Madagascar is a fantastic island nation located just off the coast of Mozambique. Animal lovers and nature enthusiasts alike will love the marvellous and diverse ecosystem found in the island’s national parks. You can come face-to-face with wildlife such as lemurs, birds, and chameleons, as well as a wide variety of plants and trees that are only found on Madagascar. From climbing the unique limestone forests of Tsingy de Bemaraha to swimming with Whale Sharks at Nosy Be, come, join as we explore the best things to see and do on the island of Madagascar.
Visit the Limestone Forests of Tsingy de Bemaraha
Take an unusual side-trip to the limestone “needle forests” of Tsingy. Mother Nature has certainly done her magic in northwest Madagascar. Time and the result of erosion have created this geological oddity. The unique shapes of these cracks created a bizarre ecosystem, and the nearby forests, lakes and mangrove swamps are also home to endangered lemurs and birds. Not many visitors make this off-the-beaten-path trek, so you may just have the place to yourself.
Check out the Mini-Ecosystem at Kirindy Mitea National Park
If you want to visit one of Madagascar’s newest national parks and practically get the place to yourself, then head to the western edge of the island and visit Kirindy Mitea. The park opened in 2006 and offers a wide variety of ecosystems and possibly the highest density of primates in the world. You won’t have to travel to other parts of the island to see the range of landscapes offered in this one spot. In fact, you can explore tropical rainforest, a spiny forest, coastal mangroves, lakes, excellent beaches, and coral reefs—all in one trip!
Kirindy Mitea is also packed with a wide variety of lemurs, flamingos, birds, and butterflies. Check out the seven small islands, where diving outfits are available to take you on an underwater adventure. The town of Belo-sur-Mer offers beach hotels and bungalows so you can stay close to the action.
Walk the Avenue of the Baobabs
Just down the road from Kirindy Mitea National Park is an oddity that you can’t miss, the 853-foot-long Avenue of the Baobabs. These giant baobab trees are believed to be 800 years old. Even though the trees grace the cover of just about every tourist website and magazine on the planet, seeing the Baobabs in person is definitely worth the trip. One of the best times to get a picture of these ethereal trees is at sunrise or sunset when the tress look otherworldly. You can get to the trees at any time of the day, and it’s even free to visit.
Explore the Malagasy Capital of Antananarivo
The capital of Madagascar, known locally as Tana, is a typical African city. Full of controlled chaos! The street vendors and the open-air stalls at Analakely Market keep the city alive and colourful. In the 19th and 20th centuries, Antananarivo was the capital for French colonialists and is still Madagascar’s center of political and economic influence. Explore the gorgeous colonial architecture in the old Haute-Ville or stroll through the exhibits of the city’s art galleries and museums. You will also be surprised at the quality of the culinary culture of the Malagasy capital, and be sure to check out the numerous fine French fare in the city’s restaurants.
Swim with Whale Sharks at Nosy Be
If you are an avid scuba diver, then Madagascar is heaven. Head to the northwestern island of Nosy Be from September through to December, and you can get the chance to swim with the world’s largest fish—the whale shark! Winter is the best time of year (you avoid the cyclone seasons) to see whale sharks because they gather here to feed on plankton. These mammoth fish grow to around 31 feet long, but despite their size are surprisingly docile.
Several operators, like Baleines Rand’ Eau, will hook you up on a snorkelling tour where you will almost be guaranteed a chance to mingle with these fantastic sea creatures. While you are down there getting a glimpse of the sharks, you’ll also get to see Madagascar’s other bountiful marine life such as dolphins, turtles, and manta rays.
Hike Amber Mountain National Park
You can see that the island of Madagascar is one of the most diverse and unique places on the planet. A hike in Amber Mountain will confirm just that. This vast park is full of wildlife, crater lakes, lush forests, and scenic waterfalls. The park is on the northern tip of the island and is situated on a volcanic massif. Amber Mountain covers 70+ square miles of tropical forest with a series of streams and rivers crisscrossing the park and is home to tons of animals and birds. So put on your hiking boots and explore the nearly 20 miles of hiking trails. You can head out for a one-hour stroll or enjoy an eight-hour trek (make sure to get a guide for the longer hikes). For an enchanted night in the forest, book a stay at the thatched huts at Nature Lodge.
Kitesurf at The Three Bays
The bays at Sakalava, Pigeon, and Dune, aptly named the “Three Bays,” feature pristine beaches where you can take in all of the beach fun you can handle. You can enjoy swimming, windsurfing, and kitesurfing and take long strolls along the unspoiled Madagascar coastline. Did we mention kitesurfing! The conditions at Sakalava Bay are ideal for this adrenaline-filled experience. The Three Bays are just a 10-minute drive from Antsiranana, but if you want to get to the beaches in style, you can rent a quad at Diego Raid. This will cost you between €120 and €180, based on the circuit you take and the number of riders. After a day at the beach, check out Antsiranana. This lazy beach village has plenty to offer in the way of restaurants, shops, and hotels.
Spot Lemurs at Lokobe National Park
You can’t leave Madagascar without a big dose of their most famous residents—Lemurs! One of the best places to observe lemurs in the wild is Lokobe National Park, but you’ll have to take a long trek through dense tropical forest to get to these playful primates. Lokobe is on the southeastern tip of the island of Nosy Be, which is also home to giant whale sharks and amazing beaches. To get to the unspoiled park, you’ll need to hire a guide and paddle to Lokobe in local canoes called pirogues. The trip to Lokobe is long and tiring, but you won’t be sorry. You will be met by unmatched beauty and fantastic wildlife, like three types of lemur and the Parson’s Chameleon. It takes some planning and a guide to get to the park, so make sure you plan ahead.
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