A Madagascar safari is a unique experience – even within the contact of a myriad of memorable experiences in Africa. Over the years we’ve noticed that there are some common misconceptions about Madagascar which I’d like to address.
Madagascar is not for everyone… if you really like good quality accommodation, expect a holiday to unfold exactly as the brochure says and have difficulty coping with change, then perhaps a Madagascar safari is not for you.
However if you have a spirit of adventure. Welcome the unexpected, and are willing to accept some irritations and rustic conditions. Then Madagascar with its pristine flora and extra-ordinary wildlife, could be the perfect holiday for you. We recommend that you visit at least two, and preferably three, of its distinct climatic and floral zones to get the most out of Madagascar.
Type of accommodation in Madagascar
Unlike many countries in Southern Africa, there really isn’t that much choice in terms of accommodation in Madagascar. Except in the beach resorts of Nosy Be and Ile Sainte Marie. The accommodation is reasonable but usually not of a very high standard. Even a so-called five star resort is not to be compared with a five star hotel elsewhere in Africa. Or the Indian Ocean Islands. We try to tell it as it is in our proposals. So that there are no surprises when you are on your Madagscar safari. So read our comments thoroughly!
Having said that, Nosy Be and Ile Sainte Marie do offer a higher standard of hotel and so this is where you can upgrade your accommodation to offset the more modest lodges elsewhere.
Some clients are under the impression that because the hotel standard is not high, the cost of a Madagascar safari or holiday will be moderate. Unfortunately this is not really the case. Though it is not one of the most expensive safari destinations in Africa – Angola takes that prize – it is not cheap.
There are a variety of reasons for this:
- The international flight to Madagascar is expensive (due to lack of competition). Basically its almost as much as flying to London. Be warned!
- Madagascar is a huge country and therefore the domestic flights between Tana and Fort Dauphin or and Tana and Morondava are relatively expensive. Given that most people want to experience the diversity of Madagascar’s flora and fauna, you’ll usually visit 3 or 4 different regions and this adds to the transport cost.
- The hotels and lodges are priced in Euros.
English-speaking guide or not?
One factor which has a big influence on the cost of your safari is whether you take a private English-speaking guide. We usually give you the price with and without this guide.
If you choose a more basic tour, your hotel transfers (from the airports to your hotels and from Tana to Perinet) are with a local driver who will not speak much, if any, English. This is fine if you speak a little French (which is a common language in Madagascar) or if you are looking for a good price, but could be frustrating if you want to ask your driver about something that you’ve seen en route. However when you get to the National Park such as Andasibe, you join the scheduled tours and excursions with the English-speaking park rangers.
The alternative is to take a English-speaking private guide. It is quite a bit more than the basic tour as you have to pay the guide’s daily fees and also his accommodation and meals but in exchange you have much more flexibility and will learn so much more about the wildlife and sights of Madagascar so we strongly recommend it.
Note that if you fly from one area to another, you will have different English-speaking guides in each region. The guide does not accompany you on the flight. So you’ll have one guide for your visit to the Eastern Rainforests and another one who meets you at Diego Suarez for your visit to Ankarana and Montagne d’Ambre.
When to visit Madagascar?
The west and northwest are year-round destinations but mid January to March is cyclone season on the east coast. The eastern rainforests have a high rainfall so the best times to visit are the drier months of May onwards or September to December.
Madagascar is quite confusing in terms of place names as the guide books swop from the English name, for example, Perinet, to the Madagascan name eg Andasibe fairly indiscriminately.
In our proposals we tend to use the English names with the Madgascan names in brackets so that if you are reading a guide book or surfing the net, you can link up which area is which.
Another thing to bear in mind is that ideally you should be reasonably fit. You experience Madagascar’s flora and fauna mainly by walking the forest trails, sometimes for a few hours, sometimes in hilly terrain (optional). If this is a problem for you, you need to let us know when planning your Madagascar safari.
Can you go to the beach in Madagascar?
Some clients want to combine Mauritius with Madagascar. Though this is perfectly possible – staying at a smart resort hotel on Mauritius and then visiting Madagascar for its wildlife, you should also consider ending your Madagascar safari with some time on the beach.
Nosy Be is the largest of several beautiful islands off the northwest coast. This ‘Perfumed Isle’ is alive with the smells of vanilla, ylang-ylang and coffee. The more active can enjoy diving and snorkelling off the coral reefs or perhaps an excursion to Nosy Komba and Nosy Tanikely. Alternatively the Isle of Tsara Bajina matches the Seychelles for stunning island beauty – a palm-fringed desert island with lapping azure blue waters. The bustling island markets are full of embroidered white lace, colourful sarongs and wooden carvings.
Ile Sainte Marie
Ile Sainte Marie is 50km long and 7km at its widest point. The only real town is Ambodifotatra – other small villages comprise bamboo and palm huts. The island is almost universally known as Sainte Marie and is almost a cliché of a tropical island with endless deserted beaches overhung by coconut palms, bays protected from sharks by coral reefs, hills covered with luxuriant vegetation and a relative absence of unsightly tourist development. Sainte Marie has a far less settled weather pattern that its island rival, Nosy Be. Cyclones strike regularly and you can expect several days of rain and wind all year round, but interspersed with calm sunny weather. The best months for a visit are from June to November.
And finally a couple of smaller points to remember:
How to get to Madagascar?
Visitors fly to the capital city of Tana from Johannesburg or Paris and also from the island of Mauritius. There are plans to also fly direct from Johannesburg to the resort area of Nosy Be.
Unlike its northern neighbour, Mauritius, Madagascar is in a high risk malaria-area and so anti-malaria precautions should be taken