Best Things To Do in Madagascar
Madagascar appeals to both animal lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. At national parks like Lokobe, Mantadia and Isalo, visitors can come face-to-face with creatures like lemurs, birds, chameleons and snakes, plus an array of trees and plants. Towering baobab trees are front and center at the Avenue of the Baobabs, while unique rock formations and ample hiking opportunities are available at Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve and Tsingy Rouge Park. But travelers will find more than just land-based activities here. Nosy Sakatia is one of the country's best spots for snorkeling with sea turtles, and at The Three Bays, vacationers can swim, windsurf and kitesurf.
Updated June 10, 2019
- #1View all Photos#1 in MadagascarHiking, Natural Wonders, Parks and GardensTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDHiking, Natural Wonders, Parks and GardensTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
Situated along Madagascar's west coast, Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve is home to impressive geological structures and a variety of endangered species. More than 328 miles of forests make up this UNESCO World Heritage site, where 11 kinds of lemurs, 17 types of reptiles, 6 bird species and more reside. But the standout here is the park's towering gray limestone pinnacles, which stand up to 328 feet tall.
Past visitors said Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve is a "must-see adventure" that's "definitely worth the drive." Although the locale can be a bit challenging to traverse – some former travelers reported crawling through tight gaps and lots of climbing – many described the views from the top of the pinnacles as "spectacular."
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As its name suggests, the 853-foot-long Avenue of the Baobabs is a stretch of giant baobab trees believed to be up to 800 years old. Though the avenue is situated roughly 405 miles away from Antananarivo, it offers close proximity to Kirindy Mitea National Park, which sits along Madagascar's west coast.
According to recent travelers, the Avenue of the Baobabs is one of the country's best places to snap photos, especially at sunrise and sunset. But remember, these are the avenue's peak visiting hours, so arrive early. Visitors recommend paying for a guide's services, or you can opt for a multiday tour by local companies like Intrepid Travel and G Adventures. Itineraries vary by tour, but expect to spend at least an hour on-site. Tour fees start at $1,140 per person. If you're sticking to a tight budget, consider driving yourself or flying into Morondava Airport (which sits less than 10 miles away from the attraction) – accessible from Antananarivo's Ivato International Airport.
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One of Madagascar's most convenient parks to explore is Mantadia National Park. Located about 100 miles east of the capital city of Antananarivo, Mantadia National Park is home to 14 species of lemurs, plus 117 types of birds and 84 kinds of amphibians. Plant enthusiasts will also find plenty to admire here. More than 1,200 plant species grow in this lush park, 120 of which are orchids.
Past travelers enjoyed wandering along Mantadia National Park's five trails, adding that each path and stairway was well-maintained. What's more, several said this protected area is a must-see if you love lemurs and recommend hiring a local guide for a fee at the park's reception counter. Each local guide is an experienced spotter, meaning you'll increase your chances of seeing an array of animals.
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If you want to take in water vistas without trekking offshore to islands like Nosy Sakatia or Nosy Be, head to The Three Bays. Made up of three bays – Sakalava, Pigeon and Dune – this area features pristine beaches where activities like swimming, hiking, windsurfing and kitesurfing can be enjoyed. You'll also have ample opportunities to take jaw-dropping photos here.
Visitors rave about The Three Bays' beautiful setting, adding that the kitesurfing conditions at Sakalava Bay are superb. The area is also easy to reach by car since it's just 10 miles northeast of Antsiranana. For those who'd rather explore The Three Bays on a quad bike, Diego Raid offers four-wheel drive tours for $21 per person (or $120 per vehicle).
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If your idea of a Madagascar getaway consists of hiking through a tropical forest and observing lemurs in the wild, then you must visit Lokobe National Park. Situated on the southeastern tip of Nosy Be, an island off Madagascar's west coast that's known for its picturesque beaches and sunsets, Lokobe National Park is one of the Sambirano region's only remaining forests. The park can only be accessed by motorized, canoe-like boats called pirogues, adding to its tranquil, unspoiled atmosphere.
Although some recent visitors cautioned that getting to the park and exploring it can be quite exhausting, most raved about its beauty and wildlife. You'll have the chance to spot three lemur species here, as well as multiple kinds of amphibians and reptiles. Highlights for past travelers included watching boa constrictors slither in the trees, seeing chameleons blend in with their surroundings and feeding lemurs bananas. Since you'll be trekking through wild terrain, remember to wear comfortable sneakers, as well as long-sleeved clothing and bug spray to protect yourself from mosquitoes.
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Although Madagascar offers several places to spot lemurs, one of its more unique animal locales is Anja Community Reserve. Located about 41 miles southwest of Fianarantsoa along National Road No. 7, this environmental and cultural preservation site strives to protect local flora and fauna within an inhabited area. Ring-tailed lemurs, chameleons, snakes and more live here, and the reserve's surrounding granite mountains feature two hiking trails, various caves and a campsite with water, restrooms and a shower area.
Past travelers enjoyed checking out Anja Community Reserve on foot, saying they saw multiple lemurs during their visits. Many also raved about the easier Small Circuit Loop, which takes about two hours to complete. For a more challenging hike, consider trekking the six-hour-long Large Circuit Loop. If you decide to stay overnight, remember to bring camping equipment since it is not available at the campsite.
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Isalo National Park woos visitors with its vertical rock walls, lush vegetation and picturesque waterfalls. Throughout this tropical paradise, travelers can hunt for reptiles and primates – there are more than 50 species living here – while strolling along 10 walking, hiking and bike trails. Some paths even lead to natural swimming pools, where you can cool off while taking in your surroundings.
Previous visitors had mixed feelings about Isalo National Park. While some described it as Madagascar's best national park, others felt it was too expensive. But if you can pay the park's 65,000 Malagasy ariary ($20) entrance fee and roughly 4,000 to 113,000 Malagasy ariary (or $1 to $36) to explore one of its paths during a guided tour, past travelers said you'll be rewarded with "stunning" views of an "incredibly beautiful" area.
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Although this attraction in northern Madagascar is a bit removed from the main roads, Tsingy Rouge Park's dramatic landscape cannot be missed. Featuring tall clay-like rock formations created by landslides and mudslides, this area's red rocks are often compared to the larger ones found at Utah's Bryce Canyon National Park.
You'll need a four-wheel drive vehicle to get to this natural wonder, but recent travelers recommend making the trek. If you don't rent a car while in Madagascar, you can take one of several organized tours to the site; rates start at $168 per day, excluding lodging and meals. Tour operators that visit Tsingy Rouge Park include Soa Tours and Visit Mada Tours. Since the terrain is rough in this park, be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes.
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When you're in need of a break from Madagascar's parks and forests, head to the quaint island of Nosy Sakatia. This tropical oasis – which measures just 1 square mile – boasts an array of orchids but is best known for its water sports activities. Everything from sailing to fishing to snorkeling and diving is offered here, and you can even spend a night or two at one of the island's hotels.
Past visitors loved scuba diving and snorkeling in Nosy Sakatia's waters during half-day excursions. Many, in fact, saw sea turtles grazing in shallow areas. However, a few travelers were less than impressed with the island's beaches and desired more things to do on shore. If you do decide to visit Nosy Sakatia, consider booking a half- or full-day tour through companies like City Discovery and Les Baleines Rand'eau. Tour rates start at $50 per person and generally include snorkeling equipment rentals and lunch.
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Although you'll have ample opportunities to spot lemurs in national parks like Mantadia and Lokobe, for even more chances to see these furry creatures, travel 16 miles southwest of Antananarivo to Lemurs' Park. This private, 12-acre reserve houses nine lemur species, as well as various lizards and birds and 70-plus types of plants. In addition to welcoming tourists, the park works with other Malagasy reserves to rehabilitate and breed lemurs.
Travelers say Lemurs' Park is a great place to see lemurs without venturing far from Antananarivo. Though you won't be allowed to touch the lemurs, the property's animals move freely around the park, so one may try touching you. Many also rave about the attraction's well-maintained facilities and knowledgeable guides.
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