The island of Madagascar can be found along the waters of the Indian Ocean that is more than 200 miles apart from the coast of Mozambique. In the eastern part, forested mountain slopes rise from a narrow coastal strip fringed with rocks and reefs. Inland are high plateaus, which in many places have been stripped bare of natural vegetation. Madagascar separated from the African mainland about 170 million years ago, and many of the island’s animals evolved into species seen nowhere else in the world. However, human settlement and the loss of the island’s forests mean that its soils are the most eroded in the world making a hundred or more of its Madagascar animal species classified as endangered.
When in Madagascar, be sure to check out this top ten not to be missed places.
Lemurs Park (Antananarivo)
Antananarivo, Madagascar’s capital city is also the center of the island’s food processing industry. It is a progressive city built on hills with palaces, ancient churches, and many old houses that were built in the 1800’s. The Lemurs Park is located about thirty minutes drive away from Antananarivo. The park is quite small and you can easily visit in a little over an hour. Despite the name do not expect animals in cages, but 8 different types of lemurs that will be shown by their careful guardians in their natural habitat. Lemurs are an endemic species found only in Madagascar but most of them are now dwindling in numbers and the work to protect and preserve them are being done with great effort by the government.
Among others you can see the Indri, which can call your attention by creating an almost human wail throughout the forest. The Indri is monogamous and is the largest of the lemurs, tailless and climbing on tree trunks in upright position with powerful legs and jump up to 10 meters at a time through the treetops. The Indri feeds on leaves and shoots but also eats flowers and fruits. The Lemur Fulvus specie resembles a brown squirrel with darker nose and sociable character. The Fulvus are polygamous and have a fixed territory. The tour is easy and satisfactory in every naturalistic point of view, both for the flora to fauna (lemurs of course, but also birds, snakes, turtles, and chameleons). This park is a great diversion if you want to escape from the chaotic atmosphere of the capital.
The sacred village of
Ambohimanga stands a few miles on the northern side of the capital city – Antananarivo. It was the home of Madagascar’s most famous king, Andiranampoinimerina who ruled from 1787 up to 1810. Inside the palace you will learn the history and culture of the country and above all, with a knowledgeable guide you will know the story behind the Merina kingdom. How this ethnic group of the plateaus conquered most of the island in the 1900’s. Plus, you will understand why and how European missionaries converted many of the people to Christianity. You can visit the ancient official summer royal lodgings (unfortunately many goods that were inside were stolen).
It is an interesting site to learn about and be able to interpret the history and traditions, including religious ones of a race composed of different ethnic groups with a relatively short history as a nation progressed. At the entrance decorum behavior is required because it is a sacred place and in the “summer residence” is not allowed to take pictures out of respect. The Ficus tree in the garden stands immense and wonderful. The entire complex of Ambohimanga is a series of up and down lanes and stairways that is composed of a real city, a cemetery, and a set of sacred sites that once served as the ancient capital and government seat of Madagascar until it was moved to Antananarivo.
The entrance to the village of Ambohimanga is marked by one of the seven major traditional doors that protect the inaccessible summit of the hill. A guide can lead you to all the rooms and courtyards within the residence. From the outside you can take photographs, while inside it is strictly prohibited. The halls of the Queen’s section of the palace are full of mirrors. From the summit, a magnificent view of Antananarivo welcomes your eyes.
Lokobe Nature Special Reserve (Nosy Be)
If you like adventure in the middle of the rainforest and watch the lemurs in the wild, the Lokobe Nature Special Reserve is the ideal place to visit.
This park has a local guide who is an expert in botany and fauna with detailed information per each animal in this area. Going around you can see wildlife animals like; smallest chameleons (1 cm.), nonpoisonous snakes (boa constrictors), frogs, tarantulas and a huge number of nice and sweet lemurs. To reach this natural attraction, you can arrange for an early morning canoe trip departing from s small fishing village in Nosy Be. After a few minutes of rowing in the middle of the mangrove, you will arrive on the reserve, a typical small village where a group of children will welcome you with open arms. The change of scenery in the midst of a wilderness is an authentic and thrilling part of the journey. The animals here mostly keep their distance but some lemurs are not shy to get close and you can feed them bananas in your hands.
After a journey into the jungle, a feast awaits you on the house of a local host assigned to cook and prepare meals for the guests. The buffet spread usually consists of Trevally fish, shrimp, crab, coconut rice and fresh fruits for dessert. An opportunity to purchase local crafts is made possible as enterprising locals approach you and sell their wares. The whole Eco – tourism experience is a great project to learn more about the wilderness of Madagascar and opens the way on how tourists can interact and get to know the charming and friendly locals living on this part of the island.
Le Lemurien Palme (Nosy Boraha)
For deep sea diving adventure and learning you can spend your Level 1 dive at the Le
Lemurien Palmé. Efficiently managed by club owner named Eric and his skilled diving staff, a great diving experience in the Indian Ocean can highlight the best of your holiday adventure in Madagascar. The tour of the diving sites provides a great atmosphere with PADI certified divers that are professional and equipped with the most recent hardware and complete diving gears. You can discover the beauty that surrounds the great sea beds of the Saint Marie beach and other beginner’s (7 meters) diving reef areas.
The tour extends up to other interesting spots in diving and up to the point where you can see the whale’s fabulous performances in the ocean (more visible during the months of August). Eric also has a passion for everything related to whales in season and can take you to experience this thrill during a fishing trip that he leads to positive results.
Andasive Mantadia (The Perinet Reserve)
The Perinet Reserve is definitely for those who have never visited a rainforest experience and adventurous enough to learn more about Madagascar and all the animals kept in their natural habitat. Be ready to visit with the rain during the day and the tolerable humidity. Walking can be strenuous as the walk to reach the middle of the forest passes through narrow rice fields and huge cacao plantations. It is important to have a good guide who will accompany you to discover lemurs, spiders, chameleons, and amphibians. The reserve contains two families of Indri lemurs which you can appreciate up close after a four hour walk. The night hike is equally exciting as you walk along a paved dark road at the edge of the park, with a guide.
Experience a different kind of fun by serving the torch (one per person because there is no lighting) and pointing the light in the trees where you can see lots of animals and the sparkling yellow eyes of the nocturnal lemurs who stay on its branches seeking protection from the other animals who live with them in the wild.
Ankarana Reserve (Antsiranana)
Located in the north of Madagascar the Ankarana Reserve
is a vast national park 150 km from the Diego Suarez Region. The journey starts with a couple of hours of driving along a rough road after hailing from the port of Ankifi. But after a turbulent dirt track road the scenic wonders along the way will satisfy your effort to reach this isolated reserve. You can choose various routes along with a guide, from the shortest to the longest 5 hours. The path varies depending on the chosen path you intend to take. After the long drive, you must follow a trail path on foot in a course of three hours.
After a hike in the forest, the possibility of spotting lemurs comes into view (see the nocturnal lemurs curled up in a niche in the trunk of a tree, or the diurnal lemurs that welcome you and give a chase around the fields) this walk will lead you to a terrace or viewing platform that will leave you fascinated with the sights of the plateaus and mountains that surround Madagascar. Try the rope bridge and the excursion to the small villages. There are bungalows for guests where one can have an overnight stay.
Parc Ivoloina Toamasina (Tamatave)
The Parc Ivoloina is quite nice and well cared for and there are several species of lemurs in a fenced enclosure that is at liberty as well as turtles, chameleons, parrots, pheasants and countless collections of exotic plant species. This park is located at the east coast path of the Toamasina province. The place is magical, it’s a kind of jungle that is so diverse and offers a variety of excursions, depending on the time and energy of the visitor. A great variety of lemurs can be seen and appreciated and all in one place. The park has guides and each one explains the full detail and condition of each animal. Feeding and taking pictures of the animals are allowed but the use of flash is strictly prohibited.
At this park you can have the opportunity of meeting the endemic animal called the “Aye Aye” and this makes it a must to visit this park for this animal is very difficult to spot. You can see it playing apart from the other lemurs on a night tour. It is not just a zoo where you can see different species of lemurs and reptiles and amphibians in the cage (temporary accommodation reserved for animals in need before they are released into the surrounding forest).
Just half an hour drive by car from Antsirabe you will find Lac Tritriva, a unique lake that has a depth of 150 meters and located right in the crater of a volcano. Situated along a dusty road, you can drive right up to the edge of the crater and from there admire the beauty of the lake located at the bottom. If you allow the time, you can go down the path to the water and swim. The water is very clean and cool. There are no cabins for changing clothes but it is full of bushes and almost no people. Upstairs you’ll be welcomed by locals who will try to sell you crafts, cloves, quartz crystals, souvenirs and more. All this is not very expensive and if you fancy something; learn to haggle and buy.
In the vicinity of the lake you can organize yourself a picnic and have a good time. The lake leaves a pleasant impression on a hot day where it is just wonderful to swim and relax.
Lokaro Beach (Fort Dauphin)
The Lokaro Beach is simply heavenly because it is preserved in its natural state totally untouched by human intervention. It is a small island accessible on foot by a strip of sand with stunning hidden coves (variety of deserted beaches), a lake with turquoise waters, a small fishing village within the area which can be reached in 2 minutes by a dugout canoe.
You can enjoy a group or solitary hike in the wilderness and see a forest filled with giant ravines and breathtaking views of the Indian Ocean.
The Avenue of the Baobabs is very pretty especially at sunset when you can admire the changing color of the sky and the shadow of the trees. The huge baobab tree has a wide bottle – shaped trunk.
The fibers inside it swell with moisture drawn from the ground. This storage of water helps the people of Morondova survive during the season of drought.