Madagascar: Luxury & Private Safaris
For the intrepid wildlife-lover who’s checked mainland Africa off the list, the island of Madagascar is your next “must.” While the island sits just over 300 miles from Mozambique’s coast, it’s a wholly unique safari experience with abundant plant and animal life found nowhere else on Earth. Ultra-luxury camps and lodges are not the main focus in Madagascar, but what you sacrifice in creature comforts, you more than make up for in unique experiences and adventure.
Spanning over 220,000 square miles, travelers will find steep escarpments with lush tropical forests, expansive central highlands of fertile rice valleys and grassy hills, desert, shrub-lands, mangrove forests and sandy beaches. At once alien and enchanting, the island’s diverse landscape is of intrigue to all visitors. That said, the real highlight is the island’s unique wildlife . Life has been left to develop in relative isolation here, making it a biodiversity hotspot. Over 90% of its flora and fauna is found nowhere else on Earth, including one of the world’s largest lemurs, the Indri. The island is home to over 100 species and sub-species of lemur altogether.
Madagascar is a big country, and the 4th largest island in the world. It’s capital, Antananarivo (a.k.a. Tana), lies in the country’s center. Though we like Tana as an introduction to Malagasy culture and history, this city has notoriously terrible traffic and is most commonly used as a jumping off point between wildlife locations elsewhere in the country.
From Tana, you will look to the far reaches of the country’s circumference to find the most iconic points of interest. But accessing these far away areas can prove to be a challenge, in large part due to the national airline (Tsaradia) being unreliable, and the roads unmaintained. We find the best way to explore Madagascar is by incorporating charter flights (either scheduled or private), in order to eliminate long stretches of bumpy road or uncertain flight schedules. Of course, the cost of a chartered flight is higher than driving or flying on the national carrier, so we can work with you to shape the best itinerary for your budget, interests, and time frame.
Apart from Tana in the center, we can look at Madagascar in 4 areas: East, South, West, North & Islands.
- East – Here you will find highland forests, which are very wet. Enjoy viewing an incredible number of unique animals while exploring parks such as Andasibe, Mantadia, and Masoala.
- South – Isalo National Park boasts beautiful hilly and rocky landscapes, offering plenty of opportunity for hiking. Beyond this, we adore both Madagascar Classic Collection camps and areas. Mandrare River Camp is a safari-style camp through and through with proper tented camps and the fully inclusive lifestyle we safari-goes have become accustomed to. The spiny forest, salty Lake Anony, opportunity for cultural interaction, and incredible array of wildlife make this location unique. It’s sister camp, Manafiafy Beach & Rainforest Lodge, offers excellent birding and rainforest species on a stunning stretch of private beach.
- West – The west is fairly dry compared to the rest of the country. Within this region you will find incredibly diverse landscapes ranging from the rugged Tsingy de Bemaraha Nature Reserve, to the iconic Avenue of the Baobabs.
- North & Islands – Head north for more incredible biodiversity, found in such parks as Ankarana and Montagne d’Ambre. Anjajavy (Relais & Chateaux), located in the north-west, provides an array of experiences from it’s beach-side setting, including wildlife encounters, exploration of diverse nearby landscapes, and cultural interaction. Lastly, it is off Madagascar’s northern tip that you will find the famous Nosy Be Archipelago, home to many gorgeous islands and some of the countries more luxurious lodges. This beach destination would be the perfect way to end a wildlife-focused itinerary, for those want incredible scuba diving opportunities, or simply to get some R&R.
Secrets and Tips from our Experts
- Madagascar is vast, and has so much to offer. Instead of tacking it on to your traditional safari as an extension, think of it as a stand-alone destination. You’ll thank us later.
- Avenue of the Baobabs can get busy around June-Oct. Beat the crowds by seeing baobabs at Mandrare or Anjajavy instead!
- This destination is for the adventurous traveler who is OK waking up to a frog in your toilet, and bumping around on potholed roads.
- Try the romazava (a ginger-flavored meat and vegetable stew) and ravitoto (shredded manioc leaves with fried bread and coconut).
Is Madagascar the right destination for you?
People who want adventure and unique wildlife will love Madagascar.
It’s ideal for travelers who want to get outdoors and out of the car. The island offers diverse hiking options from rocky, arid landscapes to lush tropical forests, kayaking and canoeing through mangrove forests, and more. The island is best seen and explored through hands-on activities that get you moving.
Madagascar is also a unique destination for wildlife-enthusiasts who don’t mind skipping the big game of mainland Africa. You won’t find wildebeest and lion here, but you will find a biodiversity hotspot with animals found nowhere else on the planet. Particularly for travelers who want to see lemurs, Madagascar is the top choice.
When to visit Madagascar?
Madagascar’s climate is generally tropical with varying amounts of rainfall. Coastal areas tend to be hot throughout the year with much more moderate temperatures in the central, elevated regions.
In general, the best time to travel is April/May and September/October, on the shoulders of the the cool and dry winter months (May to October). June to August are good for weather but tend to get busier with tourists. During this time the central highlands, which include Antananarivo, can get cold and windy.
Madagascar can experience cyclones and extreme rain from January to March, so these summer months should be avoided. The roads can become impassable in these conditions.
How much should I budget for a trip to Madagascar?
As a safari destination, Madagascar offers exclusive accommodation in remote areas though the average lodge cost is less expensive than Tanzania or South Africa. That said, we recommend including charter flights for internal transport, which drives the cost back up to typical mainland safari costs.
Madagascar: Luxury & Private Safaris
You can expect prices as low as $500 or upwards of $1000 (per person per night), dependent on season, accommodation, type of internal transportation, and individual needs/preferences.
Our favorite areas
Madagascar packs a lot of diversity into one island, and we love exploring corner to corner. Some of our highlights include: Andasibe-Mantadia National Park, the coastal rainforest reserve of Sainte Luce, Isalo and Ranomafana National Parks, and Anjajvy Forest and Ankarana Reserves.
What else should I know before planning a safari to Madagascar?
- Madagascar: Luxury & Private Safaris: If luxury is at the top of your list, Madagascar might not be the best fit. While the country has a handful of luxury lodges, accommodations tend to be fairly basic – clean and comfortable, but not 5*.
- Madagascar: Activities: Many of the activities in Madagascar are outside the vehicle – hiking, night walks, cycling, kayaking, you name it. For travelers with limited mobility, this should be considered when choosing Madagascar as a destination. Additionally, the bumpy roads will not be comfortable for anyone who suffers from back pain. That said, a select few properties can assist travelers with mobility issues, and provide a great experience (including the opportunity to see lemurs). These select properties are some of the country’s most upmarket options, only accessible by charter.
Ways to experience Madagascar
Guided hikes through rainforests, karst rock pinnacles, and towering baobabs are one of our favorite ways to explore and get to know the island. Canoeing and kayaking through the waterways is another great option when you’re ready to rest your legs without leaving nature. With a mix of driving and flying you get to see the country from both perspectives.
Wildlife you will see
Lemurs are the most popular among visitors, with over 100 sub/species calling the island home. You’ll also find unique mammals such as the cat-like fossa, and the planet’s smallest-known chameleon (plus 2/3 of the world’s total chameleons). Birders will delight in the over 300 species found here, while humpback whales, sea turtles and aye-aye (type of lemur) all call the island (or its waters) home as well.
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