We love Madagascar for the fact that it remains unspoilt, and that it contains the most incredibly diverse scenery and unique animals. And then there are the palm-fringed beaches and islands. It is a relative newcomer to the tourist scene and, as a result, offers an unspoilt experience. Due to threats on the natural habitat by proposed mining operations this, sadly, may not remain so. Now is the time to experience it.
As Dan, one of our travel consultants, said on his return from magical Madagascar:
Madagascar was incredible and has so much to offer. Certainly a destination you can visit multiple times, as it has different climatic zones. You can get wildlife, nature, beach, mountains, rich cultural history, delicious cuisine/seafood. All packed into this very unique and welcoming island. I would love to visit again soon.
Where is Madagascar?
Madagascar, the fourth largest island in the world, is located off the East coast of Southern Africa. The mainland covers just under 600 000 km2 and numerous small islands just off Madagascar’s coast are included in the country.
It is reached by flying into the capital, Antananarivo, which has an international airport. Travel within the country is often by small plane as many of the roads are in bad condition. These will be arranged for you when you book through African Budget Safaris.
The tours offered to Madagascar by African Budget Safaris are mostly tailor-made to suit your budget and time constraints, but there are also scheduled departures that travellers can join, like our 8-day Northern Madagascar Safari and Best of Madagascar Beach & Rainforests Tour.
Contact one of our knowledgeable consultants to work out the best itinerary for you.
Due to the country’s vast area, and the fact that native fauna and flora evolved in relative isolation, the country contains an incredible biodiversity, with 90% of the wildlife found here not found anywhere else in the world. Think dancing lemurs, tomato-red frogs, changeling chameleons and incredible birdlife.
It is thought that the first humans to settle on Madagascar were from Borneo. From there, traders from south-east Africa and the Arab world joined them, establishing an important trade hub on the island, which then brought the Portuguese and French. From the late 1800’s until 1958, Madagascar was a French colony, after which it obtained independence.
Malagasy and French are the official languages of Madagascar with many locals not speaking any English at all. While local operators tend to run their tours in French, the tour guides used by African Budget Safaris all speak English and when visiting the parks, specialist guides will normally be used.
The islands and beaches of Madagascar are palm-fringed with warm, azure waters lapping onto bright white sand, especially in the north. It’s like walking into paradise. Add to this incredible snorkelling and diving spots, dhows bobbing on the tide, seafood to make your mouth water and (in season) whales calving in the bay, you’re pretty much set for an idyllic holiday.
Game Reserves and Parks
Andasibe National Park
Madagascar boasts numerous national parks, each with their own attractions. Arguably the most popular is Andasibe, East of Antananarivo, a protected rainforest known for its incredible lemur sightings, huge chameleons, frogs and butterflies.
Montagne d'Ambre National Park
In the north, the Montagne d'Ambre National Park, situated on a volcanic massif offers striking rainforest scenery with waterfalls and seven species of lemur. Just south of this park, another one – Ankarana – which is known for its limestone pinnacles, sacred caves (and bats) and underground rivers.
Ranomafana National Park
Toward the south end of the island, the Ranomafana National Park is 41 600 hectares of pristine rainforest filled with lemurs, spectacular frogs (over 130 species!) and prolific birdlife. This park – and walks through it – is many people’s Madagascan highlight.
Isalo National Park
In the south-west, Isalo National Park offers something a little different to the rainforests of the north and east. Here, sandstone formations dominate the landscape, interwoven with deep canyons and palm-ringed pools.
It’s hard to describe the beauty of swimming in one of these spectacular natural pools.
Kirindy Mitea National Park
This park, also in the far south-west, is harder to visit, so gets fewer visitors. It is a small park, but one of contrasting biotypes, as the southern and western types meet here. It has both dry and tropical dry forest and is a lemur-lover’s haven.
This magical dust road, lined with ancient and enormous baobab trees is on many people’s must-see lists. It is, however, quite far off the beaten track, near Kirindy Mitea in western Madagascar, with not much else to see in the area. Keep this in mind when booking, especially if you have limited time and/or budget.
Surfing in Madagascar
Ask any surfer worth asking and they’ll tell you that Madagascar is one of the world’s best surfing spots. Bonus: it’s almost untouched with some known spots, some secret spots and, we’re pretty sure, some as-yet-undiscovered spots. With a coastline of just under 5 000 km, this is not hard to believe.
For the pros, the place to be, is the southern and south-western coastline between March and September, where the waves will quicken the heartbeat of even the most seasoned surfer. Around Ifaty, there are numerous good quality breaks found on the offshore coral reef, so you’ll need to hire a boat and skipper to get there and some experience is necessary – the coral reefs can be sharp.
There are numerous other known (and undiscovered) surf spots around the coastline of Madagascar to suit all ranges of surf experience. Chat to one of our ABS consultants and let them know what you’re looking for!
When to Go
Madagascar experiences cyclones between December and March, so is best avoided in this time. The ideal months to visit are June to November, so now’s the time to get hold of one of our consultants and book your trip to this incredible destination.
Bubonic Plague in Madagascar
A question we receive from clients often, is that about the risk of bubonic plague in Madagascar. Bubonic plague is not a reason to avoid travel to Madagascar. It occurs almost every year in the country, usually during the rainy season, when rats seek shelter in urban areas. Bubonic plague is carried by rats and spread from rats to humans by fleas. Good insect repellents can prevent this. It can, rarely, be passed on from human to human – in only the unusual, pneumonic form – via air droplets. While there is no vaccine for bubonic plague, it is treatable with antibiotics.
A particularly severe outbreak was seen in October 2017, prompting some concern, but the Madagascar Health Ministry declared the outbreak under control in late November 2017. All tours to the country remained unaffected during this time. Both the World Health Organisation and the USA-based Center for Disease Control (CDC) have not issued any travel restrictions to Madagascar and only recommend standard precautions:
- Use EPA-registered insect repellent that lists protection against fleas on the label and contains at least 25% DEET
- Avoid close contact with sick or dead animals
- Avoid close contact with seriously ill people, especially people who are coughing up blood
Since our clients started travelling to Madagascar there have been several plague outbreaks, usually between the months of September and March and no tourists have ever been affected. So for us, it is business as usual. The plague customarily occurs in rural or slum areas of Madagascar which fall outside of the tour routes we take clients on through the country.
Guides on all our tours will do a detailed briefing with guests on arrival, they themselves having been fully briefed and prepared. Furthermore, they will take extra note of the well-being of the guests and will be able to act quickly should anyone have a concern. Should you develop any symptoms while travelling, inform your guide immediately.