Madagascar is made for wildlife viewing. Best known as the land of the lemur, it’s also home to other weird and wonderful creatures such as sifakas, the cat-like fossa and vivid chameleons capable of changing colour before your eyes.
The landscape is equally rich and varied. There are forests of every kind – rain, dry, spiny. Thousands of species of plant, including 1,000 orchid varieties, scatter the countryside. You’ll find coral reefs and sandy beaches, sandstone canyons, limestone karsts, mountains, hills cascading with terraced rice paddies and a rich soil that gave the country its nickname of Red Island. There’s also plenty to do: hiking, snorkelling, cycling or simply strolling. There are also plenty of secluded natural pools, beaches and hammocks.
The cultural mix is heady: African, Asian, Arabic and European. Madagascar has been populated by successive waves of migrants. This melting-pot has evolved an intricate set of beliefs and rituals that revere ancestors’ spirits. If you feel intrepid, you could witness a famadihana. It’s an exhumation and reburial in which relatives communicate with their forebears.
Madagascar can be challenging. It’s the world’s fourth-largest island and its roads are bad but with a spirit of adventure, it’s so worth visiting. The national parks see only a few hundred visitors a year – and some lodges are so remote you’ll need a private plane or boat to get there.
When to go
It’s great to visit all year round. But we suggest avoiding the wet season from December to March.