Madagascar is a huge island nation off the southeast coast of Africa. It's home to thousands of animal species, such as lemurs, found nowhere else, plus rainforests, beaches and reefs. Near the busy capital, Antananarivo, is Ambohimanga, a hillside complex of royal palaces and burial grounds, as well as the “Avenue of the Baobabs,” a dirt road lined by massive centuries-old trees.
Madagascar has no parallel: an extraordinary storehouse of natural and cultural riches, it makes experienced travellers question what it means to say a country is unique. Separated from Africa and Asia at the time of the dinosaurs, animal life here has evolved in a startling myriad of forms, creating a profusion of endemic species found nowhere else on earth. Humans were not part of that process: they first colonized this huge island less than 2000 years ago, when it was a primal Eden, inhabited only by its bizarre and marvellous zoological cornucopia. As biologists discover more and more about this remarkable place, calling it the eighth continent barely does it justice: second planet seems more appropriate.
Madagascar is not Africa: this is a country of the Indian Ocean. No amount of travel in Africa can prepare you for the beauty of the local architecture, the elaborate tombs that sometimes seem to outdo the houses of the living, or the famadihana exhumation ceremonies that – literally – give the dead a party once every seven years, allowing people to come face to face with the deceased. Very quickly you discover that while elements of Malagasy life – love of cattle, traditional clothing, bush taxis (taxis brousse) – seem to derive from Africa, the people live in a world dominated by spirits and elaborate cultural rules derived from very different roots on the other side of the Indian Ocean.
Airport : Ivato International Airport (IATA: TNR, ICAO: FMMI) is the main international airport serving Antananarivo.
Country Code: 261
Credit Cards: Credit cards are not widely accepted in Madagascar, they are sometimes accepted in the main cities, hotels and larger restaurants. MasterCard is NOT at all accepted outside of Antananarivo. It is recommended you do not rely on your credit cards for payment, it is recommended you have enough cash with you to cover the needs of your stay.
Currency: Malagasy ariary (MGA)
Drives on the: Right
Electricity: 110V and 220V.
Ethnic Groups: 90% Malagasy,10% other
Location: Madagascar is an island in the Indian Ocean off the eastern coast of southern Africa, east of Mozambique.
Official Language(s): French & Malagasy. The primary language spoken in Madagascar is Malagasy followed by French. English is not spoken outside of major hotels and tourist attractions. Religion: 52% Indigenous beliefs 41% Christian 7% Muslim
Time Zone: +3 GMT
Tipping: If you feel you have been looked after well by your crew or guides, and you wish to show your appreciation for their services, a monetary tip is very welcomed by those in Madagascar.
Here follows some suggested guidelines:
Guide / Driver – approx. USD5 per person, per day (10,000 Ariary)
Park guide – approx. USD3 per person per day (5,000 Ariary)
Approx. 5-10% of the bill at a restaurant
Approx. USD1-2 (200 Ariary) per bag for a porter.
As Euro/USD coins cannot be changed into local money in Madagascar, it is advisable to tip in Ariary or USD/EUR notes. Please note that Porters at airports do expect to be tipped, therefore if you would prefer not to do this, or you have no small change, please make use of an airport trolley.
Madagascar has several climatic zones depending on the altitude and location. In general, the climate goes from humid tropical to semi-arid, with a rainy season from November to April and a dry one the rest of the year.
Peak Season: May to October
The dry season attracts the largest number of tourists, especially at Easter and Christmas and during the European vacation months of July and August. Rainfall is light at this time of year, but temperatures are still chilly in the upper elevations.
Off Season: January to March
The wet season brings heavy rainfall that muddies roads, making some of them nearly impassable. Cyclones are a problem, too.
Shoulder Season: April, November to December
Some rain may fall and bringing a jacket is probably advisable, but travelers will be rewarded with plenty of color and fewer tourists.
The topography of Madagascar forms the basis of the classic division of the country into five parts. This division is due to the very different ethnic groups that populate each region along with the very diverse climatic conditions dominating each of the main five geographical areas of the island.
Madagascar central Highlands constitute the main core of the island and here is where the capital, Antananarivo, together with other important cities are located. The landscape is dominated by terraced rice fields that attest the Asian origin of the Merina people, the main ethnic group, that share this territory with the Betsileo. Along Route Nationale 7 from Antananarivo to Fianarantsoa we also find some of the most visited tourist attractions of the island. Due to its relative altitude temperatures are pleasant during the austral summer, though they can drop a lot in the winter months
The North of Madagascar is scarcely populated and with the exception of Nosy Be Archipelago and Diego Suarez, also very little known. Despite its relative inaccessibility, this region holds a rich mix of ethnic groups and features nature wonders of extraordinary beauty like the karst pinnacles of the Ankarana national park or the untouched and very little explored rainforests of the Majorejy national park that will reward every visit. The dry season is particularly long excepting the Northeast forests where persistent rainfalls are expected the whole year around.
The lowlands of the East Coast are home to one of the major ethnic groups of the island, the friendly and hospitable Betsimisaraka. The lifestyle of this ethnic group of Madagascar East Coast retains the traditions and customs of ancient times. The pristine postcard beaches of Sainte Marie island are the major tourist attraction of the area, though the awesome variety of flora and fauna of the largely unexplored rain forests of the Masoala Peninsula make the visit of this national park a must for any serious nature lover. Best months to visit this region are October until December, before the cyclone season and after the rainy winter.
The remote, harsh, desolate landscapes of South have turned this inhospitable, arid area into one of Madagascar's most appealing regions. The dry desert of the Southwest Madagascar provides shelter to the Antandroy people, whose name ‘people of the thorns' testifies about the exotic flora that grow in this region: the spiny plants. The area from Onilahy River in the north to the Menarandra River in the south is occupied by Mahafaly etchnic group, known for their unique funerary art. The endless beaches of immaculate sand dunes of the Western south coast are home to the nomadic Vezo fishermen. Climate is hot and almost no rainfalls are expected excepting around Fort Dauphin.
The West is a vast region dominated by baobabs, spectacular tsingy formations and a jagged coastline with countless harbours that were used by pirates as refuge. The region is inhabited by the Sakalava people, a large ethnic group that keeps alive ancient beliefs in the possession of spirits and preserves the cult of royal relics in magnificent feasts. Climate is dry and pleasant during the winter months. Tsingy of Bemaraha is closed from November coinciding with the begin of the rainy season.
The cuisine of Madagascar is truly a reflection of the African, Arab and Indonesian peoples that have settled in the country. There are also certain French influences found in the crops that early French colonisers brought including vanilla, coffee, cloves and sugar cane. A traditional meal in Madagascar usually contains one main dish of meat, poultry or fish with a side dish of vegetables, accompanied by a bowl of ro (a mix of herbs, leaves and rice). Malagasy cuisine is known for being quite flavourful despite being prepared in a simple manner without much spice.
Popular dishes include:
Foza sy hena-kisoa: this dish consists of stir-fried pork and crab served with rice.
Ramazava: this dish is made up of leaves, herbs and pieces of beef and pork cooked in oil until browned.
Vary amid’anana: this dish includes rice, leaves or herbs, meat and sometimes shrimp.
Lasopy: this is a soup made with veal or beef broth and vegetables including carrots, turnips, white potatoes, scallions, string beans, tomatoes and then salt. Once the soup has become thick, it is served with crackers or fresh bread.
A popular snack found throughout the island is known as Koba. Koba consists of a helping of rice served with banana and seafood.
Desserts tend to be delicious local tropical fruits that are served with sugar sprinkled on top and then flavoured with vanilla.
It is not safe to drink tap water in Madagascar so visitors should stick to bottled water which is readily available. Most roadside stalls and stores will sell bottled water and Coca Cola. A popular local drink is ranonapango which is burned rice water. After a pot of rice has been overcooked, boiling water is added to the rice to get the flavour. The water is then poured out, chilled and served. Beers available in Madagascar include Three Horses Beer (THB) and Gold.
Things to Know: Tipping is not customary in hotels, however, restaurants tend to expect around 10%.
The main asset of Malagasy Tours, it’s these men and women that work together since 1994 to prepare your journey, to accompany you on roads and tracks, to share evenings around the campfire, to discuss about the journey and share their passion for the country: MADAGASCAR.
Incoming tour operator, travel specialist in Madagascar, Malagasy Tours is a local agency based in Antananarivo. We offer our expertise and experience for your circuit “à la carte” and your customized trip.
Our trips to Madagascar, these are meetings, exchanges of knowledge.
This site presents a vast pallet of customizable circuits in the most beautiful sites of Madagascar.
Whatever are your desires, discovery or relaxation trips, active or quiet holiday, engaged trekking or gentle hiking, ecotourism and theme trips, our team at the agency, always at your service, will offer high quality routes in strict accordance with your expectations. The responsiveness of our answers will surprise you!
Great specialists of trekking or hikes in Madagascar, our Malagasy guides are true professionals! They are of all trips from exploration to the realization. They travelled Madagascar in all direction, know every corner, they have “cousins” everywhere. They are tireless explorers, great traveling companions.