country but if you are not aware of them or conflicted on what exactly to use when travelling to Madagascar, we can help you arrange for the flights and airport pickup so that you do not suffer with the airlines.
When you get to the country you will be able to use the different means of transport that are found in the country but the most used transportation is water due to the fact that it is an island. But there are also other transportation means that can be used and these include road and rail transport. All these will give you an opportunity to visit the country and get to the deepest routes of it.
What Languages Are Spoken in Madagascar?
The official language that is spoken in Madagascar is French. This id due to the fact that Madagascar was colonized by the French and after them leaving, the language was maintained as the official language.
The other language that is spoken in Madagascar is Malagasy and this is commonly used by the locals especially those who have not had a formal education. And of course there are a few people who try to speak English and this used especially when translating for the tourists who come into the country.
The name Madagascar was first recorded in historical explorer, Marco Polo’s memoirs where he talked about its biodiversity and other attractions. Previously called the Malagasy Republic, Madagascar had been part of the supercontinent Gondwana but about 160 million years ago, it broke off from Africa and floated away with the Indian Peninsular. It then broke off from India too, about 88 million years ago and the indigenous species of both plants and animals were allowed to evolve in isolation and become some of the rarest wildlife and plant life on the planet.
The first evidence of human existence on the island nation was archeological finds that dated 2000 years. Malagasy oral historians set the first occupation of the Island in 350 BC to 500 BC when groups of Austronesian came from South Eastern Asia sailing on outrigger canoes from Borneo. The Austroasians then practiced the slash and burn type of farming where they cut down whole rain forests, planted crops on the land until it got exhausted upon which they would seek a new rain forest to slash and burn. At around 1000 BC, Madagascar then got an infusion of Bantu tribes sailing in from the African mainland through the Mozambique Channel.
Such late dates of settlement make Madagascar one of the last major land masses to be settled on by humans. In the 14th Century, the bio diverse island would be discovered by Portuguese sea captain, Diogo Diaz, which would open the door to Madagascar becoming an important hotspot in the transoceanic trade. That small island north of Madagascar called the Nosy Boroha has even been proposed by numerous historians as the legendary pirate’s Utopia that was called, “Libertalia” where countless European ships were shipwrecked. The Island would then be occupied by the French in the 17th Century from whom they would get independence on 17th November 1960. All these peoples and cultures left a lasting imprint on the Island country which hence makes it one of the most culturally diverse societies on the planet, with a mixture of Borneo, Sumatra, Indonesian, Java, and African descent. See more facts about Madagascar.
What Wildlife Do You Find in Madagascar?
Apart from unique people, Madagascar also has very unique wildlife. While on a safari in Madagascar, you will find that 90% of its flora and fauna is endemic to the island. It cannot be found anywhere else. The Hollywood movie franchise, “Madagascar” rightly portrayed the Ring Tailed Lemur as unique and regal in Madagascar. This unique lemur, which cannot be found anywhere else but Madagascar, is believed to be the ancestor of the monkey. Ninety percent of all lemurs in the world make a home in Madagascar. Everywhere else the lemurs evolved into monkeys. The lemur is highly revered and worshiped by the Malagasy. They believe it carries the souls of their loved ones with it. However, that is about all the movie got right about the island. There are no lions, zebras, hippos or giraffes, and definitely no penguins! But the Malagasy don’t mind. They say they love the movie because it’s very funny. The lemurs however are on the brink of extinction and have been added on the Red List of threatened species. By visiting these primates, you will be contributing to the conservation efforts of these endangered animals.
Birding in Madagascar
Madagascar is one of the top vacation holiday spots for birding in Africa. Find more about Madagascar birding, field guides, top birders and destinations.
Madagascar has 350 species of birds, 150 species of fish, and 670 species of snails and countless other unique animals, some of which are at the brink of extinction because of human activities like deforestation. These include the carnivorous Fossa which resembles a cat and uses its strong tail for balance as it moves around in the Madagascar forests. This cat was immortalized in the Madagascar franchise but in real life, its habitat has been reduced by nearly 40%
Madagascar also has the Satanic Leaf Tailed Gecko named so because of the small horns it has on its head and what looks like a sinister smile. It blends well with its environment and when threatened it can mimic dead leaves with its tail which resembles insect-nibbled leaves.
Hissing cockroaches are also endemic to the island country. These cockroaches are Hollywood’s cliché for carnivorous insects that prey on humans in the movies. However the cockroaches actually only eat fruits that falls to the ground and only crawl out of hiding from within tree trunks for fear of being eaten. They use their air holes to hiss by blowing air through them and hiss during mating and with rivals in a hissing battle to find out who hisses loudest.
Other endemic animals include the Madagascar Foddy, a beautiful lightweight bird, the Long Eared Owl, Tomato Frog, Panther Chameleon which has the widest range of colors of any chameleon on the planet, and the Darwin’s Dark spider which casts one of the strongest web, ten times stronger than Kevlar.
Madagascar is also home to the famous Boabab tree which has a bloated stem in which it stores distilled water for use in the drier season. Animals also chew on the Boabab stem in the dry season to keep away dehydration. Some hollow Boababs are even used as shelter by bats snakes and birds and even humans. They are also used to make beers and juices.
THINGS TO DO AND SEE IN MADAGASCAR
Find things to do while on your Madagascar tours.
The Tsingy de Bamahara National Park
Tsingy De Bamahara National Park is one of the most intriguing places to visit in the world. Located in Southern Madagascar in the Melaky Region, Mahajanga Province, the UNESCO listed world heritage site is a 250sq kilometer park made up of tall limestone obelisks with jagged spears that were created over many centuries by the movement of water and wind. The area is also called, “forest of limestone” and “limestone cathedral”. The reserve is a sanctuary for some of Madagascar’s rarest animals like 11 species of lemur including the white lemur. The obelisks or lime pinnacles are able to sustain different ecosystems both at the top and at the bottom of the forest as some animals can be seen hanging from the jagged spears of the limestone icicles. You can take a cycling tour here.
The Royal Hill of Ambohimanga
The Royal Hill of Ambohimanga is Madaga
scar’s most sacred place for the Malagasy. The historical village was the home of the Malagasy royalty, the Medina of the central highlands. The palace consists of a traditional grass thatched palace that was the abode of the all-powerful King Andrianampoinimerina. It is built in wood and a rosewood center pole that is said to have been carried thousands of miles from the coast and cost a few hundred slaves their lives in the process. King Andrianampoinimerina is also said to have hidden among the rafters whenever he got visitors and he would drop a pebble on his wife’s head to signal to her that the particular visitor was approved. You can also visit the king’s royal baths which he dipped in once a year and the water thereafter used for sacred purposes.
Next door to the King’s grass thatched palace stands, in contrasting fashion, Queen Ranavalona’s European style palace that was built for her by the French Engineer Jean Laborde. This palace was fitted with mirrors to help the Queen monitor her servants and prevent one of them poisoning her food.
The wall that surrounds the palace is also a marvel as it was built in mortar and 16million eggs. The Royal Hill is a marvel that will fill you with awe at man’s abilities and give yo
u an insight into Malagasy culture as you witness pilgrims who even today still leave offerings at the palace.
The Ille Saint Marie
Ille Saint Marie is a beach on the Eastern coast of Madagascar. It is very well known for having been a hotspot for pirates in the 17th and 18th Century. Shipwrecks of European trade ships that were on their way to trade across the inter-oceanic trade circuit can still be seen below from the shallow clear waters of the Baie des Forbans. The beach is also one of Madagascar’s most ideal places for diving, snorkeling, and clear water fishing.
Ifaty is a combination of two dusty beach towns in the South West of Madagascar that are well known for their wonderful beach holiday resorts. The beaches have a 60mile long coral reef that harbors the coast from dangerous aggressive waves from the Indian Ocean. This makes for calm waters at the beach ideal for snorkeling, fishing and diving. Deeper into the inland also stands the famous Boabab trees that have lived for centuries. Some Boabab trees have even been known to live for 8 centuries.
The Avenue of the Boababs
Madagascar is home to some of the planet’s most intriguing and unique trees, the Boababs. Boabab trees have bloated stems in which they store distilled water for use in drier seasons. They also have few leaves which is probably a way to reduce water loss. Animals in the dry seasons eat the tree trunk to save themselves from dehydration. The Avenue of the Boababs is a group of trees lining the dirt road from Morondava and Beloni Tsribihina in Western Madagascar. These particular trees were part of an entire forest of Boababs which however got chopped down by the locals so as to farm the land. The Avenue was protected and left intact as an attraction for tourists and has indeed pulled in countless tourists every year.
The Ranomafana National Park
Ranomafana National Park is located in the village of Ranomafana. The most beautiful part of the park is the Eastern side which is covered in streams splashing against rocks through rainforest which makes for a scenic view that will set your heart to rest. It is the habitat of the Golden Bamboo Le
mur which, as the name suggests, lives on bamboo and a diet filled with cyanide which is dangerous for other animals but has no effect on them.
The Isalo National Park
Isalo National Park is located in Central Southern Madagascar and is well known for its varied terrain which is rather a contrast to the rainforest of Ranomafana Park. Isalo is covered in grasslands with steep canyons, sandstone and occasional pools with palm trees.
Antananarivo Holidays Madagascar
You can also visit the city of Antananarivo which is Madagascar’s capital city and economic center. It has unique sites like the Rova sitting atop one of Madagascar’s highest hills and was the home of Queen Ravalona II. It also houses the royal tombs of the former Merina kings and queens. You can also visit the Muses Andafivarata which was the Prime Minister Rainilaiariviny’s home. The prime minister is famous for having married three queens in succession. Queen Rasoherina, Queen Ranvalona II, and Queen Ranvalona III. He is also said to have been the power behind the throne.
Other parks include Amber Mountain National Park, Anja Community Reserve, Anjajavy Private Reserve, Fianarantsoa, Tsimanampetsotsa, Masoala National Park, Zahamena National Park, Zombitse Vohibasia , Kirindy Mitea, Andasibe Mantadia, Andohahela, Andringita, Ankarafantsika, Ankarana, Bay Of Baly
WHERE TO STAY IN MADAGASCAR
Madagascar has a lot of accommodation facilities that cater for everyone’s budget and they are all good to stay in. once you get the chance to visit the country, you need to be well equipped and at least know where you are going to stay once you get there. Some of the accommodations that can be accessed on the Island include:
The bamboo club Ifaty
Located in the dusty town of Ifaty, the bamboo club offers one of the best facilities in the area when it comes to accommodation. They have bungalow rooms that have private washrooms and a terrace where you can enjoy the morning and setting sun from.
They also offer meals in their restaurant that include local cuisines, they have an outdoor swimming pool and offer private parking for all vehicles. They also offer free WIFI, a scenic view to the garden, an airport shuttle although this one comes at a free cost and they also allow pets.
The ITC lodge
The ITC lodge is located in Ranohira and it is located near the Isalo National Park. They offer good meals at the restaurant, they offer a packed lunch for all those who want to go for picnics or game drives and they have an open bar where one can go for a drink. The rooms are very spacious and they have an inbuilt toilet and bathroom that is well equipped and a terrace from where you can see the setting sun and enjoy the view around the lodge.
They also offer car hire services and an offer for free transportation to the airport and the lodge also offers good terrains for those who love hiking.
There are so many other accommodation facilities that I have not mentioned here but they can be secured by booking with us early so that we get you the best accommodation that can fit into your budget and remember that if you are coming during the peak seasons you should prepare to spend extra money so come fully prepared to spend your extra change as you enjoy Madagascar.
Hotel Sakamanga is a midrange and top range hotel in Antananarivo. It has friendly atmosphere with friendly employees who will make your stay comfortable. It has a beautiful decor that is made up of many artifacts enough to fill up a museum, some of which are from Malagasy cultures. The rooms have free Wi-Fi, flat TV with cable, bathrooms with flush toilets, terraces where you can view the city. The famous Prime minister’s palace, Andafiavarata is only a 10 minute drive away.
L’heure Bleue is located on the tropical island of Nosy Be and overlooks the Madirokely Bay. The Crater bay is also 20 minutes away. Both these bays are good for snorkeling, diving, fishing and generally having a relaxing feel of a tropical atmosphere. The rooms at the hotel are housed in bungalows which have a very good view of the bay and the ocean. They have a terrace for relaxation, a breathtaking swimming pool, a bar and restaurant which serves both Malagasy and international cuisines, free WiFi, and tropical decor in the lounges.
Le Karthala is a nice guesthouse in the heart of the city owned by Antananarivo local, Marianne. It is one of Madagascar’s oldest guesthouses and they value the 18 year experience they have gained in catering to the needs of travelers. The guest house is homely and comfortable with beautiful rooms, a roof terrace on the roof for relaxing as you sip a drink and look over at the city. They provide breakfast and guests are free to use the kitchen at any time.
Tsara Guest House:
Tsara Guest House is a plantation-style guesthouse which is perennially popular among tourists to the capital. The communal spaces are commendable, the welcoming area, with a thriving fire; a glass-walled eatery serving appealing food and a beautiful outdoor terrace with great views. There are four categories of room from regular presidential suite.
Other good hotels to stay at are the Chez Francis which has a beautiful view of the city, and Hotel le Glaciers which has live music.
Any Healthy Vaccinations Required Before Visiting Madagascar?
Like any other country, Madagascar also has her own health sanctions that are supposed to be followed when it comes to tourists entering the country. The different proof vaccinations that are required from tourists in Madagascar include Hepatitis A and B, yellow fever, Malaria, MMR and typhoid. These will be asked for by the immigration officers as soon as you land into the country. And if you have a sensitive skin, you are also recommended to have sunscreen that will protect you from the tropical sun that is in the country and repellent to avoid insect bites especially during the cold weathers.
Is Madagascar Safe For Tourists?
Madagascar is extremely safe to travelers and everyone can visit the country whenever they want. But note that during election times you will find some be safe warnings especially in the big towns and city Centres and they are always warnings to all those who are not in support of the majority. This is never focused towards the travelers but it will not kill you just to be aware of the conmen.