Rainforests of long-limbed succulents house leaping lemurs, while stout baobabs sport trunks branded with trippy red-and-yellow swirls. Elsewhere, powder-white sands collide with cyan waters, hiding barrier reefs. This kaleidoscope of nature forms the fabric of Madagascar.
With 250 islands, 450km of barrier reef, and around 5000km of coastline, the tropical island’s shores prove hard to resist. Divers are spoiled for choice of sites – from underwater cathedrals to rusted shipwrecks – and share the deep waters with rays, whale sharks, and reef sharks. Snorkel among curious fish, colourful coral, and graceful turtles. Those keen to keep their heads above water can watch the humpback whales breach, join a local fisher on a pirogue trip, or simply recline in their hammock.
Isalo National Park covers 81,500ha of Jurassic sandstone massif and is home to ringtail, brown, and sifaka lemurs, as well as sacred Bara burial sites. Delve into the island’s history, from the pirate cemetery strewn with palms, to the 12 sacred hills of Antananarivo. Madagascar is a cultural melting pot of intricate beliefs and rituals in reverence of ancestors, and full of ethnic spices and exotic cuisines
- The island’s shores prove hard to resist with 250 islands, 450km of barrier reef, and around 5000km of coastline
- Dive with whale sharks in the underwater cathedrals, or snorkel among curious fish
- Watch the humpback whales breach, join a local fisher on a pirogue trip, or simply recline in your hammock
- Delve into the island’s history, from the pirate cemetery to the 12 sacred hills of Antananarivo
- Isalo National Park covers 81,500ha of Jurassic sandstone massif and is home to ringtail, brown, and sifaka lemurs
Facts and Information
The Republic of Madagascar encompasses the island of the same name, some 400km off the east coast of Africa. It separated from the mainland about 160 million years ago, and is the world's fourth largest island, offering a unique and inspiring wildlife experience.
While Madagascar is home to some pretty incredible beaches ringed by coral reefs, swaying palms and silky white sands, it offers so much more than a seaside holiday. The island is famous for its diversity of fauna and flora, with over 200,000 species that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Among these are over 100 species of lemur, countless chameleons, insect-eating pitcher plants, octopus trees and bottle-shaped baobabs!
It is inhabited by the Malagasy people who come from Polynesia originally and bear greater resemblance in their culture and customs to Asia than Africa. There are many taboos and sacred rituals such as 'turning over the dead' in which people's remains are removed from their tombs, rewrapped and returned there after festivities in their honor to celebrate communion between the living and dead.
Madagascar can be visited all year round and it can be divided into two distinct seasons. The dry season runs during the winter (May to October) and there is tropical rainfall from December to April. The weather does vary according to each region. The coastal areas are warm and enjoy average temperatures from 21°-26°C while the inland plateau is cooler (average temperature 13°-20°C) and generally dryer. The eastern and northwestern coasts receive more rain during the winter from the southeasterly trade winds but the inland areas and western coast endure monsoon rainfall during the summer. The southern region is dry and barren with little rainfall, amounting to semidesert in some places.
Language: French, Malagasy. English is not widely spoken.
Currency: Ariary; see www.xe.com for exchange rates.
Visas: All visitors require visas - they cost USD84 and are valid for 3 months and multiple entries.
Vaccinations: Madagascar is a malaria area and you should consult your doctor or travel clinic for advice on the right medication. No vaccinations are required, and the country is pretty safe to visit.
Travelling to Madagascar
Madagascar is a pretty remote island, some 400km off the east coast of Africa. Tourism is starting to boom on the island and there are now regular flights from Europe, North America, Asia as well as South and East Africa.
There are four direct flights each week from Paris to the capital Antananarivo with Air Madagascar. Air France also flies this route on a regular basis. There are direct flights from Milan and some international charters fly direct to Nosy Be, on the north coast.
Madagascar is easily combined with other destinations in Africa, the perfect add-on to a Big Five Safari. There are two flights a week from Nairobi with Air Madagascar and 6 flights per week from Johannesburg. Air Mauritius flies daily to Antananarivo and Air Austral jets in from Reunion.
Travellers from Asia can now fly here directly from Bangkok or it is pretty easy to arrive via Mauritius and catch a connecting flight. Ivato Airport receives the international flights and is situated 12km north of Antananarivo, just a short drive from the capital city.
Once you have arrived in Madagascar, transport really depends on your destination. Most travellers opt for an internal flight from Antananarivo to Nosy Be or one of the coastal resorts. Air Madagascar operates many routes and provides good value for money.
Since less than 15% of the country’s roads are paved, travelling long distances by car is not recommended. A highlight of any visit is a Dhow Safari - island hopping for a few days on a traditional Arab sailing boat, the ultimate way to experience Madagasar!
NB: We can organise everything from your international flights to your domestic charters or road transfers. Don't stress out about planning your journey - leave it to the Rhino Africa experts. Get free, no-obligation advice