Located off Africa’s southeastern coast, the island country of Madagascar is one of the most ecologically unique places in the entire world. Home to a staggering number of endemic species (found nowhere else on the globe), Madagascar’s wildlife, outdoors and natural marvels are undisputedly the main attractions of this Indian Ocean getaway. After all, Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world with loads of national parks, pristine beaches, undisturbed waters and tiny peripheral islets to be explored. Planning a visit? Here’s our list of the top things to do at this ultimate tropical getaway for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts:
Touring the National Parks: Exploring the Wildlife
Located in the southeastern corner of the island, Ranomafana National Park is one of the country’s top visits. A sprawling region of dense, tropical rain forest, this park is home to a large number of the country’s endemic species. From the huge variety of lemur species and reptiles to over hundred species of birds, butterflies and amphibians, this park is truly a wildlife lover’s dream. Also home to some beautiful hot springs, there’s no better way to end a day of touring than relaxing in thermal baths.
The Masoala National Park is the largest protected area in the country covering rain forests, coastal forests, marshes and protected water regions. From Red Ruffed Lemurs and nocturnal Aye-Ayes to Red Owls and stunning coral reefs, Masoala is by far one of the top things to see in Madagascar. Well-maintained camping sites and basic bungalows enable visitors to stay overnight (comfortably) while touring this massive park.
If you are pressed for time and can only visit one wildlife-rich national park in Madagascar, many would say the Andasibe-Mantadia National Park is the spot to go. Actually two separate reserves (Mantadia being a bit more difficult to access), these damp forest areas are home to an astounding number of lemurs, birds, reptiles, spiders, insects and more. With cooling pools, beautiful waterfalls and some amazing bird watching sites, these reserves are the country’s most popular visits.
Madagascar’s Outdoor Marvels
Located in the western region of Madagascar is one of the country’s most iconic and picturesque destinations: the Avenue of the Baobabs. A huge collection of Baobabs (with a dirt road running through the middle), this specific “alley” has 20-25 trees standing as tall as 30 meters, some of which date back over 800 years.
Another visually stunning area in southwestern Madagascar is Isalo National Park. Known for its wind and water eroded sandstone formations, gorges, canyons and stalagmite peaks, this rugged, arid landscape stands in stark contrast to the wet climates of the other national parks. From arduous trekking and light hiking to caving and dipping in the natural swimming pools, Isalo is an outdoor enthusiasts dream park. Visitors should bear in mind that a Madagascar tour guide is compulsory for anyone exploring Isalo.
Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park, located in northwestern Madagascar is an extensive “mineral forest” of jagged limestone peaks. Home to undisturbed forests, lakes and mangrove swamps that are filled with a large number of unrecorded flora and fauna, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the country and world’s most unique and unexplored destinations!
Exploring the Waters of Madagascar
An extensive coastline and fantastic flora and fauna make tropical beaches and underwater exploration an imperative part of this paradisiacal isle. From the stunning coastal area of Ifaty (with excellent beaches on mainland Madagascar) and the resort island getaway of Nosy Be to the whale watching and diving hub of Île Sainte-Marie (a northeastern island), sun, sand and salt seekers have plenty of options to choose from.