Travel tips before going to Madagascar
Passport: mast be valid, with 1 page free and expire at least 6 month after the date of return.
Visa: it can be obtained upon arrival to international airports of Antananarivo and Nosy be; travelers need to have a return ticket; a touristic visa of 1 month costs 25 €.
Vaccinations: there are no mandatory vaccinations. malaria prophylaxis and vaccination against A hepatitis are recommended.
Time zone: + 3 hours GMT when in Europe is in force summertime + 2 hours GMT when in Europe is in force wintertime
Currency: Ariary (MGA) is Madagascar money. 1 Euro = 3.300 MGA (December 2016).
Language: official language is Malagasy; French is spoken in big towns; English is spoken by some guides and by some employers in hotels.
Hotels: with the exception of some hotels in Nosy be island, Sainte Marie island, Vezo coast, Antananarivo and few other places, hotels in Madagascar are generally small, offering basic facilities, rooms or bungalows with en-suite bathroom. Hotel capacity is very limited and in some periods it is difficult to find available rooms. Joining to a tour in Madagascar means having sometimes to adapt to hotels that do not match western standard. Many hotels do not own an AC power generator and could face power cuts. We suggest you to pack a torch.
Food and beverages: Rice is main dish and comes with vegetable, meat, fish. Fruit (with the exception of the south-western coast where it is necessary to import from other regions) varies at different seasons (citrus fruits, pineapple, mango, papaya, banana, apple, jackfruit, passion fruit, litchis etc.). Generally speaking in hotels and restaurants cooking is international, often inspired to French and Italian ones.
Private transports: Quality standard of vehicles available in Madagascar is generally low, vehicles are often old; nevertheless due to high cost of fuel and of import taxes vehicle rental is high.
Flights: Madagascar can be reached with scheduled flights to Antananarivo with Air France (3/4 times per week via Paris CDG), Turkish Airways (3 times per week via Istanbul), Austral Air (3/4 times per week from Paris via Reunion) and with charter flights from Milan MXP, Rome FCO and Verona (once/twice per week).
Weather and clothing: Generally speaking weather is dry from April to October, wet from November to March, with incessant rains during months of January and February (in some areas like Sainte Marie Island and south-western coast climate differs widely from general rule). Temperature varies according to altitude, in the Central Highlands and over 800 meters during winter season (within June and September) at night and early morning is quite cold (7°/12° C); in sunny days varies between 18°C and 22°C; along the coasts temperature is usually between 26°C and 33°C. During June and July, on the south-western coast can be
much lower. We suggest you to pack casual clothing and sportswear, hotels do not have a dress code; a warm item (sweater) and a wind jacket are advisable from June to September when you are going on tour across the Country. For parks trails, hiking shoes with trekking soles and a hat to screen sunshine are recommended.
Nosy Be archipelago
It is located off the northwestern coast of Madagascar and consists of 5 main islands, 2 of which are uninhabited.
The largest is Nosy Be island and in recent years has become the most popular destination for tourism in Madagascar. As always happens in these cases, on the one hand the resorts have created jobs, however their presence has distorted not just the lifestyle of the population and created some environmental problems Around Nosy Be island there are the islands of Nosy Sakatia, Nosy Komba, Nosy Iranja offering the opportunity of a holiday out of the traditional circuits in small lodges. Another very interesting way to visit the archipelago is with a 5/6 days catamaran cruise.
Nosy be in malagasy language means big island. In an an area of 312 km² there are still stretches of forest as the one protected by the Lokobe Nature Reserve, home to various species of lemurs and birds. They are then small spice and Ylang Ylang plantations, the last one yields an essence used in the composition of many perfumes. From Nosy Be it easy to organize many excursions by motor boat to visit other islands of the archipelago or by car and quad bike around the island. Diving and deep sea fishing deserve also a mention.
The liveliest beach of Nosy Be is Madirokely, near the village of Ambatoloaka, where there are several hotels, restaurants and clubs for nightlife. A Nosy Be there is a wide choice of different level.
It is located in front of Nosy be western coast, about 10 minutes by boat from Chanty beach. The main beaches of this island are two, one facing south-east in front of Sakatia Lodge and the other wilder and more beautiful facing north-west. There are paths leading into the forest which covers the island and link together the various beaches. On the island you will find the charming Sakatia Lodge Hotel, run by the owners with great attention and kindness.
It is located south of Nosy Be, about 20 minutes by motor boat, it is rounded and rather steep, covered by lush forest, home to several families of lemurs, macaques, and birds. . On the island there are small villages where live fishermen and skilled craftsmen specialized in the construction of canoes and wooden crafts. The south-facing coast is dotted with small and pretty beaches where they are a few small lodges surrounded by nature. On the island we propose Jardine Vanilla Hotel and Tsara Komba Lodge.
Nosy Tanikely island is a National Marine park located south of Nosy Be, about 20 minutes by motor boat. The island is surrounded by a coral reef that unfortunately in recent years has been damaged by boat moorings. Despite this, it remains a great place to snorkel and dive. There are no hotels on this island.
It is a paradise island with white beaches lapped by turquoise color waters, made up of two islands connected by a sand strip emerging for over a mile at low tide. It is located south of Nosy Be, about 90 minutes by motor boat. On one of the two islands, home to some Malagasy fishermen, there is a small and simple lodge; a short walk will take you to the lighthouse from the top you will see a beautiful 360° panorama.
This small island is located just off the northwestern coast of Nosy Be and has a lovely little beach of coral origin. There are no hotels on this island.
Sainte Marie island (Nosy Boraha)
Sainte Marie island is 57 km long and it is located 8 km off the eastern coast of Madagascar. Refuge for pirates during XXVII and XXVIII centuries, today it offers to the visitors fringed beaches with coconut palms and lush rainforest. From north to report, a lovely beach stretches for several miles on the Pointe des Cocotiers. Other beautiful beaches are located on the peninsula of Amphanihy on the east coast of the island and on Nosy Nato island.
Due to its geographical position Sainte Marie suffers from humid currents originating in the Indian Ocean. These influence the climate with a rainy season between April and July / August and a drier one between September and February.
From July to September you can spot humpback whales which pass through the strait that separates the island from the eastern coast of Madagascar to give birth or look for a mate.
The best time for diving is between August and December: some of the best spots for diving are the two wrecks that lie at the extreme north and along the eastern coast, near Sahasifotra. Another wreck of a galleon of the seventeenth century was discovered near the harbour.
It is located on the southwestern coast of Madagascar, washed by the Mozambique Channel; the stretch of coast between Anakao, Tulear and Morombe features magnificent white sandy beaches. Vegetation in this arid region consists mainly of spiny forest with baobab trees of the strangest forms. Here you will find stretches of coastline are still little known by tourism and some quaint villages of Vezo fishermen. The climate in the south-western region of Madagascar is dry throughout the year, rainfall is reduced to 10-15 days a year between January and March. Temperatures range from 25 °C in winter to 35 °C in summer. The coast is therefore an ideal travel destination all year round and is suitable for lovers of diving, snorkeling and fishing or just those who want to visit an area of Madagascar with wonderful beaches.
Starting from Tulear and heading south with about an hour's boat transfer along the coast you will reach Anakao, a village of Vezo fishermen located across the bay of St Augustin. Anakao’s village faces a long and beautiful white sandy beach where you will find some hotels. The reef protects the coast and on small island of Nosy Ve (Marine Natural Reserve) you can spot nesting tropic birds, birds with white plumage feeding on small fish and mollusks. From Anakao you can make excursions by boat or canoe, snorkeling, diving.
From Tulear heading north on the beautiful coastal track through spiny forest sections, quaint Vezo villages and fabulous bays, you reach after approximately 82 km (3 ½ hours) the remote Ankasy Lodge overlooking a beautiful white sandy beach, ideal place for relaxing after a tour.
Salary is a remote village of Vezo fishermen, about 96 km (4 hours) by 4wd car north of Tulear along the tough but charming coastal track. At short distance Salary Bay resort overlooks a beautiful bay with a long beach of white sand, ideal location for relaxing after a tour.
Parks and reserves of Madagascar
Madagascar’s parks and natural reserves can be considered among the most popular attractions of Madagascar; today only 3% of territory has been protected with the creation of 19 national parks, 21 Special Reserves and 5 Integral Reserves. For more information, please visit the official website of ANGAP (National Association pour la Gestion des Aires protégées) www.parcs-madagascar.com.
In order to visit national parks and reserves it is necessary to buy a permit from the ANGAP park’s office usually located near the entrance. The permit for a day in a park costs 65.000 MGA (Ariary) per person (adults), 25.000 MGA per person (children). Private reserves apply other rates. Paths within parks and natural reserves in Madagascar are always strictly walking only trails, can vary in difficulty and length.
It is always required to hire a guide, rates vary according to the route and are shown inside Angap park’s offices. For instance Amboditanimena trip of two/four hours inside Ranomafana National Park will cost about 30.000 Ariary MGA. Guides are very discreet and helpful, they will lead you along the paths (not marked) and help you to spot the animals.
Ankarana Special Reserve
Ankarana massive is located about 100 km south-west of Diego Suarez in a wilderness of 18.200 hectares featuring karst limestone pinnacles (Tsingy), distinct in Petit Tsingy (accessible from east entrance of the Park) and Grand Tsingy (west entrance), a large deciduous forest labyrinth with plants belonging to the family of euphorbia and Pachypodium, a caves and underground rivers network.
The park homes six species of lemurs, different types of mammals, including ringed tailed mongoose, 83 species of birds, geckos, chameleons and crocodiles.
The most interesting attractions of the park is the landscape of sharp pinnacles and the caves, lands to explore with a guide: the most famous is that of Andrafiabe, 11 km long and crossed by more than 100 km of tunnels and passages.
The most comfortable and popular access among travelers is the east entrance near the road to Ambanja, hence with a two hour visit the Petit Tsingy and a cave. If you have more time we suggest to stay in the area and continue the next day to visit the western part of the park, that is very impressive and offers several trekking routes and it is less frequently included in travelers’ itineraries.
When to visit: from April to December.
Montagne d’Ambre National Park
Montagne d'Ambre National Park is located in the north of Madagascar, about 27 km south of the city of Diego Suarez; it covers an area of 18.200 hectares at an altitude between 850 and 1474 meters above sea level.
Its climate is rather wet and promotes the development of a lush rainforest where live 7 species of lemurs, as many as 75 species of birds, 49 species of reptiles, 36 species of butterflies.
In the park there is a lake of volcanic origin and beautiful waterfalls. It can be explored with easy circuits of about a couple of hours (for example Ampijoroana trail which leads to a fall) or other paths that last several hours.
When to visit: from April to December.
The Tsingy Rouge are located between Diego Suarez and Ankarana National Park. Leaving the main road and along a rough track for about 40 minutes you will arrive near Tsingy Rouge site.
The reddish color of these limestone pinnacles, the surrounding landscape and the various shades of color of the land on which stand the Tsingy are a true glance! Do not miss it.
When to visit: from May to November, during the dry season.
Andasibe-Mantadia Park (Perinet National Park)
This protected area is located about 145 km east of Antananarivo. It occupies an area of 12.180 hectares.
It's a hilly area, covered with dense rainforest at an altitude between 930 and 1,240 meters above sea level where find ideal habitat various species of plants, flowers and animals endemic to Madagascar. Being at short distance from the capital town, you can visit the area with a journey of 2/3 days even during rainy season.
The main attractions of the park are lush plant life with tall trees, lianas, orchids and medicinal plants; Lac Vert (Green Lake) and Lac Rouge (Red Lake) covered by water lilies, 11 species of lemurs, including Indri, the largest among the lemurs and Aye Aye active for most of the day, who spend their time on treetops to eat and enjoy the sun; various species of chameleons including the Calumma Parsonii which is the largest specimen of Madagascar, boa reptiles and amphibians. Mantadia park protects also about one hundred species of birds.
In the park were set up several itineraries lasting 2, 4 and 6 hours.
When to visit: March to December even if best months are April, October, November.
Masoala National Park and Nosy Mangabe Special Reserve
Masoala National Park and Nosy Mangabe Special Reserve are located in Masoala peninsula, accessible from Maroantsetra town.
Masoala National Park covers an area of 400.000 hectares and protects the largest primary forest of Madagascar. The humid currents from the Indian Ocean causing heavy rains, create an ideal habitat for many plants and flowers belonging to the rainforest. Various species of lemurs, birds, reptiles and amphibians live in this area.
The only way to access to the park is from Maroantsetra. To visit the park there are only two ways: a multi-day trek with overnight stays in tents or a boat trip combined with a half-day trek. Near Maroantsetra there are two lodges that serve as base camp for excursions.
The Special Reserve of Nosy Mangabe covers all the grandeur of the island of the same name and protect rainforest home to several species of lemurs, birds, reptiles and amphibians.
When to visit: from August to December.
Ranomafana National Park
Ranomafana National Park is located about 60 km north-east of Fianarantsoa and protects an area of 41.000 hectares of rainforest hills at an altitude of between 800 and 1200 meters above sea level.
The park is home to 29 species of mammals including 12 lemur (lemur crowned apalemure, microcebo, etc etc. ..) a hundred species of birds, reptiles and butterflies. Flora is as well interesting with its variety of ferns, palms, orchids, medicinal and carnivorous plants, patches of giant bamboo.
In the park there are several types of circuits with paths of 2/4/6 hours. After sunset you can also join to a night hike outside the park that will allow you to spot nocturnal lemurs that are active during the night.
Best time to visit the park is between April and October; during other months mud and downpours can hamper the visit.
During the months of June, July, August, nights can be very cold (8/10 ° C).
When to visit: March to December even if the best months are April, October, November.
Andringitra National Park
Andringitra National Park is located in the Highlands region about 100 km south of Fianarantsoa town, it covers an area of 31.600 hectares.
The park lies at the foot of Boby Peak great massif (2,658 m / asl), accessible to trekkers only and features fascinating rocks of granitic origin.
There are various hiking trails of 3/4 days, including the climb Pic Boby’s top.
Starting at an altitude of 700 meters above sea level, vegetation consists of primary rainforest tracts and changes as you climb to higher altitude. It is necessary to organize treks with professional guides and porters, accommodation in tents and on site cooked meals.
When making the trek: from April to October, during dry season.
Anja Natural Reserve
In 1992, an association sponsored by WWF involved local people to join to a project for protecting Anja forest. Nowadays the visit to this forest is included in all the tourist routes following the itinerary along the National Route 7 from Antananarivo to Tulear.
Entrance fees help to develop local economy and travelers have the chance to visit this lovely little forest home to various species of Madagascans flora and fauna: different species of orchids, large ficus trees, families of lemurs, many species of birds, chameleons and boa from Madagascar.
The path enters through a gallery forest at the foot of Iandrambaky massif and allows travelers to meet lemurs who are accustomed to humans and searching for some delicious morsel.
When to visit: April to December even if the best months are April, October, November.
Isalo National Park
Isalo National Park is located 226 km south-west of Fianarantsoa and covers an area of 81.540 hectares featuring grasslands, massive sandstones sculpted by wind and water that create a landscape of great beauty. The park is home to 55 species of birds, 3 species of lemurs (Catta, the black-headed lemur and Verreaux's Sifaka). In drier areas between September and October bloom Pachipodium.
Park main attractions are certainly rock formations, canyons and natural pools, ideal for a refreshing bath. Forest is concentrated in the lower part of the canyons where there is water; Uapaca Bojeri tree, endemic to this area, is resistant to fire, other native plants growing on the rocks are elephant legs (Aloe isaloenis) .
In the park there are several types of routes which can be accessed from different areas. Among the possible paths, the one that leads to the natural pool (about 2 hours walk) from where you can go to the falls, visiting the Canyon des singes and the Canyon des Rats (15 km by car and 1 walk) and the long trail that leads from the Canyon des singes though gorgeous views to the natural pool (5 hours walk).
Another attraction is the window of Isalo, best at sunset, which is located few kilometers from Ranohira village. Between the Park and the village of Ranohira along the way there are several hotels from simple ones to beautiful Relais de la Reine and Le Jardin de Roj.
When to visit: throughout the year except for the months of January and February.
Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park
It is located northeast of the town of Morondava, is reached by a journey of about 8 hours of track and crossing two rivers in rafts . Hard to describe this amazing park , unique and classified by UNESCO "World Heritage" . Imagine a large karstic massif that extends from south to north for about 100 km, carved by erosion in a truly unique , with jagged spiers ( in Madagascar Tsingy ) hundreds of meters high , pointed and sharp , among them deep canyon.
The climate in this stone forest is dry for many months of the year , but thanks to the underground rivers that have carved caves, the life of the endemic flora is possible.
The limestones were formed in the Jurassic era when today's Madagascar was for the most part submerged by the ocean . Scholars estimate that about 80% of the flora and fauna in this area is endemic and is adapted to survive in incredible conditions .
Even if the access to the Park is not easy and compel the traveler to deviate from the traditional routes of Morondava flying and traveling both outward and return a long bumpy track in part , the park of Tsingy de Bemeraha certainly deserves to be seen.
Inside the park there are various circuits , the most significant is that of the Grand Tsingy in which it is possible to combine an extension of the immense cave Broadway . The course of about 6 hours on foot and about 1 hour transfer by car allows you to " climb " the spectacular cathedrals and the massive venture into a large cave . Some steps have difficulty and need to be trained and used to walking on rough terrain mountain . For safety it is mandatory to use a harness that will allow you to walk safely in the most difficult , do not forget the fact that Tsingy are pointed and sharp so falling over these rocks involves injuries that can to spoil the rest of the holiday.
In the park you can do even more short circuits and within the reach of all but you will not have the same emotions of the circuit " Grand Tsingy ."
When to visit: From May to October.
Reniala Private Reserve
Reniala Private Reserve is a small, protected area near Ifaty on the southwest coast of Madagascar.
The visit along a trail with local guides lasts a couple of hours, spent to learn about the various species of the endemic spiny forest, typical of this region.
When to visit: throughout the year except for the months of January and February.
Nahampoana Private Reserve
The natural reserve of Nahampoana is located 7 km from Fort Dauphin. In an area of 50 hectares nature lovers can explore the flora and fauna of Madagascar, including several species of lemurs (lemur catta, ring-tailed fawn, sikaka of Verraux, apalemure gray bamboo), radiated tortoises, chameleons, crocodiles, various species of birds.
There are various species of didieracees (Didierea madascariensis, euphorbia), palms (including the endemic Neodypsis Decary and ravinala), and young baobab pachypodium.
The reserve is well cared for and well worth a visit, it is possible to sleep in simple bungalows to remain in touch with nature and wake up with the sound of the forest.
When to visit: throughout the year except for the months of January and February.
Andohahela National Park
Andohahela National Park is located southwest Fort Dauphin, can be reached in about 3 hours by car along a road partly paved and partly not; it covers an area of approximately 76,000 hectares and protects a very interesting area for biodiversity and climatic differences.
It is essentially divided into 3 areas: the eastern part between the tops of the hills is the rainforest which is affected by the humid currents from the Indian Ocean; in the central part (Tsimelahy) below the hills dry air currents coming from south-west block perturbations; forest Tsimelahy is known as transition forest.
Many of the plants in this area are endemic or typical of arid regions of Madagascar as didieraceas, the pachypodes, Ravinala palm, triedra palm, wild vanilla. This area is rich in water that comes down from the hills and river valley forming a natural swimming pools of a waterfall and the surrounding landscape is very beautiful lush mountain peaks and dotted with rocks in red. Finally, the driest part of the park is named Mangatsiaka and protects plants typical of the spiny forest.
A visit to Andohahela Park usually includes a walking trail that runs through part of the Tsimelahy and part of that of Mangatsiaka and allows to observe the switching between the transition forest to the dry forest. You will surely have the chance to meet lemurs and take a refreshing swim in the natural pools with a full day trip starting early morning from Fort Dauphin and going back in the late afternoon.
When to visit: from April to November.