Where Beachside Bliss Meets Wildlife Wonder
Madagascar, rightfully known as the ‘Galapagos of the Indian Ocean’, is not only an exquisite island paradise, but a place where most of the fauna and flora are endemic – meaning they are found nowhere else in the world. It is one of only a handful of official Biodiversity Hotspots in the world with an enviable list of wildlife wonders. If the local wildlife isn’t enough, Madagascar is also the perfect addition to a safari and beach holiday.
A unique blend of luxury and off-the-beaten-track adventure gives Madagascar a timeless quality and ensures there is something to entice every traveller. Stroll along blissful white beaches at sunset, shake fins with the local sea life while snorkelling along the coral reef, and discover the island’s local celebrities, the lemurs. To end the day, enjoy local cuisine overlooking the clear azure ocean – pure bliss!
Is Madagascar a good place to visit? The answer would be a resounding yes. Spend your days exploring smaller surrounding islands like Nosy Be and Île Sainte-Marie, embark on exciting hikes, traverse diverse landscapes that range from lush to arid, and try your hand at various water-based activities. Visit Madagascar if uncrowded beaches, hidden coves, and breathtaking beauty sound like your idea of heaven.
Here are our top five reasons you should travel to Madagascar:
1. Beachside Paradise
When thinking of the most beautiful beaches, the big hitters - Mauritius, Seychelles, and Maldives - always come to mind, but what about the exquisite paradisical beaches of Madagascar? While the mainland has its fair share of breathtaking beaches, such as Tulear and Ifaty, the smaller surrounding islands are home to some exceptional spots too.
Nosy Be, or “Big Island”, is one of the most popular islands to visit with its gorgeous coral reefs, powder-like beaches, and lush mangroves. Bright, azure waters and white sand contrast to create a setting like a scene out of Pirates of the Caribbean.
Île aux Nattes, or Nosy Nato, is another island that should make the list when visiting Madagascar. Seemingly endless stretches of powder-like sand, palm trees swaying in the breeze, and crystal-clear water combine to make an island oasis.
2. The Wonderous Wildlife
According to the World Wildlife Fund, approximately 95% of its reptiles, 89% of its plant life, and 92% of its mammals are endemic to the island and exist nowhere else on earth. Its residents include one of the rarest species in the world, the Silky Sifaka lemur, also known as ’The Angel of the Forest’ due to its white furry coat. The Ploughshare tortoise is another threatened species endemic to Madagascar with around 1,000 remaining.
The island’s hallmark mammals - lemurs - are present throughout the island with around 60 known species – most notably, the black and white ring-tailed Lemur Catta. Some of the best places to see these agile tree-dwellers is Ranomafana National Park, Andasibe National Park, and Loky-Manambato in Daraina. Watch them in their natural habitat on some of the less populated island like Nosy Komba and Aye-Aye Island.
Other species to look out for are the ever-changing chameleons, Madagascar red owls, and the largest mammalian carnivore, the Fossa. For aviary enthusiasts, keep a pair of binoculars on hand to spot some of the 285 bird species on the islands, around 100 of which are endemic.
3. Catching Waves
Calling all surfers! Madagascar and its surrounding islands are hiding some fantastic surf spots suited to both beginners and more advanced levels. Typically, the southwest side of the island is considered the best for surfing with several high-quality spots. Due to the offshore break, most are best accessed by boat, which creates a perfect opportunity to enjoy a snorkel around the reef on the same trip.
Corre is a great all-round spot suited to beginners and more intermediate levels. Lavanono is ideal for a typical paradisical island day – relaxing on the beach, snorkelling in clear waters, and catching a wave or two. Similarly, Ambila Lamentsa offers a stunning stretch of coastline with varied waves for newbies and more confident surfers. For a secluded beach with great breaks, Ifaty Beach is the perfect destination. The waves are best out by the coral reef and are not suitable for beginners, but a treat for more experienced surfers. Other more advanced spots include Flameballs, Little Teaupoo, and Mangoro.
4. Fascinating Flora
Visit the centuries old trees found in the breathtaking Avenue of the Baobabs, a row of giant deciduous trees known to be over 800 years old and up to 30ft tall. An impressive six of the eight known baobab species can be found in Madagascar as well as around 12,000 plant species, of which 70- to 80% are endemic. Fun fact: a whopping 860 orchid species can be found around the islands.
Discover some of the exquisite flora and landscapes in Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park, including the limestone cathedrals and formations often referred to as ‘The Stone Forest’. Diverse flora, interesting fauna, hidden caves, narrow canyons, and beautiful hiking trails make this a fantastic spot to visit.
5. Whale Watching
From mid-June to September, Madagascar plays host to pods of migrating humpback whales. The whales make their way to warmer waters to breed and calve before leaving again. While their breaching and lobtailing can be seen from the shore, responsible whale watching boat tours provide an exciting perspective of their antics.
The whales are often found basking in the bay that separates Madagascar from Nosy Be but tend to follow a path around the island. Nosy Be is also a fantastic place to swim with Whale Sharks, known as the largest fish in the sea.
In addition to humpback whales, Madagascar, more specifically Nosy Be and Nosy Iranja, is known to house a rare species of whale, Omura’s Whale. A real treat for whale enthusiasts.