Madagascar is a large island nation in the Indian Ocean, off the east coast of Africa, where people have lived for over 2,000 years. It is the world’s fourth largest island, boasting 5,000 kilometres of coast and a current population of twenty-five million, split between 18 ethnic groups and a multiplicity of social sub-groups.
Geologists believe that about two million years ago, Madagascar was a part of a big landmass that included what is now the continent of Africa, but it broke off. Madagascar would later break off from the Indian subcontinent. The geography of the island is relatively simple. It is 592,000 km² wide; from North to South, high reliefs and a series of lake basins run through the centre and its highest peak is Mount Maromokotra which is located 392 km off East Africa’s coast. Erosion is variably important, having created spectacular sites such as Isalo.
The coast is rather different from one side to the other. In the East, it is narrow, due to the fact it is trapped between the edge of the Central Lands, sometimes referred to as “the cliff”, and the Ocean. In the West and the South, reliefs progressively decrease in slope to the level of a wide plain, which is often interrupted by large majestic rivers. Madagascar is surrounded by a multiplicity of islets, some of which are grouped in archipelagos.
The most popular sea is located in the North West. Its creeks, harbours, islets and white sand beaches make it ideal for leisure boating, fishing or simply lazing by the sea. From Majunga to Tuléar, the mild-sloped coast has mostly remained in its wild state, and traditional dhows elegantly sail along it. The arch formed by the Southern coast before joining the Indian Ocean can be described as the end of the world, quite literally, given the fact that only Antarctica can be found beyond; it is decorated with isolated fishermen’s villages, pristine sand dunes, and waves that meet the most ardent surfer’s expectations. From Fort Dauphin onwards, the coast takes a strangely straight shape, up to Baie d’Antongil’s indentation. Underwater, Madagascar’s well-located coral reefs are among the world’s most beautiful diving sites.
Madagascar has some of the most unique flora and fauna on earth, many of which do not exist elsewhere in Africa – in fact over 75% of its species are found nowhere else in the world, and that includes most of mammals that live there too. Many were not even known about until around 1679 when Dutch explorers first came to its shores. Sadly, a large number of the species in Madagascar are in danger due to deforestation; much of the land has been cleared of forest for growing crops such as coffee, one of the island’s most important crops. A big part of Madagascar’s economy also comes from vanilla, selling more than any other country in the world.
587,041 sq km (226,658 sq miles)
Malagasy (official), French
Indigenous beliefs, Christianity
Flight time from London
14 hours via Paris
GMT + 3
When to go
On the main island, Summers are hot and wet between November and March. The rains are not quite as voluminous in the west and southwest of the island with the semi-desert of the far southwest rarely receiving more than a spatter of parched earth.
From April to October, the mainland enjoys it’s dry, cool season and as a result is the best time to visit. With bright warm days and mild nights, temperatures are highest at sea level as well as higher in the north and on the west coast. By contrast you can experience quite a chill in the south in July and in the likes of Fort Dauphin you’d be well advised to pack a sweater.
It’s worth taking into consideration that in the north it can rain at almost any time of year and nights at high altitude can be very cold indeed so if hiking or climbing is on the agenda, you will to pack some layers as well as a raincoat if you are visiting the northeast of the island. During the winter (April – October), animals are less active and some will be hibernating, though whale-watchers can enjoy viewing humpbacks up the east coast (and to a lesser extent the west) during June-to-September. November is an excellent time for wildlife, with the first rains encouraging an eruption of breeding for the amphibians, reptiles and birds and if you’re planning on diving or snorkelling you’ll experience the best clarity at the end of the winter (roughly from August to October).
- High Season
- Mid Season
- Shoulder Season
Where to stay
These are just a selection of the properties we can personally recommend. Please get in touch to hear more about our full portfolio.
Barefoot 5* luxury on a serene Madagascan island resort. For those seeking to engage all 5 senses, less has always been more. Virgin beaches, turquoise clear water, the pleasures of nature at every turn, total privacy, the ultimate in Robinson Crusoe chic.
Le Jardin du Roy
One of three French-owned hotels, Le Jardin du Roy is positioned in private grounds near the Parc National d’Isalo, in the Southern region of Madagascar. Located south of the main reserve, Le Jardin du Roy boasts majestic views over the park’s signature lofty sandstone cliffs.
Masoala Forest Lodge
Located on an untouched rainforest peninsula accessible only by boat, Masoala Forest Lodge is the perfect castaway retreat. Lying along a sandy bay adjacent to the wildlife rich Masoala National Park in Western Madagascar, this remote lodge has privileged access to the ocean and rainforest biodiversity of Madagascar.
Brand new, ultra-luxury lodge, Miavana is a private, four island paradise, surrounded by powder-soft beaches and pristine coral reefs, just 3.5kms off north east coast of Madagascar in the Nosy Ankao Archipelago. Miavana is home to just 14 vast villas each with ocean and beach views.
Vakona Forest Lodge
While modest, Vakona Forest Lodge is an excellent spot from which to explore the local forests and for those with limited time or not keen on flying round the island, it is an excellent spot for watching lemurs being just a three hour drive from Antananarivo.