Influenced by its early Asian settlers and proximity on the African mainland, Madagascar has become ultimately - and uniquely - shaped by its geographical isolation. It’s the oldest and fourth largest island on the globe, using the topographical and climatic diversity of an small continent. It’s an irresistible position for lovers with the great outdoors, naturalists, photographers and travellers aiming to immerse themselves within a unique and fascinating location.
But in addition, it has its challenges: attractions are widespread and travel totally can be lengthy and uncomfortable, it provides a cyclone season that restricts happen to be specific months in the year and tourism infrastructure sometimes is less developed than some travellers are utilized to. So to optimize your amount of time in Madagascar, feel the best the region has to offer and hang realistic expectations, it’s a destination that advantages of some planning and research prior to going.
When to Go
The best month or year to visit Madagascar will depend on your specific interests. The tourist season falls between April and December, together with the rainy season claiming the opposite months with perils associated with cyclones and a lot of roads becoming un-passable. The high season coincides with all the European summer holidays and cooler temperatures in July and August. This is a wonderful time for whale watching, but a majority of reptiles are hibernating. Warmer weather in September to December attracts those preferring beach locations and activities, whilst birders and wildlife lovers will appreciate birds, reptiles and rodents progressively more active. Having said that, it’s worth that climatic change is having an effect on traditional weather patterns.
Where to Go
Quality over quantity is considered the most rewarding method of travelling in Madagascar. Its highlights are widespread through the entire country, but navigating around requires patience and adaptability. To spend a shorter time travelling plus more time experiencing and enjoying the unique attractions the country can give, concentrate on a specific region(s) rather than trying to see my way through one visit.
For example, focused on three regions, leaving many areas for just a return visit :
The East: Ile Sainte Marie (a week for whale watching and relaxation)
The Centre: From Tana to Toliara (two weeks along RN7 through Andasibe Reserve, Antsirabe, Ambositra, Ranomafana, Isalo and Anakao)
The West: From Miandrivazo to Morondava (7 days through Tsiribihina River, Bekopaka, Tsingy de Bemaraha, Kirindy Reserve and Avenue with the Baobabs)
Traveling around Madagascar uses a great deal of patience and suppleness. A small percentage of roads are paved and many of these are poorly maintained, stuffed with potholes and quite often damaged because of the annual rains and cyclones. They also all lead through the continent’s capital, meaning it's easy to have to back track around the same road simply to reach another location. Most locals travel via taxi brousse whilst this is often a cheap option and fantastic way to immerse yourself in local culture, set realistic expectations: have you been someone who can tolerate being cramped in the small mini-van for too long periods of time? A more expensive but comfortable options to hire the local driver - that gives you the flexibleness of stopping as required along the route - as well as to cut travel time by flying with Air Madagascar. Self-driving is just not recommended.
Air Madagascar is the continent’s national airline and provides an alternative to long and uncomfortable drives which has a number of different routes from the capital. It’s great for travellers in need of time or those needing to cover great distances. But be warned: it possesses a great notorious track record of strikes, scheduling changes and cancellations. Give yourself the required time between connecting flights and stay prepared for disruptions.
Although ATM and plastic card use is increasing in cities, towns and enormous hotels, cash continues to be most useful sort of currency to transport in Madagascar. The official currency could be the Malagasy Ariary along with the easiest currency to restore is EURO and USD. The largest note of 10,000 MGA may be worth around £2, so expect a big wad of income when you first change money. It’s useful to hold smaller denominations in rural locations, as change for giant notes will not be always available.
With a record of political instability along with the image from the country often portrayed by news and government websites, aspects often a worry of travellers planning a trip to Madagascar. Use sound judgment, don’t leave personal items unattended, take additional care in Antananarivo (especially during the night) and follow your gut instinct if your situation doesn’t feel safe. In other words, apply the identical rules you'll in any location, together with your own home.
Malaria is really a risk through the entire country so anti-malaria tablets are necessary, along with being current with your travel vaccinations. Don’t drink the regular faucet water - it isn’t safe - and make certain ice in drinks is constructed out of filtered water. If you plan to pay time in rural areas, a fundamental first aid kit is effective - particularly for traveller’s diarrhoea, cuts and scratches from forest walks and antihistamines when you react from insect bites.
French is the second official language so French-speaking travellers come with an advantage with regards to communicating with all the locals. English is being taught in the majority of schools and progressively more popular, especially amongst local guides as well as in hotels. But people that don’t speak French - just like me - need patience and charades in rural communities and while using older generation.
What to Pack
Madagascar incorporates a diverse landscape with rainforests, dry forests, deserts, rivers, mountains and beaches. It incorporates a varied climate to complement and depending on the holiday and location on the area, you could encounter rain, stifling humidity, dry heat, pleasant days and cool nights. Light and cozy layers are fantastic for varied weather and you’ll also appreciate good walking shoes, a waterproof jacket, sunscreen plus a hat.
Although geared and keen for tourists, Madagascar is one with the poorest countries on the planet. High-end resorts and hotels are continuing to show up in some locations, but arrive with realistic expectations to prevent disappointment. Many accommodation choices in rural areas just have electricity by way of a generator that's run during restricted hours, limited food options no Wi-Fi. Having said that, they've also been often located amongst spectacular scenery and surrounded from the songs with the great outdoors, so bring an excellent torch, slow and soak this.
Fady is really a key feature with the Malagasy lifestyle, essentially meaning ‘taboo’ or ‘forbidden’. A fady can be a belief passed on through generations that influences local behaviour regarding food, people or places. It may be consistent across the united states or consist of region to region. Although tourists usually are not expected to follow fady, it’s respectful that you follow it when advised. For example, guides within the Tsingy of Bemaraha can tell you it is disrespectful to suggest at something using your forefinger, requesting instead to point out with all five fingers, a gesture of respect which will be appreciated through the locals.
The sad the fact is that despite being abundant in natural resources, Madagascar is one in the poorest countries on the planet, with many different people living on below $2 per day. Travellers in Madagascar usually see themselves in ethically uncomfortable dilemmas, with well-meaning actions adding to a wider issue. The definition of “responsible travel” can appear blurry when children to utilise a popular tourist stop, demanding money for photos or perhaps a hungry family beg for help. There are no rules and everyone includes a different opinion - consider before you act and think about the wider implication of action and inaction.
Guides and Tours
In some places a nearby guide is suggested, in other business owners it’s a non-compulsory benefit and sometimes it’s not required. Use a combination in the three however , enjoyed my encounters with local guides. Most of them were exceptional: enthusiastic about their country, informed about the wildlife, culture and landscape, having an appreciation for conservation and responsible travel. But you will always find exceptions so your research.
Even in case you aren’t a person that uses guidebooks when travelling, the Bradt Guide will probably be worth a look just for this destination. It’s founder, Hilary Bradt, specialises within the region and is returning frequently for over many years. The Bradt Guide to Madagascar is comprehensive, filled with great information and it has lots of insider tips.
Above all, bear in mind sustainable tourism is crucial to Madagascar for both local income and conservation awareness. But irresponsible tourism might be a threat to your environment and local communities. Be a responsible traveller, show patience and flexible and relish the privilege of visiting one with the most fascinating countries on this planet.