Madagascar Tours and Travel Guide
Madagascar Attractions & Landmarks Guide
Madagascar, the world’s fourth largest island, is known as the “Galapagos of Africa,” serving as a kind of living laboratory in the Indian Ocean. After splitting off from mainland Africa around 100 million years ago, and now lying some 225 miles away across the Mozambique Channel, its endemic animal species developed fully apart from the rest of the continent -- and the world.
Almost all of its mammal species -- including the island’s famous lemurs, a primitive type of primates -- are found nowhere else on earth. (The two major exceptions are bats as well as some lemurs found on the nearby Comoros Islands.)
Madagascar’s biodiversity is among the richest on the planet. Some 11,000 endemic plant species blanket the island, and more species of both flora and fauna are being discovered every year -- even as many others become endangered and face extinction.
Madagascar’s birds, reptiles, and amphibians are also mostly endemic. The world’s biggest and smallest chameleons, the world’s biggest primates (400-pound lemurs, now extinct) and the world’s largest bird -- the elephant bird, also now extinct -- are or were all found here.
Lemurs Are the Stars
Lemurs are the big draw in the wildlife parade. Madagascar has more than 100 species or subspecies of lemurs including pygmy mouse lemurs, the world’s smallest primates. Among the better known species are ring-tailed lemurs, aye-ayes, indris and sifakas. Loss of habitat and hunting, however, have also left lemurs the world’s most endangered primates.
The country has been aggressively establishing parks and reserves to try to protect those remaining, and deforestation has dropped dramatically in those areas. But a healthy eco-tourism industry, bringing much needed jobs and revenues into an impoverished country, is essential to maintaining their rainforest habitats.
You can look for lemurs in a number of locations throughout the island. One of the best is Montagne d’Ambre National Park, a rainforest wilderness dotted with lakes and waterfalls in the northern reaches of the island. It’s also home to the world’s smallest chameleons, among the park’s 59 species of reptiles.
Another park in the northern part of the island, Ankarana Reserve, is also rich in wildlife and plant life, as is Andasibe National Park in eastern Madagascar, where you may see several varieties of lemurs, birds and chameleons. A private reserve, Palmarium Park, also on the eastern side of the island, showcases lemurs as well as various endemic trees and plants including orchids and mahogany trees.
Giant baobabs, though, with their massive, gnarly trunks, are the most striking trees on the island. Madagascar is ringed by tropical beaches, which provide a great way to relax after tracking lemurs or spotting chameleons in the rainforests. One of the best places to recharge is Nosy Be, a much smaller island that lies about ten miles offshore, where the beaches are lined with palm trees and the snorkeling and diving are excellent amid the coral reefs.
The inland capital and largest city, Antananarivo (Tana), is built on hills and features steep stair-step streets, busy markets and old palaces to explore, while coastal Antsiranana (formerly Diego-Suarez) at the northern tip of Madagascar is located on a beautiful bay.
By far the best way to see endangered lemurs and other exotic wildlife on Madagascar is via guided tours, led by experts in navigating the local rainforests and highlands. You can rely on Stride to help you find the best outfitters on this unforgettable island.
The Different Ecological Regions of Madagascar
Madagascar is the world’s fourth largest island and as such exhibits several microclimates and the temperature fluctuates dramatically. There are 5 major climate zones (also called biomes) in Madagascar:
1. Desert - Southern Madagascar exhibits desert landscapes, most notable for the “Spiny Forest” which only thrive in this particularly arid region of Madagascar. If you visit the Spiny Forest, you’ll see plants that belong to the “Didiereaceae” family and are native to Madagascar - seen very little anywhere else on earth.
2. Savanna - The southern part of Madagascar is also where you’ll find large and flat savanna landscape, famous for the whimsically shaped Baobab trees.
3. Tropical Rainforest - Central Madagascar and the eastern coasts have high humidity and rainfall - the perfect conditions for Tropical Rainforest. Along the coasts the conditions are very similar to the Amazon basin. In the Lowland Madagascar rainforest is where you’ll find a majority of the famous ring tailed lemurs.
4. Mountain Range - There is also a large mountain range in Madagascar, running from the northern part of the island to the south. The highest peak is known as “Maromokotro” in the Tsaratanana Reserve and is open to experienced climbers.
5. Wetland - The Madagascar wetland regions run along the coasts. Mangrove forests thrive in these ecosystems, as do a large majority of Madagascar’s diverse bird population.
Things to Know Before You Go
Is Madagascar Safe?
Madagascar, overall, is safe for travelers but certain precautions should be taken into consideration when visiting here. Madagascar is a developing country and also very poor. Due to this, when visiting major cities, you will see lots of people asking for money. Although this is not necessarily a safety concern, it is something that should be noted.
You should also be careful when wearing or displaying valuable items. There are thieves who target tourists. Always be mindful of your belongings when traveling through busy streets. It should also be noted that when you are taking a guided tour, these issues are always taken into consideration which alleviates the stress of safety.
Madagascar Luxury Tours
Contrary to popular expectations, there are multiple opportunities for both premium tours and luxury tours in Madagascar.
One way to see the rugged, undeveloped landscapes of Madagascar without sacrificing any comfort is by cruise. Free of concerns about running, bugs, and having to unpack multiple times, a cruise is a great way to explore the island in its entirety.
There are also several tours which stay in high-end, exclusive hotels, with every modern comfort and fantastic views. On these sorts of trips, you are not only guaranteed amazing lodging and meals -- you will also have the chance to fully experience Madagascar. For example, you may go scuba diving in the aqua waters of the Mozambique Channel or the Indian Ocean, or take a river cruise up the Pangalanes Canal.
Volunteering in Madagascar
Madagascar is one of the 12 poorest countries in the world, and first time visitors are usually shocked by this and the country’s environmental conditions. As has become a trend over the years for those visiting Africa, many tourists have questions about giving toys to children in Madagascar. If you are motivated to give back, there are a couple ways you can do so.
Firstly, in regards to giving directly to children, there are pros and cons. While it is one good way to make sure that your gifts reach their target, it is better to think about the long term impact of your gift. Giving colored pens, pencils, and paper is a good way of still giving a “toy”, but inspiring creativity and potentially helping a child in school. Basic goods we take for granted, such as clean socks and simple bulk T-shirts, will also be greatly appreciated.
There are also several charitable organizations you can donate to that will distribute money in the local community. Some examples of these include the Access Madagascar Initiative, Blue Ventures, and Conservation International.
Madagascar Tours and Safaris
Tours of Madagascar usually have a strong emphasis on its unique and mystifying wildlife which delights tourists and ecologists alike. Madagascar’s points of interest include Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve, Isalo National Park, spiny forests, Ranomafana National Park, and scouting lemurs in Anja Reserve. Madagascar has such a rich and diverse terrain making no destination boring.
All Madagascar tours, river cruises, expedition cruises, and adventure trips. Find the best guided trips and expert planned vacation and holiday packages. Average rating of 4.7 for all Madagascar trips.