Madagascar, officially the Republic of Madagascar and previously known as the Malagasy Republic, is an island country in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Southeast Africa. The country includes the island of Madagascar, the fourth largest island in the world, and many smaller peripheral islands. Its capital and largest city is Antananarivo. Madagascar’s tourism relies heavily on its high level of biodiversity, with over 90% of its wildlife unique to the country and cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
What to see & do
About 88 million years ago, Madagascar split from India, following the prehistoric breakup of the supercontinent Gondwana. This resulted to the island country’s flora and fauna to evolve in relative isolation, thus producing an abundance of diverse plant and animal species that cannot be found anywhere else on Earth. Around 90% of Madagascar’s flora and fauna are endemic, making the country earn the nickname “the eighth continent.” The eastern side of the island have tropical rainforests, while the western and southern sides have tropical dry forests, thorn forests, and deserts and xeric shrublands.
The largest reserve in Madagascar with an area of 152,000 hectares is the Tsingy de Bemaraha, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors to this area can marvel at the raised limestone plateau decorated with a razor-sharp collection of pinnacles (“Tsingy”), also called the Labyrinth of Stone. Brown lemurs and a number of bird species inhabit the reserve, as well as the rare all-white Decken’s sifaka. As the Tsingy de Bemaraha is restricted on some areas, a smaller version, the Tsingy de Ankarana, on the national road to Antisirana is easier to access.
One of the most popular sites in the Menabe Region in Madagascar is the Avenue of the Baobabs, located north of Morondava on Madagascar’s west coast. This avenue is lined with fascinating huge baobab trees. Some of the trees here are over 800 years old and stand tall at over 30 metres. The Avenue of the Baobabs is best visited during sunset.
Surrounded by water, Madagascar also offers various options of water activities including kitesurfing and windsurfing at Emerald Sea, guided kayaking at Ile Sainte Marie, deep sea fishing at Nosy Be, and the annual cheese diving competition where competitors from around the world dive into a coral reef to retrieve a block of cheese.
Aside from ecotourism, Madagascar is also a melting pot of ethnic diversity, with the Malagasy culture comprising Arabic, Indian, and Chinese influences.
How to get around within Madagascar
Air Madagascar serves domestic flights between the cities and the hamlets. Flying is an ideal mode of transport when getting around Madagascar, as some of the roads are not in good condition. Travelling by train is also an option, with four rail lines travelling through Antananarivo-Ambatondrazaka via Moramanga, Antananarivo-Antsirabe, Fianarantsoa-Manakara, and Antananarivo-Toamasina, respectively. The cheapest, although the slowest, way to get around Madagascar is by driving. Using a 4WD is recommended as the roads are very low grade and can tend to have potholes and can be quagmires during the rainy season. Due to the poor condition of the roads, car hire companies require that you also use their drivers when renting a car, as the driver is well-versed on Madagascar’s roads; they can act as your travel guide and translators as well.
Most of the locals in Madagascar travel via taxi-brousse; hence this is a great way to learn more about the Malagasy way of life and interact with the natives. The trip also allows travellers to appreciate the scenic landscapes. Taxi-be, or big taxi, is another mode of transport, a bit larger than a minivan. Taxi-be act as buses with foldable seats on the aisle. Yacht charter with a guide is also available for hire in Madagascar. This is an interesting way to travel between the islands. When covering short distances, riding a mountain bike is a fun option.
How to get there
Ivato International Airport, located 16km from Antananarivo, is the main international airport in Madagascar. It is a main hub for Air Madagascar, and serves flights from Europe and neighbouring countries and islands in the east. Other airlines operating at the airport include Air Austral, Air France, Airlink, Air Mauritius, Air Seychelles, Comores Aviation, Corsair International, and Kenya Airways.
Images by Flickr\Effervescing Elephant
Prices shown on this page are estimated lowest prices only. Found in the last 45 days.