The Green East
Madagascar is known for its unique and lush rainforests which are found nowhere else in the world and most of these rainforests are found on the east coast of the Island.
In the North-east of Madagascar you will find the Masoala Peninsula, which is one of the last remaining tracts of primary rainforest reaching the coast line, meeting tropical coral reefs. This area is a particularly rich Eco system and has a great deal to offer nature lovers. Distinctive species you will find are the red-ruffed lemur and the most unique of all the lemurs the illusive Aye-Aye, birds such as the red-breasted coua and scaly groundroller, and even whales come to seek shelter in the bay. There is little infrastructure in the area and only a hand full of tourists visit this area. This area is also one of the wettest and generally only has a “dry window ” in October and November. It is not easily accessible, as flights to the area are limited.
The eastern rainforest reserve of Andasibe-Mantadia (also known as Perinet) is one of the last strongholds of the mythical Indri-Indri, the largest of all the lemurs. These territorial Indri-Indri emit a haunting cry uniquely similar to the singing of whales. This reserve is located approximately 150 km east of the capital Antananarivo and is easily accessible by vehicle. Can be visited year round, except possible mid January to end February when cyclones can occur.
The Pangalanes canal is a series of fresh water lakes that were joined by the French in colonial times for commercial use, to protect the barges from the Indian Ocean. The canal is only a few 100 metres from the sea and therefore sea and lake-side villages are easily accessible to each other. It is now totally overgrown and makes for interesting visits. Lake Ampitabe is the centre of tourism in the Pangalanes Canal.
Part of the south eastern rainforest is protected by the Ranomafana National Park and it is here that the rare golden bamboo lemur, recently discovered in 1987 hides. It is a montane rainforest region having 12 species of lemur, including the Golden Bamboo lemur, numerous endemic birds. The Ranomafana National Park accessible by vehicle and takes about 9 hours to reach the park.
For a wonderful ‘Robinson Crusoe’ island experience! Lush Tropical Island with coral fringed secluded coves with a balmy Indian Ocean Island ambience. Whale watching July and September. St. Marie island or Nosy Boraha as it is also called, offers honeymooners romantic small charming hotels nestled under palm trees surrounded by torquoise seas of the warm indian ocean.
The Dry South
Rain rarely falls in this world of towering Baobabs and unique spiny forests. This environment dotted with fascinating, colourfully decorated tombs add a unique character to the area, providing much for cultural enthusiasts as well as nature lovers.
Quiet, hot and rugged, a great destination for hiking. A combination of sandstone rocks, cut by deep canyons and eroded into weird shapes, with natural swimming pools creating oasis, makes this an exciting park to visit.
The south has more than desert like canyons to offer. To the south west of Isalo just offshore of the coastal town of Tulear is the beach area of Ifaty, with a large coral reef that easily matches the best coral reefs in the world.
To the west of Fort Dauphin is the Berenty Reserve, a spiny forest with a bewildering variety of endemic succulents as well as Sifakas, comical animals that appear slightly human as they have a tendency to walk on their hind legs (also known as the dancing lemur) and ringtailed lemurs.
The Far North
The far north experience starts in the town of Antsiranana, also known as Diego Suarez. The city is located on a pictureque emerald bay scattered with islands and fabulous sunsets. Variety epitomises this region, both in climate and in the colourful cultures found in the town.
Easily reachable is Montagne D’ambre, a middle altitude rainforest that covers the highest mountains in the region like a green blanket. The climate is perfect, the cool air refreshing after the heat of the lowlands. Waterfalls form an ideal place to enjoy the tranquillity of the forest and viewing the forest inhabitants that are attracted to the waters. Here you will see a variety of birds, and animals, such as the endangered Sandford’s and Crowned lemurs, and a large variety of orchids.
Further south is the Ankarana Massif, a bizarre limestone formation that is unlike anything occurring elsewhere in the world. This hollow mountain is covered with sharp spines called Tsingy that make the surface virtually impenetrable to outsiders. Inside the hollow mountain are spectacular caves linked by possibly hundreds of kilometres of tunnels. Isolated pockets of sunken forest grow where the caves have collapsed and deep pools shelter eels and giant crocodiles. This area is not accessible from mid January to End march due to rainy season. There are now 2 hotels which would fall into the basic to mid-market category available
Further south from the Ankarana, just off shore are the Mitsio Islands laced like a string of pearls, rising out of a dark indigo sea, the dark volcanic rock providing a stark contrast to the pearly white beaches. Dolphins, turtles and stingrays find santuary here in the calm waters. It is a popular diving destination accessible with a yacht charter. There is one hotel in this archipelago, Tsarabanjina suitable for the discerning traveller and it is only be reached by private charter.
On the beaten track and a popular destinations is the island of Nosy Be. It is geared towards commercial tourism and consequently has a different feel to the rest of Madagascar. It is still a beautiful island offering great opportunities of snorkelling, diving and exploring the Lokobe forests containing a wide variety of lemurs and snakes.
Finally there is the Island of Nosy Iranja . Nosy Iranja is located some 40 minutes by speedboat south of Nosy Be , a beautiful palm fringed island covered with covered with coconut palms , filaos trees and tropical flowers . Nosy Iranja consists of 2 islands connected by a 2km sandbar which is exposed during low tide with clear water for swimming and coral reefs which provide excellent snorkelling. There is also a small village, a lighthouse and a school which one can visit on the island of Iranja Be. These two islands are also the breeding ground for the Hawksbill turtles.
The western part of Madagascar is dryer that the eastern part and consequently deciduous forest flourish here, harbouring a wealth of rare endemic wildlife.
Morondava is a coastal town which was once the center of the Sakalava kingdom. In this small town they built tombs for their ancestors, decorating them with erotic sculptures (now sadly stolen). The most well known of all the deciduous plants are the Boababs, whose size and stange shapes have long been a source of myths and legends. Wide sunny beaches border the town.
Morondava is the the gateway to the one of Madagascar’s hallmarks the Avenue of Baobabs and the decidous forest of Kirindy (also known as the Swiss Forest) because of the constructive logging operation run by a Swiss consortium. Kirindy is one of the best places to see the wildlife of western Madagascar and several species, such as the giant jumping rat are only found here. Kirindy is not accessible from mid-January to end- March because of the rainy season.
Lies north of Morondava. Here towering calcarous cliffs and forests line the rivers. A large variety of succulents can be found on the cliffs, uniquely adapted to live in the cracks and crevices of the sharp spines formed by the eroded rock.
One of Madagascars largest commercial ports, this town boasts deserted beaches and canyons with incredible rock formations and caverns. Just south of Mahajanga is the reserve of Ampijoroa which is one of Madagascars premier birding destinations and home to the rare and endemic Madagascar Fish Eagle.
Antananarivo – the business capital of the Island, built on a series of hills, is a fascinating cultural mix of architectural styles as unique and varied as the inhabitants of this sprawling city.
Some 21 kilometres from Antananarivo is the Queens summer palace known as Ambohimanga. Wonderfully cool and with a pervasive sense of history, Ambohimanga offers a welcome relief from the hustle and bustle of Antananarivo. In times gone by the king and queen travelled here to enjoy the serenity.
To the south of Antananarivo the highlands provide wide open spaces dotted with enormous granite heads. Here is found the agricultural and industrial town of Antsirabe. Healing springs, mysterious deep volcanic crater lakes, have long attracted visitors to this region.