In the Indian Ocean, off the southeastern coast of Africa lies one of the most bio-diverse countries in the world, Madagascar. Madagascar, the fourth-largest island in the world, is a diverse and utterly unique travel destination. The island is best known for its lemurs, exceptional biodiversity and abundance of endemic species. Madagascar is also renowned for its vibrant peoples, not to mention the tropical beaches, varied landscapes and bustling markets.
Visitors are drawn to this far-flung destination not only for its diversity of rare and exotic plants and animals, but also for its unexplored coral reefs and untouched wilderness areas covering a variety of scenic landscapes. Add to this the unique and welcoming Madagascan cultures, spectacular sea life and idyllic islands and it’s easy to see the immense allure of Madagascar.
Madagascar is said to be home to 5% of the world’s flora and faunas species, of which over 80% are classified as endemic to Madagascar. When it comes to the mammal species on Madagascar only the bats can be found anywhere else in the world, with all other mammals species being endemic to this remarkable island. An estimated 65% of the bird species found on Madagascar are also endemic species. This island is the only place in the world where 70 varieties of lemur are found, ranging from acrobatic sifakas to rodent-like aye-ayes, traditionally viewed as bad omens by the local people. Madagascar is also home to the last remaining elephant birds, the largest bird in the world, among other exotic wildlife species. The world’s biggest and smallest chameleons also inhabit the island, which boasts the highest diversity of chameleons in the world. The plant diversity in Madagascar is also incredible including several endemic Baobab tree species.
The diversity of Madagascar’s people reflects the rich natural diversity found in the flora and fauna of this isolated country. The Malagasy originated from Africa and Indonesia originally, with Arabic, Indian and Jewish immigrants mixing in with the population later. Today the warm-hearted locals are friendly and polite adding to the enjoyment of visiting this biological melting pot and exploring its fascinating cultures along with the natural splendors. Madagascan culture is rich in traditional beliefs, steeped in taboo, superstition and the magical realm.
The picturesque capital of Madagascar, Antananarivo is a unique city set on the hills of the Antananarivo province. In Antananarivo visitors can explore the narrow streets appreciating the architecture and visit the ancient town with its old churches and ancient palaces. Antananarivo has bustling markets and an atmosphere of its own. It is said that Antananarivo is at its most charming in the evenings when you can climb up to the old palace for spectacular views of the sun setting over the town and surrounding countryside.
Montagne d'Ambre is a scenic wilderness area that covers 18,200 hectares of volcanic massif in northern Madagascar consisting primarily of lush montane rainforest. The park is home to lemurs and the smallest chameleons in the world, amongst a host of other rare and exotic bird, plant and animals species. Montagne d’Ambre is known for its crater lakes, sacred caves, waterfalls and remarkable wildlife. This beautiful game park boasts some of the highest bio-diversity in Madagascar, including 75 bird species, 25 mammal species, 34 species of amphibians and 59 species of reptiles.
Located at the northern tip of Madagascar this coastal town is set on a wide bay offering sweeping views of the Madagascan coast. Diego Suarez is a good place to get a taste of Madagascan culture, with its friendly locals and local women who traditionally wear colourful clothes and makeup.
Nosy Be, also known as Nosy Manitra or "The scented Island", is the largest of the offshore Madagascan islands. This beautiful tropical island, covered with palm trees and bright bougainvilleas, lies 15 km from the Madagascan mainland. The relaxed island of Nosy Be features unspoilt beaches and rich marine life offering visitors superb snorkeling, diving and kayaking opportunities in its clear waters. Marine life found around Nosy Be and its surrounding islands includes colourful corals and an exceptional variety of fish, as well as whales, dolphins, whale sharks and turtles. You can also climb the peaks of Mont Passot or Mount Lokone for panoramic views of the coast, visit the Ylang Ylang distillery or sample some local spices and mingle with the friendly locals on Nosy Be.
Other activities on Nosy Be include visiting the bustling daily market in Hell-Ville for cheap spices or stopping at the handicrafts market and going to see the scared tree. You could also go fishing or quad biking as well as enjoying sundowners on top of Passot or on one of the beautiful beaches. Lokobie is a remote jungle village on Nosy Be, accessible only by sea, which makes it a unique and tranquil travel destination. It can be reached by motorised pirogues and lies well off the beaten track. In Lokobie Reserve you can take explore the jungle on foot to see the exotic wildlife, including the famous Nosy Be Panther Chameleon found in the remaining lowland rainforest. From Nosy Be you can visit several nearby islands, such as Nosy Komba, home to semi-tame black lemurs, Nosy Tanikely for superb snorkeling and Nosy Sakatia for its excellent scuba diving.
Situated off the East coast of Madagascar the island of St. Marie is a whale watching hot spot, also known for its pristine sandy beaches and unspoilt coral reefs. This lush island with its fascinating history and white shores is a holidaymaker’s paradise. On St. Marie you can snorkel from an offshore islet, visit a pirates' cemetery, go fishing, take a stroll through cashew and cinnamon trees, go scuba diving or simply relax on its beaches.
The Ankarana Reserve in northern Madagascar is known for it dramatic scenery with its limestone karst pinnacles, underground riverbeds and caves. Ankarana boasts beautiful scenery and a rich variety of wildlife, birds and plant species.
Andasibe National Park, one of Madagascar’s most visited National Parks, is home to many unique wildlife species, including numerous rare endemic and endangered species. Wildlife such as nocturnal lemurs, Indri lemurs, brown lemurs, bamboo lemurs and various birds, as well we colourful chameleons can be found in Andasibe Park in eastern Madagascar.
The private Palmarium Park, also known as Akanin' ny Nofy, is located on the east coast of Madagascar, in the Pangalanes Channel, along the Ampitabe lake and the Indian Ocean. The park is home to a many of Madagascar’s endemic species of flora and fauna, such as rare palm trees, orchids and mahogany trees and reptiles as well as various species of lemurs.
There are several Madagascar Tours to choose from including Budget Lodge, Exclusive Budget and Budget Sailing Tours. The Madagascar Safaris that African Budget Safaris offers range in length from 4 to 15 days and visit the island of Madagascar exclusively, taking you to the best game reserves and attractions in different parts of this unique country.
Find out more with our Madagascar budget travel guide page.