Off the coast of Mozambique in south-east Africa, Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world, and home to one of the richest eco-systems on the planet. It is a dream destination for nature lovers, as it's home to an abundance of unique wildlife and plant species, much of which can only be found here.
Furthermore, there are a variety of landscapes to enjoy: tropical rainforest, semi-arid desert, and a long coastline. Adventurous travelers will have a tough time choosing between all the outdoor activities on offer in Madagascar -- rock climbing, hiking, paragliding, scuba diving, kayaking... You'll have your pick if an active vacation is what you desire!
Madagascar is all about the outdoor adventures. Take advantage of having so many exciting activities located on one (albeit, large) island by joining a tour that lets you have a go at several things. Here are some of the best adventure activities available on the African island.
Although the land itself is famous for its rich and unique fauna, the sea around Madagascar offers just as many endemic creatures. It's home to one of the largest continuous coral reefs in the world, and has numerous species of whales, dolphins, sharks, and other fish. The east coast of Madagascar is on the migration route for humpback whales from June to September, so it's possible to see these amazing creatures.
Hiking & Trekking
Around 70% of Madagascar's land area is situated at an altitude of 1000-1500m, so there are plenty of stunning landscapes and challenging trails to hit up, whether on day hikes or longer treks. There are also beautiful national parks to trek amidst, such as the granite peaks and valleys of Andringitra National Park, the colorful sandstone canyons of Isalo National Park, or the limestone pinnacles of UNESCO World Heritage listed Bemaraha National Park. Guided tours will take you to remote places, where you can set up camp or stay in local homes.
There are numerous navigable waterways in Madagascar, meaning there is a lot of choice for kayaking and canoeing in the country (this difference being that canoeing is usually done on calmer waters, whereas kayaking requires a bit more white-water skill). Multi-day tours will guide you along beautiful stretches of river surrounded by amazing landscapes, waterfalls, jungle, and wildlife, especially lots of bird life. Four-day trips along the Manambolo River and through the Manambolo Gorge are particularly popular, as are affordable three-day trips on the accessible Tsiribihina River. At night, camp out on river beaches.
Planning Your Trip
Best Time to Visit Madagascar
Madagascar is a sub-tropical country, meaning that temperatures are generally warm. However, because much of the country is at quite high altitude, there is a big difference between coastal and inland areas. Summer lasts from November to April, and is hot and wet, whereas the cooler dry season lasts from May to October. Most people prefer to visit in the dry season.
Diving spots are closed from January to March because of cyclones. Coastal areas can become flooded at this time. May to December is the best time to go, as visibility is around 30 meters.
What to Look For in a Tour to Madagascar
It's possible to isolate particular activities that interest you most, and sign up for a tour that just does that. However, you can also join a longer tour that encompasses a range of activities, including trekking and river trips.
When selecting a tour, think carefully about how much you want to pack into your time in Madagascar. The landscape and coastline of Madagascar is extremely diverse, so you'll definitely leave the island nation feeling like you've seen so much!
Average Tour Cost in Madagascar
Madagascar is a relatively affordable travel destination, with good value tours and accommodation available. Locally operated tours can be booked quite cheaply, and if you arrive in the country not sure what you want to do, checking out local operators is a good way to go.
Longer trips run by well-known and reputable international companies are more expensive but are still generally good value for money, as you pack many experiences into a short time. Multi-activity tours of around 20 days cost upwards of $3000.
Packing Tips & Gear Rental
Madagascar is a subtropical country, but because it has both coastal and highland climates, temperatures can differ a lot. Pack for generally hot weather, but don't forget a few warmer layers if you're heading into the hills.
Guided tours and organized activities will provide all specialist equipment (such as scuba diving gear) but make sure to bring equipment of a personal nature, such as worn-in hiking shoes, or a comfortable sleeping bag.
- Visitors require a visa for Madagascar, but 30 day tourist visas can be got on arrival for many nationalities.
- Guided tours around Madagascar include a lot of camping, homestays, and basic hotels. More luxurious, high-quality accommodation can be found in the cities, as well as beautiful safari-style accommodation in some areas.
- While buses are a good way of getting between some areas of interest, domestic flights may also be necessary, depending on what you want to see and how much time you have. Yes, Madagascar is an island, but it's a very big one, with lots of hilly terrain! Longer organized tours utilize a combination of bus and air transport.
Health & Safety
Outbreaks of the pneumonic and bubonic plague occur annually in Madagascar, typically in the rainy season. As this is not the best or most popular time to visit Madagascar anyway, it would be best to avoid travel to the country during the rainy season.
There is no yellow fever in Madagascar and travelers coming from countries with the disease will need to show proof of immunization before being allowed in.
Anti-malarial medication is usually advised for Madagascar. Dengue fever is also present, which cannot be prevented by drugs, so it's necessary to take precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.
It is recommended that all routine travel vaccinations are up-to-date before traveling to Madagascar, such as hepatitis and typhoid.
Madagascar is generally a safe country, although take your usual precautions, especially in capital city Antananarivo.
There is occasional political unrest, especially in the capital and in the south, as the country experienced a coup d'etat in 2009 and then a transition back to democracy in 2014. Seek up-to-date information on the situation before traveling.
Travel to Batterie Beach, on the south-west coast, is advised against by some Western governments, due to violent attacks here. Travel at night along some roads is not advised, due to occasional attacks on vehicles.