is a very large island in the Indian Ocean to the south-east of Africa.
This truly remarkable country is one of the largest, oldest and most diverse islands on the planet. Having been virtually isolated from the outside world for 65 million years, the flora and fauna has developed in strange and exotic directions. The catalogue of endemic species is prodigious ... eight whole plant families, over 1000 orchids and thousands of succulents ... 350 species of frogs, 370 unique reptiles, 200 mammals, five families of birds and an entire branch of the primate family tree.
The island also has a very broad range of cultures, created from waves of historic settlement from Indonesia and Malaya, with strong Bantu and Swahili influences from mainland Africa and with an overlying French colonial atmosphere.
Travelling in Madagascar is a very complicated business, with incredibly poor and unreliable infrastructure, as well as a very limited range of accommodation in most areas. Do not expect the same levels of service or reliability that we are able to deliver in most other countries. Even with more expensive trips you will need to be forgiving in a lot of areas and you will definitely need to leave plenty of leeway for failed connections and cancelled internal flights.
In almost all areas the main activities are undertaken on foot, so if you are not a big hiker, than probably best to swerve Madagascar completely.
There is no way that you can sensible get around all the highlights of Madagascar in a couple or three weeks, but you will be able to combine a handful of extraordinary and diverse locations into a trip, the best of which are listed here ...
The reserve of Andasibe
is located in the central highlands and is easily accessed by road from the capital, usually for 2 to 3 nights. These forest are home to a range of interesting species, notably the largest of the lemurs, the indris.
The extreme southeast corner of Madagascar contains two related lodges which are visited in combination over the course of 7 nights on a shared charter flight out of the capital Tana. The first is Mandrare River Lodge
, whose highlights include the spiny forest and dancing ring-tailed lemurs. The second is Manafiafy Lodge
, whose remote coastal forests provide access to animals as diverse as lemurs, chameleons and hump-back whales.
On the northwest coast and also reached by private charter from the capital, is the excellent Anjajavy L'Hotel
, which offers an unusually wide range of land and marine activities, including 'tsingy' limestone rock formations and more lemurs, visited usually for 3 to 7 nights.
On the northeast coast and again reached by private charter from the capital, the remote Masoala Forest Lodge
is the best location from which to experience the rich tropical rainforests of that side of the island, usually for 3 to 4 nights.
To the north of the island there are some very pleasant beach options in the Nosy Be
area, with options to overland to Diego Suarez in order to explore the Montagne de l'Ambre and Ankarana tsingy and lemur reserves in that region, usually over 7 to 12 nights total.
When connecting between these locations you will most likely need multiple overnights in the capital Antananarivo
The remainder of the island, notably the west and southwest, is all very under-serviced in terms of transport and accommodation, they need lots of time and patience to negotiate and the level of return can be questionable. Perhaps best to save these areas for a third or subsequent trip.