If you are looking for a destination that is truly unique, or to see and touch one-of-a-kind animals, to experience a different destination with refreshing warm-hearted locals, an indescribably astonishing sea life and huge national parks, you will be highly rewarded in Madagascar. As one of the most bio-diverse countries on earth, it will entice you as no other destination can.
With the remarkable exception of bats, which could fly from the 4th largest island in the world, there is not a single Madagascar mammal species which we can find in any other place in the world. About 80% of plant species and 65% of all bird species can only be found there.
Doubtless the most famous inhabitants of this island are the lemurs. There are 50 types of these half monkeys and half squirrels. They are skillful climbers and powerful jumpers, able to make leaps of up to 10 m from one tree branch to the next.
Madagascar is “home” to nearly one-quarter of all the flowering plants in Africa. It also boasts half the world’s population of chameleons.
In Madagascar you can identify some of the world’s most bizarre creatures on Earth like the nightmarish hissing cockroach, so-called Dracula ants, tomato frogs, giant rats and hedgehog-like tenrecs and the Giraffe-necked weevil are other curious creatures inhabiting this exotic island.
Even the large rainforests of South America cannot compete with the enormous biodiversity of Madagascar’s flora and fauna, which offer a unique habitat for some survivals of the Dino time like the chameleon. Remarkable tree species like swollen Baobab and the spiny forest also flourish.
Then there is the legendary hospitality and politeness of the Malagasy population.
InMadagascar, visitors are advised to respect children, mothers, the elderly and rice fields. A Malagasy will not invite you for “lunch“, but literally to “share his/her rice”.
Marvel at the diverse landscapes – from lush tropical rainforest to semi arid and to pointy limestone pinnacles.Madagascaris a place where you can go from rainforest to desert in just 300km. There are few places on earth that offer such an intense kaleidoscope of nature. Making the best of it, however, can be challenging:Madagascarroads are dismal. But those who relish an adventure will come into their own.
Malagasy Ariary (MGA)
Daylight Savings Time
Drives on the
When to go
When planning a trip to Madagascar, travellers should have in mind what they do not want to miss from this extraordinary land and which their personal interests are, since each season has its own highlights.
The only time you should avoid is January to March, when heavy rain can make many roads muddy and impassable, and when there’s a high risk of cyclones in the east and northeast. Certain hotels are closed and even some big tour operators are not operative.
The tourist season begins in April after the cyclones. The rainy season is almost over but some areas are still hard to reach because of the terrible roads after the rainfalls. Until June it is “low season”, so prices are cheaper now than during the following months. This is the season of the rice crops on the highlands, a real impressive event to see.
In general, the period between May to October (winter in the southern hemisphere) is the most pleasant time to travel to Madagascar, with cooler temperatures and little rain. However, since the last years the traditional weather pattern is no longer reliable due to global climatic changes. You can have plenty of rain during the dry season and vice versa, so be ready for anything!
The months of July and August are the peak of the “high season” because it is the time when most tourists visit since they are on holidays. These two months are the “coolest” months of the year, which is not bad at all in the coastal regions where you can perfectly bath without being burnt by the sun. For nature lovers there are good and bad news: it is the whale season on the east season but at the same time many reptiles and small mammals are hibernating. You can never have it all!
So if you are planning to visit Madagascar during the European or American summer, you should book in advance (both plane tickets and accommodation in busy beach areas).
The months from September to December are also a very popular period to visit Madagascar. It is hotter than during the last months and it does not rain a lot (the rainy season starts at the end of December). It is the best time to enjoy beach holidays and to observe the rich wildlife, since chameleons, lizards, snakes and rodents are active again.
It is important to make air reservations to Madagascar early.
Major attractions in Madagascar
The Queen’s Palace
It is the region’s national monument and was home to nine monarchs in the 17th century from Andrianjaka to Ranavalona. Read More
The Royal Hill of Ambohimanga
The Royal Hill of Ambohimanga not only prides itself on enthralling ancient historical and religious sites but also on architecture. Read More
Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve
Tsingy is from the word “mitsingitsignia”, a Malagasy term which means ‘to walk on tiptoe’ or also a place ‘where one cannot walk barefoot’. Read More
Other attractions in Madagascar include:
- Central Highlands
- Isalo National Park
- Avenue of the Baobabs
- Pirate Cemetery at Île Sainte-Marie
- Nosy Be Island
- Labyrinth of Stone
- Rovan’i Manjakamiadana
- Andafiavaratra Palace
- Tsimbazaza Zoo
- Tsingy de Bemaraha
Day Trips in Antananarivo
The region aside from having a rich cultural heritage also has an abundance of natural resources and wildlife. Read More
Excursions and Tours
Touring around picturesque Antananarivo, capital of the island nation of Madagascar, is an experience so priceless and enriching. Read More
Sightseeing in Antananarivo
The city possesses a charm that fills the senses of a keen traveller. The main attraction that the region prides itself on is its rich flora and fauna. Read More
Events & Festivals
- Donia at Nosy Be, dedicated to « hot » tropical music
- Madajazzcar, started in 1989 in Antananarivo, international.
- Batrelaky, celebrating harvest in the southeast
- Zagnaharibe, celebrating the return of humpback whales to Sainte Marie
- Feria Oramena in Taolagnaro, big festival organised celebrating the lobster.
- Volambe Tohaka, marking the period of festivals in Amoron’i Mania
- Festival Avy letchis e ! marking the beginning of the letchi campaign in Toamasina
- Mitsaka in December at Foulpointe for the promotion of music and dance of the region
- Festibo (Festival of Boina) which Majunga wishes to last a long time.
- Kabaro Estival Musik in Diego Suarez
- Volambetohaka in August in Amoron’i Mania. It is the revival of a very old Betsileo festival
- Kokambo at Mahanoro, cultural and sportive
- Talango Hare, music, dance, customs and traditions non –stop in November at Ambovombe Androy
- Wood en Stock on the theme of reforestation, in the valley of Tsaranoro, Ambalavao
Preparing to visit
The weakening of government authority and rising unemployment, muggings and robberies are occurring with increasing frequency, not only in urban areas but in nature reserves and on beaches.
It is advised against all but essential travel to Andohahela National Park and against all travel on road RN13 between Ambovombe and Ihosy. You should exercise extreme caution and follow local advice if travelling in the south east of the country.
You should also take sensible precautions in crowded areas such as street markets and airports, where pick-pocketing is common.
Safeguard valuables, important documents and cash. Deposit them in hotel safes, where practical. Keep copies of important documents, including passports, in a separate place to the documents themselves. Police are currently checking identities in urban areas and a copy of your passport – including the local visa page should be held on you at all times.
It is advisable to travel with established organizations or travel firms who have the capacity to monitor the local media and warn of possible trouble.
You should keep clear of any street disturbances. You should not leave your bags unattended, or go near unattended bags. You should keep large amounts of money, jewellery, cameras and cell phones out of sight when walking in town centres. Avoid walking in city centres after dark.
There have been incidents of armed robbery in some National Parks. If you intend to visit a National Park, seek advice from a tour operator or from the park administration in advance. We advise against all but essential travel to Andohahela National Park (known locally as Tsimilahy). The park was closed for two weeks in August due to an increase in criminal activity and the main campsite is still closed.
The cyclone season in Madagascar normally runs from January to March. Coastal areas are particularly affected. You should monitor local and international weather updates.
The capital Antananarivo is not usually seriously affected by cyclones.
LOCAL LAWS AND CUSTOMS
If you intend to visit remote areas, you should seek prior advice either locally or from your tour operator and respect local fady (taboos) wherever possible to avoid causing offence. There are three category of fady: those related to actions – for example believing it is fady to sing while you are eating and if you do you will develop elongated teeth; those related to objects – for example, the Merina will not have funerals on Tuesdays as this may bring about another death in the family. Foreigners are exempt from having to adhere to fady, although it is sensible and considerate to find out as much as possible about this in regions you are visiting so as to avoid offending people. The most classical example of fady to which tourists might be confronted is the ban on the access to burial sites.
Drug smuggling is a serious offence. Punishments can be severe.
There are no laws against homosexuality.
The Malagasy Authorities have recently introduced laws against consorting with female prostitutes.
The campaign against sexual abuse of under age children (under 18 years) is strictly enforced with particular regard to foreign tourists.
The import and export of foodstuffs (including fruit), protected plants and animals is illegal.
Money and Cash
Madagascar shifted back to its traditional currency, the Ariary (MGA), in 2005. ZAR 1.00 will get you about MGA 285.40.
As the Malagasy currency is not convertible, it is advised to exchange foreign currency only as necessary.
The maximum amount of Malagasy currency you can withdraw at a time is 400,000 Ariary (approximately £120). Some banks will not exchange local currency back into foreign currency. You should ensure you are not left with large amounts of Malagasy Ariary at the end of your stay. Keep transaction slips showing amounts of foreign currency transferred into local currency. Foreign currency of more than 7,500 Euros in value must be declared on arrival.
Banks are available in all major cities of the country. They are open from8 AMto4 PM; major banks have a cash dispenser, accepting VISA and MASTERCARD. Money transfers are also possible viaWestern Unionoffices.
Only banks and exchange agencies in town or in airports, shopping centers and large hotels are authorized to exchange currencies. Avoid informal illegal money changers in certain streets.
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