Madagascar Travel Guide
It’s a place for adventure and adventurous tourists and is full of the beautiful, the dramatic and the unique. As the world’s fourth largest island you’ll need to come back more than once to get a good picture of the island and its charms. There’s not much in the way of industry there and tourism is only just taking off meaning that it’s generally unspoiled and steeped in the traditions of the Malagasy people.
How do I get to Madagascar?
The main way is to fly into Antananarivo Airport, or Ivato Airport as it’s also called. The only European flights there come from France with two operators from Paris Charles de Gaulle and two more from Orly. Additionally you can also fly from Marseille. Alternatives include connecting in South Africa or the Middle East.
What to see and do in Madagascar?
Forget the capital for it is slightly rundown and with little of interest. Far better is to head straight for Tsingy de Bemahara and spend plenty of time in the rainforest, camera at the ready at this UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a completely natural region with great geology as well as superb flowers, birds and animals. You’re bound to see the lemurs and many exotic birds of paradise but you’ll need to arrange your trip well in advance for access to the site is strictly controlled. Another fabulous photo opportunity is the Avenue of the Baobabs, just north of Morondova where these weird and wonderful trees will entrance you with their strange forms.
Madagascar in Brief
The Republic of Madagascar is a large island in the Indian Ocean which is famed for its unique flora and fauna. Located a few hundred kilometres off the coast of South Eastern Africa, Madagascar and its ecologically rich forests are home to many species of lemurs as well as chameleons and the Elephant bird which is thought to be the largest bird that has ever lived.
It also has magnificent baobab trees, octopus trees and the carnivorous pitcher plant while vanilla and peppers are grown here too. Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world and has 5% of all the plant and animal species on earth.
Some people like to really experience Madagascar in an exciting way by coming into the island via boat. There are a number of charter yachts which can be hired for this which are fully equipped with necessities and luxuries. This also gives you a good opportunity to go snorkelling, swimming and scuba diving, three activities which are not to be missed.
There are many wonderful natural sights to be explored here such as waterfalls and caves and it is a good idea to rent a car and then drive to spots from which you can walk on amazing nature trails. However, the state of the roads on the island may leave something to be desired. You are advised to hire a four by four vehicle to cope with any crater-sized potholes you might come across and this is a must during the rainy season when things can get pretty muddy.
When you are getting your bearings in Madagascar you should know that there are six provinces which are Antananarivo, Antsiranana, Fianarantsoa, Mahajanga, Toamasina, and Toliara, and Antananarivo is the capital of the country.
Madagascar used to be colonised by the French but today people there speak their own language which is known as Malagasy. There is a cultural mix of people on the island and you may be surprised to find that its inhabitants have customs more similar to Arabs than those of Africans. After all, Madagascar used to be a stopping point along the Indian Ocean spice route.
Facts about Madagascar
- Madagascar was once called the Malagasy Republic
- It’s an island nation and occupies the fourth largest island in the world
- At one point at the start of the 20th century it was part of the French Republic
- It has one of the most unique and diverse flora and fauna in the world because of a geographic split from India nearly 100m years ago.
Car hire in Madagascar without a driver?
For those used to hiring a car, the idea of having a driver may seem strange and you would assume add considerably to the cost. However that is very much the norm in Madagascar where nearly all rental cars include a driver. The times from which the driver is available vary from 8 hours upwards per day so check before booking. Car hire in Madagascar comes with a driver as insurance for non residents is rarely possible and feedback suggests that road conditions and driving standards make having a driver very useful indeed.
Hiring a car in Madagascar has got to be one of the most rewarding ways to see plenty of this dramatic and beautiful island. You’ll be able to get to the national parks before the tourist buses do and see the wonderful animal and bird life before the crowds scare them away.