Madagascar is like no other place on earth, separated from the African continent by hundreds of kilometres of sea, and 165 million years of evolution.
The fourth largest island in the world, Madagascar has been named the ‘8th continent’ for its enchanting beauty and resplendent breadth of diversity. Madagascar’s three climatic zones results in varied terrain across the island; central highlands springing from the lively capital Antananarivo, lush and tropical rainforests in the east, semi-desert in the south, fertile savannah in the drier west, the north with its coastline of sandy beaches and clear tropical waters dotted with archipelagos of islands linked by coral reefs. Many of the national parks are UNESCO World Heritage Sites and home to lemurs, rare birds, chameleons, geckos, lizards, butterflies and a host of weird and wonderful insects and plants - 90% of which are only found on Madagascar.
The Malagasy people are unfailingly polite and friendly and the 18 different ethnic groups are as fascinating and unique as the country itself. Unlike most traditional safari destinations, in almost all areas the main activities are undertaken on foot, allowing you to get up close and personal with the astonishing wildlife. Our itineraries generally start and end in Tana - conveniently located bang in the middle of the island - where you can sample some of the fabulous local cuisine and stock up on some excellent textiles for which the country is famed. We work with a select portfolio of hotels and lodges in Madagascar, all aimed at the adventurous and curious traveller who’s looking for a one-of-a-kind travel experience.
THE S&A TO DO LIST
- Prime whale-watching season is between July and September when humpback whales migrate through the eastern oceanic corridor, specifically around Ile Sainte Marie
- Those wishing to see the renowned dancing lemurs (sifakas) should visit the Anjajavy private nature reserve
- Visit the majestic Avenue of Baobabs at sunset
A stay at Anjajavy, a Relais & Chateaux property set on a private nature reserve in the remote the north-west of the island, offers many of the highlights and attractions of Madagascar in a one-stop experience. Here any walk is likely to be a sort of miniature safari, with sightings of lemurs, chameleons, birds and crabs, whilst water based activities include kayaking through mangroves, boat excursions to areas of untouched beauty, world class deep sea fishing, waterskiing, catamarans sailing and snorkelling - in short it’s a paradise for those who can’t sit still on holiday. Eden Lodge is located in the Nosy Be area with azure waters looking out to sea and forest as your backdrop. There’s a distinct safari camp feel here with eight solar powered tented rooms under thatch, and the lodge operates responsible tourism, working closely with the local Sakalava people to help protect the surrounding land and marine areas. Located on the secluded island of Nosy Komba off the northwest coast among one of the world’s richest ecosystems, Tsara Komba is nestled amidst lush tropical rainforest and dotted with fine sandy beaches, the lodge overlooks a quiet bay where fishermen go about their daily activities. The 'Le TK' restaurant serves 100% organic fare, subtly blending island grown produce and fresh fish with exotic spices drawn from Madagascar's colourful heritage.
Relative newcomer Miavana comes with a pedigree — its designers also created the celebrated North Island in the Seychelles. The super-luxury private island retreat, which caters to a maximum of 44 guests, occupies Nosy Ankao, the largest of five islands in an archipelago off Madagascar’s north-east coast. The property’s 14 villas range from one to three bedrooms, each opening out directly to the beach. Miavana is part of the Time + Tide portfolio which includes our firm favourites Norman Carr Safaris and Chongwe Safaris in Zambia, and like a safari camp, Miavana offers carefully planned excursions into the island's wilderness. Guests predominantly spend their time on “blue safaris” — snorkelling, scuba diving and turtle, whale and dolphin-watching — as well as fly-fishing and kite surfing. Off-site excursions include trips to the mainland’s Loky Manambato Protected Area (5 minutes by helicopter or 30 by boat), where visitors can spot the rare golden-crowned sifaka and other lemur varieties. Constance Tsarabanjina is an equally idyllic retreat near Nosy Be, a mountainous private island with a choice of four palm-fringed beaches gently sloping into azure blue waters. Tsarabanjina is remote – it is reached by charter plane or a two hour boat ride - but that’s part of its charm and what makes it the perfect choice for honeymooners or anyone who simply wants to get away from it all and completely relax. If you love diving and snorkelling, then Tsarabanjina is renowned for its numerous and varied dive sites with both hard and soft corals in good condition and a large diversity of reef fish. The 25 simple thatched villas all overlook the ocean and are blissfully free of mod cons like TV or telephone.
It is difficult to separate out one particular lodge for our wildlife section as in truth, all the properties mentioned on this page will offer guests an incredible wildlife experience. But no trip to Madagascar would be complete without exploring Andasibe National Park (or Perinet Special Reserve), the richest primary forest on the island and a must for anyone interested in the flora and fauna. The rainforest is home to the largest living type of lemur (Indri) as well as red bellied, brown and lesser bamboo lemurs, diademed sifakas, brightly coloured chameleons, lead-tailed geckos and a wealth of endemic plants. Here the best place to stay close to the park is Vakona Forest Lodge, spacious bungalows nestled in the park with an influence of the local Malagasy architecture. Activities are centred on guided walks in both Andasibe and Mantadia national reserves. The lodge also owns a small island in the river ‘Lemur Island’ which acts as a rehabilitation centre for lemurs, some of which are very habituated, tame in fact, they will sit on your shoulder if invited!
Looking to extend your trip?
Madagascar is generally considered a stand-alone destination although combinations with South Africa, Kenya and Mauritius are possible...