If your over-riding thoughts of Madagascar are lemurs and more lemurs then it’s time to think again! While these unusual endemic primates are widespread across the country, this Indian Ocean island actually offers far more than that, and the rapidly improving road network and tourism infrastructure is making it an increasingly popular destination for those wanting something just that little bit different.
Antananarivo, the capital, is built on hills that take you and the buildings continuously up and down. It has tiny, colourful houses with pointed or triangular roofs, while the city is particularly beautiful at sunset, as everything acquires an orangey hue, making everything seem even warmer. From the central highlands of the island, you can branch out in any direction taking in the verdant and hilly rainforests of the eastern highlands, or the drier and rockier southern terrains, and perhaps finish with perfect beach luxury on the isolated north-west coast.
The fourth-largest island in the world is home to 5% of the world’s plant and animal species, of which more than 80% are endemic to Madagascar. This includes some of the 32 species of lemur, including the ape-like Indris with its unique and unusual call, the mongoose-like fossa, the largest carnivorous mammal on the island, the nocturnal aye-aye and tenrec (spiny hedgehog) and some of the most amazing amphibians and bird-life that you will ever see.
Staying in comfortable 4-star accommodation, and being driven around by knowledgeable and local private guides, you will also gain insight into the interesting Malagasy customs and cultures of this former French colony. Ancient tribal traditions are still widespread, including the spiritual ‘turning of the dead’ when relatives are removed from the family tomb and their lives celebrated with festive ceremonies of singing and dancing, before being returned to their burial place.
The translation of the word safari is actually journey – so for a ‘safari’ like no other, Madagascar is the place to be – unique wildlife, spectacularly diverse scenery, beautiful beaches, history, culture and tradition.
Madagascar is a scenically diverse country with several distinct climatic zones ranging from desert to tropical rainforest. The general weather pattern is that the driest months are from mid- April to November, which is the best time to travel. The main climatic zones run the length of the island from north to south, rather like “slicing it long ways”.
The eastern part receives the highest rainfall which is at its heaviest in February and March when cyclones can occur. It is a lot drier and pleasantly warm from mid- April through to the end of the year, though rain can come at any time. The central part is quite mountainous and is mainly dry with pleasant temperatures from mid- April to the end of the year. The temperatures in the central region are influenced by altitude and as the dry season is also the cooler season you need to pack warmer clothing for cold nights and early mornings when the temperatures can drop to low single figures centigrade. Most visitors will spend part of their safari travelling by road from north to south through the central part of the country.
The west is the driest part, becoming drier as you move south. South west and southern Madagascar are the driest regions which have little rainfall at any time of year. Be sure to speak to us about the best time of year to plan your own visit to Madagascar.
Madagascar - Useful Information
There are no direct flights between London and Antananarivo, Madagascar’s capital. There is a daily three hour flight from Johannesburg to Antananarivo, which connects with the incoming overnight flight from London. The Kenya Airways overnight flight from London to Nairobi also connects five times a week with a three hour flight to Antananarivo. Madagascar is three hours ahead of GMT.
Most visitors to Madagascar require a visa and citizens of UK, USA and most European countries can obtain this on arrival if their stay is for less than 30 days. For longer stays a visa must be obtained in advance.
Madagascar is vast land with diverse scenery, unique vegetation and wildlife and unusual cultures. To see the main part of the country requires a stay of at least 10 days, preferably two weeks or longer. You are advised to call us at an early stage to plan your visit to this complex country. Africa Exclusive will arrange your travel with a private vehicle and private guide and you will probably spend a week to ten days in this way exploring the central parts and the forests where lemurs and other amazing wildlife are found. We can combine this with flights to other parts of Madagascar. The country is excellent for walking and for relaxation and watersports there are several idyllic islands and coastal areas.
Madagascar is still quite undeveloped and very poor so the quality of food and accommodation and the standard of guiding is generally less sophisticated than in other safari regions of Africa. However this is part of the experience of travelling to one of southern Africa’s least known, least visited locations.
Please consult your medical doctor for advice about vaccinations and protection from malaria.
Thousands of Endemic Species
Madagascar, the world’s fourth largest island, is home to 5% of the planet’s known plants and animals and over 80% of these are found solely on the island which makes it an excellent destination for nature lovers. Endemic fauna and flora include 32 types of lemur, 860 orchid species, and 3,000 indigenous kinds of butterfly as well as both the world’s largest and smallest chameleons. There aren’t many other countries that can provide their visitors with such a plethora of nature in one place!
5,000km of coastline surrounds the island, and it is beautiful coastline to say the least. Powder-soft white sands and turquoise waves stretch for miles providing the perfect idyllic setting for a few days of relaxation. These shores are a fantastic base diving and snorkelling where you’ll be able to see graceful turtles, bright fish, huge rays, vibrant corals and even underwater shipwrecks.
Madagascar’s population has been made up of migrants from several different places, including mainland Africa, Portugal, France, India and Arabia. Over thousands of years elements from each country merged with one another to create Madagascar’s unique culture. Whilst you’re exploring Madagascar you’ll discover some of this fascinating culture first hand as the locals go about their daily lives around you, giving you an invaluable insight into the everyday lives of these islanders.
Lots of Lemur
Unique to the island, these tricksy little primates are probably Madagascar’s most famous residents. It’s said that the only reason are still around is because of the island’s complete isolation. 32 different species live in the country’s rainforests including the famous ring-tailed lemurs. They’re quite vocal animals and you’ll hear them grunting, chirping and eerily wailing as you trek through the forest.
Call us now to plan your perfect safari to Madagascar.