A remote wilderness and one of a kind destination, Madagascar was separated from the mainland over 165 million years ago. It has forged its own evolutionary path with some 200,000 wildlife species and over 80% of those found nowhere else on earth. Madagascar is often referred to as the “Eighth Continent” due to its size and isolation. The predominant interest is of course in the lemurs, chameleons, frogs, birds and butterflies. Plus you can experience white sand beaches, coral reefs, dreamy archipelagos of islands not to mention breathtaking rainforests, unique limestone formations and mass baobab trees. Less known is the diversity of cultures here and something many of our guests find absolutely fascinating and surprising.
We specialise in creating Madagascar African holiday packages and Madagascar safaris that encompass your style of experience, place you in remote and outstandingly beautiful locations where wildlife has evolved on its own distinct path thanks to its geographic isolation from the rest of the world.
Fourth largest island in the world. Covers an area of 587,000 kilometres about the size of France and has nearly 5,000 kilometres of coastline, with the Indian Ocean on the East and the Mozambique Channel on the west. The capital of Madagascar is Antananarivo (more commonly referred to as Tana). The best time of year to travel is generally when it is drier and cooler, from April to October but keep in mind rainfall varies hugely in the different areas due to the vast geographical diversity. A Madagascar holiday is ideally combined with a wildlife safari in Southern Africa or East Africa as there are direct flights from Johannesburg and Nairobi.
The capital city of Antananarivo is known to locals as ‘Tana’. It was built on a rocky ridge amidst numerous sacred hills and today remains a bustling city with friendly locals, colourful houses and cobbled streets with rice fields around its perimeter. We always recommend at least one night in Tana to start and finish your experience because you’ll acquire a real insight into the everyday way of Malagasy life and have time to enjoy cultural, historical and natural sites in the area.
Scarcely populated and isolated from the rest of the country by the rugged Tsaratanana mountain range, Northern Madagascar boasts a rich mix of cultural groups, secluded coves, tranquil lagoons, windswept promontories, expansive grasslands and altitude rainforest not to mention breathtaking tropical style islands! There certainly is an infinitely varied and broad palette of sceneries, people, fauna and flora to enjoy. It’s best to fly due to vast distance and once there, we arrange local guides. Highlights are Ankarana Reserve with its tsingy formations, Montagne d’Ambre National Park for its walking trails and Amber Mountain and Nosy Be island and surrounds. On the north east coast don’t miss Parc National Masoala and Ile Sainte Marie.
Stunning and diverse, the south offers landscapes from lush rainforests, majestic granite rock formations, diverse flora and fauna, beaches and exotic plants in the South West to the dry forests of the South East. It is the only place on earth where you are able to admire the spectacular spiny forest, a semi-desert ecosystem formed by huge cactus-like plants because it only grows in this region. Another phenomenon is the strange baobab forests and almost empty beaches that are extremely remote, yet worth the reward! It is here you’ll also come across a moon like landscape and mountain ranges of Andringitra and Isalo that meet vast endless deserts, stunning cliffs and canyons. The south eastern corner offers beach and rainforest paradise and abundant wildlife, best accessed by air due to remoteness and bad roads.
The Eastern area of Madagascar offers some breathtaking scenery, quaint towns and outstanding wildlife experiences. The Perinet and Mantady Reserves near Andasibe National Park are all home to Indri, the largest of lemurs. These creatures jump up to ten metres from tree to tree and make a wailing noise that you’ll never forget, heard up to three kilometres away! There are some eleven other species of lemur in the area, abundant insects and spiders and for the lucky few, Parson’s chameleon, one of the largest in the world. Mantadia National Park is also relatively close by, but more rugged with less developed walking trails. For those who brave it, you’ll enjoy virtually untouched primary forest with numerous species of lemurs seen by few. Highly rewarding Ranomafana National Park has lemur species, forest and waterfalls.
Remote and rarely visited due to lack of infastructure, the West hides some of the country’s best gems. From Tsingy de Bamaraka Reserve, known for its winding pathways through simply phenomenal limestone spiky landscapes, wildlife rich Kirindy Forest Reserve, home to the fossa to the iconic Avenue des Baobabs it’s worth a visit if you are looking for genuine Madagascar safari holiday adventure. We fly our guests out to Morondava, a lovely coastal town which will be your base and allow you with private guide in 4×4 to explore the region.
Love the Lemurs
One of the last major areas on earth to be settled by humans, Madagascar boasts a natural beauty and ecological diversity unlike anywhere else. Home to thousands of plants and animal species, the highlight is certainly the lemur. Primates that look somewhere between a cat, squirrel and dog, these animals are unique to Madagascar and there are nearly 60 different ‘taxa’ or species from the 25 gram pygmy mouse to the largest of them all, the indri.
The Big Tsingy Stone Forest
Second to the lemurs, people know Madagascar for its Tsingy formations, limestone pinnacles that are razor sharp and punctuated by caves, steep canyons and pockets of dry deciduous forest. There are two main areas to see this natural phenomena. The Ankarana Reserve in the north west has bat caves and petit tsingy easily accessible on a three-hour circuit or devote a full day to the park and head off to the western side of the park to Lac Vert and the grand tsingy. Second area is UNESCO World Heritage Site, Tsingy de Bemaraha in the south west and it is here that the tsingy are tallest, most slender and more extensive.
Tana Town Markets
Antananarivo is the capital of Madagascar and whilst it doesn’t have the architectural prowess of European capitals, it has its own buzz about it. A highlight for any Madagascar holiday is exploring the market that winds up and down the staircases selling all sorts of goods and wares.
There are humpback whales at various times and Madagascar places throughout the year. From June to late September, the sea around Sainte Marie on the Eastern coastline of Madagascar offers a wonderful marine safari where you can witness the whales frolicking in sheltered waters, calving and nursing their young and engaging in spectacular courtship rituals. Off Nosy Be in the north, you can watch hmpback whales (Aug – Nov), swim with whale sharks (Oct – Dec) and see webbed turtles and dolphins.
Beach and Island Paradise
Madagascar is fringed by numerous beautiful islands, particularly in the north. The experience of arriving by boat, slipping off your shoes and feeling sand between your toes is all the more rewarding when you are surrounded by lush forests, the calls of lemurs and the colours of marine life.
Manafiafy Beach and Rainforest Lodge, South Madagascar
One of our personal favourites, this small, stunning property rests just a few metres from a pristine beach bordered by lush forest. Experience barefoot luxury accommodation, boat trips through mangroves, canoeing, night walks in search of nocturnal lemur, whale watching in season, freshly caught seafood, beach walks and swims in secluded bays. You won’t want to leave this place of eden.
Isalo Rock Lodge, West Madagascar
A modern retreat in the Sandstone Mountains overlooking the Isalo National Park, this is a fantastic property for those wanting first world amenities and a breathtaking setting. Soak up the surrounds from your luxury air conditioned bedroom complete with sleeping area, ensuite bathroom and private balcony. Or venture to the main area where you will discover a stunning dining room, lounge bar and pool bar. Food here is also fantastic because of its simplicity and flavours.
Masoala Forest Lodge, North Madagascar
Luxury in Madagascar language, this small and casually elegant yet simple property is right on the water’s edge in a rainforest clearing providing you access to a truly idyllic beach. With just a handful of tented style accommodation raised on stilts for sea breezes, you have bedroom, bathroom with hot water at certain times of day. The main area is a typical Malagasy longhouse where meals are served, guests can gather and enjoy a drink and browse through the library of reference books. There is also a help yourself bar with honour system. Staff are from the local community and are really friendly.
Mandrare River Camp, South Madagascar
Seclusion is why we choose this stunning camp plus intimate access and insight to the spiny forest. The area is home to an abundance of wildlife and the Antandroy tribe. With river and mountain views, tented rooms under Tamarind trees await. Walking and 4×4 wildlife safaris plus local market visits are on offer. The highlights will be sighting sifaka, ring tailed and mouse lemurs not to mention baobab trees and many species of amphibians, reptiles and birds.
Le Soleil des Tsingy
This is the ideal base to explore the Tsingy of Bemaraha with great standard of comfortable accommodation in 17 bungalows. The main area has a lounge, dining, bar and lovely restaurant with dramatic view of the Manalambo River. There is a swimming pool where you can cool off after a day of adventure in the country’s most unique natural landscape and savour one of the country’s finest sunsets.
Manga Soa Lodge, North Madagascar
This lovely boutique style lodge boasts a beachfront setting on the large and busy island of Nosy Be. It is our preference on the island because it offers a more remote location, lovely setting and luxury finishes. Activities include guided walks in the forest, sailing, diving, snorkeling and day trips to remote uninhabited islands.
A week of revelation: rural Madagascar is both stunningly beautiful and unspoiled. My sense of adventure was awakened many times over but Madagascar also offered profound calm and time for reflection. Local people were genuine, curiously friendly and kind; their history, culture and religion and the countryside they live in all intertwine, adding layers and layers for the traveller to explore, understand and appreciate. There was a wealth of nature: not just the lemurs but amazing plants, birds and reptiles, and, most specially, some close encounters with humpback whales out at sea and sunsets by the baobab trees. I explored, I rested, I swam, I walked and I felt such huge gratitude that I’d been able to discover this miraculous corner of the world. Thank you Encompass Africa!
Manafiafy was exactly what we envisioned as the place to stay for our final 3 nights in Africa. Dino from Manafiafy took us to a village market where he knew lots of people so it was really fun walking through, sampling local produce and learning about local life.
Want to know what others said? Read all our customer ovations.
Get in touch so we can tailor a Madagascar Safari for you today