Madagascar, an island country in Africa, is the 4th largest Island on planet earth.
Madagascar has become famous for the American computer-animated comedy film with the same name by DreamWorks Animation. The animals in the movie “Madagascar” are not exaggerated at all. In fact, Madagascar has an outstanding bio-diversity, full of animals and birds that can be found nowhere else in the world but this beautiful nation.
If you are going to travel to Madagascar or like to know more about Madagascar travel itinerary, this post is for you. Since this post is the ultimate travel guide to Madagascar for first-timers.
Recent History of Madagascar
Madagascar’s Colonization by France
France colonized Madagascar and made it officially a French colony on 6 August 1896. Throughout the colonial period, France exercised total control over the economy, the administration, and the army.
On March 26, 1960, France agreed to Madagascar becoming fully independent. On June 26, 1960, Madagascar became an independent country and Philibert Tsiranana became its first president.
After independence, the government tried to have a friendly relationship both with France and other Western countries such as the US, except for a short period when Madagascar’s government became communist which only lasted from 1975 to 1992.
People in Madagascar
The Malagasy people are very welcoming and want you to be tamana (feel at home or accustomed to life) while staying in Madagascar. One of the ways that they go about doing this is to show you how to do things and enjoy your time being there.
Demographics Of Madagascar
Malagasies come in all shades of skin colors. Because their ancestors have migrated to Madagascar from Southeast Asia and East Africa, while some others are of Arab, Indian, and European background.
Languages Spoken In Madagascar
Madagascar is a Francophone country, and French is spoken among the educated population of this former French colony. Including second-language speakers, there are more speakers of Malagasy than French in Madagascar. The Malagasy language of Austronesian origin is generally spoken throughout the island.
Minority Languages in Madagascar
Maore Comorian, also called Comorian, Comores Swahili, Komoro, Comoro, or Shimaore, has two dialects, Maore and Shindzwani/Shindzuani. It is considered threatened by the Endangered Language Project.
Tourists don’t have to worry about communicating with locals thou, as there’s always someone around who speaks either English or French.
Things to Do in Madagascar
Avenue of the Baobabs in Madagascar
The dirt road on the west coast of Madagascar linking Morondava and Belo Tsiribihina is framed by dozens of rare and ancient baobab trees creating a setting so beautiful and unique that it may become the country’s first official natural monument.
How To Get To The Avenue of the Baobabs
The only way to reach the Avenue of the Baobabs from Morondova is by hiring a taxi in case if you’re not traveling with a pre-arranged tour. Arrive there around 3 pm, and you will have the whole place to yourself for a few hours.
Best daily tour to visit The Avenue of the Baobabs
The best daily tour that you can find for visiting the Avenue of the Baobabs is Explore Madagascar’s South + West. It is a private tour and they pick you up from your hotel in the morning. The tour includes visiting both Kirindy Park and Baobab Avenue. They educate you about both places and will drop you off at your hotel at night.
Île aux Nattes in Madagascar
Île aux Nattes is a small island south of Île Sainte-Marie, an island off the east coast of Madagascar. Both belong to Toamasina Province.
This small island has such beautiful beaches that some people call it the real paradise on the earth. With different shades of blue in the water and soft white sand, Île aux Nattes is definitely worth a visit.
If you like to relax in Île aux Nattes’s beaches and looking for a budget hotel, Residence Monique is your best bet. This place is very simple, clean, and cozy. The prices are also very affordable. Ask for the beachfront bungalow if available.
Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve
Located near the western coast of Madagascar in Melaky Region, Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve is a nature reserve listed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list since 1990 because of its uniqueness in the wild bird and lemur (the king in Madagascar’s animated movie), and preserved mangrove forests.
Tips for visiting Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve
1- Make sure to wear hiking shoes because you need to climb a lot of hills which is completely worth it since you’ll see some jaw-dropping scenes that you’ll remember for the rest of your life.
2- Don’t wear shorts because there are a lot of sharp thorns and rocks on your way that will hurt your legs.
3- Have sunscreen and Bug Spray with you since the sun shines like no tomorrow and countless mosquitoes are waiting to drink your blood!!
4- If you’re afraid of height, visiting this nature reserve is not recommended because as mentioned above, you need to do a lot of climbing.
Nosy Sakatia (aka the orchids island) is famous as a real piece from the heavens. This island is located on the west coast of Nosy Be and is inside a preserved ecosystem, protected, and classified.
The beaches in Nosy Sakatia are blessed with white sand and crystal clear water. You can experience snorkeling at its finest around this island. Those who try snorkeling in Nosy Sakatia get rewarded with the most beautiful coral reef and colorful fishes. It’s very common to see the giant turtles and swim with them while snorkeling. Since these giant turtles are used to see people around, you can get close to them, but please don’t harm them (there are some real stories of people who actually did that!!).
The bonus point of visiting Nosy Sakatia is that there are more locals than tourists which means the food is organic and unbelievably delicious. Locals are very friendly and would do anything to make you feel welcome.
Don’t forget to shop from the local markets. It is a fun experience, affordable, and you’ll help the local businesses as well.
The best tour for visiting Nosy Sakatia
The best full-day tour to Nosy Sakatia is Nosy be tour by light car. The tour is 9 hours long, and the best thing about it is that you get to taste the fantastic island cuisine included in the tour’s fee.
Tsingy Rouge Park
The red Tsingy stretch over 180 hectares in the Irodo Valley. Located on the Sahafary plateau at the foot of the eroded canyons, they occur to an altitude of 200 meters. The erosion of sandstone, marl, and limestone has resulted in the formation of these ephemeral structures sculpted according to the wind and rain. The red tsingy comes from an erosion process called lapiaz. Once exposed to the atmosphere, the mixture of different oxides causes the soil to be etched into hundreds of small, fairy chimneys.
Visiting Tsingy Rouge Park is one of the highlights for every traveler who’s been there.
Nosy Tanikely or “the island of the small earth” has the status of Marine and Coastal Protected Area and is officially called a national park. This uninhabited island is known as one of the most important islands in Madagascar because, despite its size, Nosy Tanikely has remarkable marine characteristics, and land biodiversity.
International tourists love this island because of its uniqueness. Sunbathing, diving/snorkeling, picnics, and walks toward the island’s peak are the main activities to do in Nosy Tanikely.
Nosy Tanikely has one of a kind marine wealth. Most visitors claim they’ve never seen a more spectacular coral reef in their life like Nosy Tanikely. It has many colorful fishes, dolphins, rays, sea turtles, and even harmless small sharks.
The capital, Antananarivo
Home to 3.7 million people, Antananarivo is the capital of Madagascar.
The Rova of Antananarivo palace complex was the center of the Merina kingdom during the 17th century. It features wooden houses and royal tombs. The pink baroque Andafiavaratra Palace sits in the nearby Haute Ville neighborhood. In the city center, heart-shaped Lake Anosy is ringed by jacaranda trees.
Antananarivo is an everyday exhibition of different architectural styles as it has both modern-style buildings, and 19th-century French-style houses, made of stone, known as trano gasy.
Antananarivo has countless tourist attractions and there are a lot of things to do there.
The Lemurs’ Park is one of the most famous attractions in Antananarivo because unlike what outsiders think, lemurs aren’t roaming around the streets. This park is the closest place to spot different species of lemurs if you don’t have the time to explore Madagascar’s biodiversity.
Ambohimanga is another favorite destination in Antananarivo. It is the former royal capital and its palace on a steep hill offers stunning views overlooking rice terraces.
This tour is highly recommended for visiting the best attractions in Antananarivo including Ambohimanga in one day. The guide and driver both speak perfect English and are very knowledgeable about the places you visit. The tour also includes a delicious lunch at a good restaurant.