Welcome to Madagascar! Madagascar is the world's fourth-largest island. It has been evolving in isolation for the last 88 million years since it broke away from the Indian subcontinent following the breakup of the supercontinent Gondwana. Madagascar tore away from Africa some 165 million years ago meaning that despite its geographic location by Africa, it was joined to India much more recently.
Today. it is one of the world's greatest biodiversity hotspots with over 90% of its wildlife unique to Madagascar and found nowhere else on earth. It is home to the famed lemurs - the oldest extant branch of our primate family tree.
- Size: 592,800 Sq Km or 228,900 Sq Miles
- Capital And Largest City: Antananarivo
- Population: 28.5 Million
- Independence: 1960 (From France)
- Currency: Ariary
- Official Languages: Malagasy And French
While there is debate when the island was first settled, it was likely only within the last 1500 or so years ago. This means it was the third last of the world's larger landmasses to be discovered and permanently inhabited (the other two are the natural wonderlands of New Zealand and Iceland). It was then home to one of the largest birds to have walked the earth - the elephant bird.
- Fun Fact: The First Humans To Arrive In Madagascar Are Believed To Have Arrived From Borneo In Indonesia And Not Africa
It is important to keep in mind that Madagascar is very poor and undeveloped and the tourism industry is also underdeveloped. In fact, in 2017 there were only around 2,600 non-resident arrivals from America - one of the lowest in the world. If you are planning to travel around here it may be best to book a tour of the island. Getting around the island is slow as the roads are generally in a poor state of repair. Expect around 8 hours to drive 250 km or 150 miles. More tourists visit the stunning French volcanic island of Reunion just off the coast than the giant Madagascar island.
- Cost Of Flights: Flights To Madagascar Can Be A Little Pricy, Often Over $2,000 For A Round Trip, Though It Is Possible To Get Return Flights For $1,000
Madagascar is seen as having a high potential for tourism and while tourism is developing, it's not like touring some East And Southern African states. Madagascar is home to stunning beaches, eyewatering biodiversity, and rich landscapes. Madagascar is a hotspot for eco-tourists - in particular, people come to see the lemurs, birds, and orchids.
- Fun Fact: The Languages Spoken Are Part Of Austronesian Language Family That Includes Hawaiian, Philippino, And Indonesian. It Is Not Related To Any African Language
The climate in Madagascar is varied with rain shadow effects. So one minute you may be in a tropical jungle, another in an arid plain, drive for a few hours and you'll be in a subtropical forest. The lemurs are everywhere and there are many different species of lemurs.
When To Go
It is difficult to give the best time to go to Madagascar as it depends on where you want to go on the island and what you want to do there.
- April to October: Dry And Warm, Cooler Than Summer And Great For Sightseeing
- June to September: Best Time For Whale Watching (See Humpbacks On Their Northern Migration)
- November: Generally The Best Time For Wildlife Watching
- November to March: Times To Avoid As It Can Be Hot, Wet And Ferocious Cyclones Batter The East Coast (But Not So Bad On The West Coast)
What To See And Do
Some of the things to see and do in Madascagar are:
Madagascar is home to some of the most iconic of the world's Baobab trees. These massive trees can reach 98 feet tall and a rotund 36 feet wide. They can live for up to 1,000 years and store 1,000 gallons of water in themselves.
Visa Policy: Visa On Arrival Or Evisa For 30, 60, or 90 Days
They are found throughout the island but still, they are endangered by clearcutting. One of the best places to see them is just an hour out of Morondava on a road called the Avenue of the Baobabs.
Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve
Tsingy is a national park and is UNESCO listed. Unfortunately, it is difficult to reach - one needs to take a full day driving in a four-wheel drive on very rough terrain. Of course, if you do get there, you are likely to be one of the very few to marvel at its jagged beauty. For 200 million years wind and rain have sculptured this site and now it's as though it's made from knives. The literal translation of "Tsingy" is "where one cannot walk barefoot".
The area is rich in caves and you can enjoy a slow boat ride down the Tisribihina River.
Nosy-Be Island is Madagascar's largest and busiest tourist destination and offers the best of Madagascar's tropical beaches. This is where you go if you want to relax on the golden beaches and enjoy the tropical climes. It is about five miles off the mainland and is a volcanic island.
- Resort Room Cost (For Two): From Around $50
This is one of the few places in the country that you will enjoy more upscale and developed tourist infrastructure along the lines of what most Western tourists may be used to. The restaurants here are characteristically expensive. Some of the things to do include snorkeling, diving, whale watching (including humpback whales), and just chilling and enjoying the pristine environment.
Madagascar is expensive and difficult to get around. It is a stunning destination and one that will certainly be one of the world's most sought-after tourist destinations. But for now, it's a destination for the more intrepid of holidaymakers. If you would like to travel cheaper, then try to use local transportation, stay at local hotels, eat local food.