Tips for a successful Trip to Madagascar (Part one)

More than 150 million years ago, Madagascar parted from the mainland of South Africa carrying with it flaura and fauna that are unique and rare worldwide. The most spectacular ones are it’s baobabs and the much loved lemurs extinct elsewhere on earth. A trip to Madagascar will leave every single traveler spell bound by the extraordinary warmth of the Malagasy people and their culture, the stunning landscape, longest reefs in the world, migrating whales, white sand beaches and the tropical vegetation and wildlife. The Malagasy people have a distinct personality, delicious food, rhythmic music and deep rooted respect for elders and their ancestors. 

To help you organize your trip to one of the most original and spectacular destination in the world, here are some tips we gathered for you to have a successful Trip to Madagascar.

When to go to Madagascar?

Every period of time offers you different possibilities and opportunities when it comes to travelling to Madagascar. It is always good to know in advance what will happen and be prepared accordingly.

January – March:

Months to avoid are January until March due to extremely wet weather. There are frequent cyclones in February, especially on the coastal regions. This period is only recommended if you are looking for cheap places to stay. It is the low season for the tourism in Madagascar.

April  – May:

This is an ideal period of travel for surf fans. April to May are the best months with the onslaught of dry season and the inviting lush greenery, a sight to behold. Some compare Madagascar as surf destination to Mentawai – the chain of about seventy islands and islets in approximately 150 kilometres off the western coast of Sumatra in Indonesia – due to the amount of waves in a close proximity. It is a surf paradise with world class waves but without the hoard of surfers. And the cost of the trip makes it the best surf destination in the world if you look into destinations like Indonesia or Maldives.

May is when you can enjoy the Nosy Be’s Donia festival with homegrown music accompanied by sporting events. The carnival-like feel to the 4 days celebration at Hell-Ville Stadium makes the experience worthwhile and memorable.

Famous artistes and entertainers from all the Indian Ocean neighborhood take the stage. Donia music festival is covered by numerous presses and media: L’Express de Madagascar, Taratra, Les Nouvelles, La Dépêche de Madagascar, Midi Madagascar, Voyageons autrement, One Minute Madagascar News Magazine, TraexpMe, Ministère des Finances et du Budget de Madagascar, Free News, and Madagascar National Tourism Board.

The festival opens with a carnival on its first day. All Nosy Be city mobilize for a living feast and very colorful party. Various activities and meetings of all kinds take place during Donia festival: Sport, conferences, awareness, information, education, shows for children, etc.

Donia festival started out as a little adventure for a few friends. But decades later, it is one of the biggest musical events in Madagascar.

June – July:

For those who want to experience gazing at baby lemurs and the humpback whales on Ile Sainte-Marie – June and July are the best months. The humpback whales migrate from the South Pole to Sainte-Marie in June to breed and calve. They stay there for about 4 months the time for the calves to grow-up. Megaptera, the association for the awareness and conservation of marine mammals (among others the whales) is based in Sainte-Marie, Madagascar.

In July, it is the official whale watching month of the season. It is also the time to enjoy some of the most spectacular and unspoiled beaches up the north coast. Whether east or west, it is up to you to pick your favorite spot. It is the peak season of tourism in the whole Island as it is the time when most western people are on holidays.

Every year check, do not miss the Hiragasy traditional Malagasy performance that is a combination of theater, storytelling, music and dance.

August – October:

A plethora of endemic and migratory birds can be seen in the months of August to September. Not to forget that the iconic famous ring-tail lemurs of Madagascar are born in October and you will be delighted to watch these cute creatures up close on a trip to national parks like Isalo.

A treat awaits every music lover with Antananarivo’s Madajazzcar Festival in the capital. This is a festival that unites famous jazz musicians from the Indian Ocean for 12 days. The musical fusion is both inspiring and soul stirring, a tradition since 1988 when it first started. The Madagascar Jazz music festival is a series of events and shows are hosted across various venues in the city of Antananarivo. Various jazz and sometimes popular artistes and bands from all over the world take the stage alongside their local counterparts. Some events are ticketed but most shows for the public are free.

November – December :

Come November, the rain starts again in the north and central Madagascar. Chocolate lovers, cocoa harvest season is on. It is still time to come check out the world wonder Tsingy de Bemaraha, a national park with the spiky rocks/mountains, located in Melaky Region, northwest of Madagascar. Some call it a stone forest! Also, kitesurfing, sea kayaking , fishing at lake Itasy, jacaranda blooming in the Antananarivo, hot springs and waterfalls in Ranomafana Park, Pirates cemetery visitations in Sainte-Marie with a local guide, caving with crocodiles in Ankarana National Park, and much more are still running at their best on November. 

And by December the temperatures rise as it is the hottest time of the year.  For the beach lovers December is the recommended month.  Nature lovers will be thrilled to have a chance to check out the chameleons, snakes and lizards as they are getting more active with the higher rainfall. Christmas time and new years eve are very animated in every big cities of Madagascar. The biggest hotels and restaurants are organizing their most important events of the year. There will be plenty of delicious food (natural and organic please!), a lot of good music local as well as international hits, and beautiful crowds.

Which Airlines fly to Madagascar?

The biggest airport of Madagascar is Ivato International Airport serving Antananarivo the capital of Madagascar just 16 km from the city centre. At the time this article is written, it is undergoing major renovations to upgrade even more to high international standards. The big airlines flying to Madagascar are Air France, Turkish Airlines, Corsair, Kenya Airways, Air Austral, Air Mauritius, Air Seychelles, et Ethiopian Airlines. Check out their respective websites for rates and availabilities.

You can fly internally by Air Madagascar but be ready for delays. The flights are not cancelled yet all cannot go as per plan when you travel to Madagascar.

Since the logistics in Madagascar are not at the same level as the western tourism infrastructures, travel around only if you have local contacts that are handy in making the journey smoother for you. If you do not have any contact, try reaching out to the innumerable tour operator that will compete fiercely to have your attention.

(TO BE CONTINUED) – Check out the part two of Tips for a successful trip to Madagascar here.

Look out for our other travel related blogs on our website.


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