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Avenue of Baobabs, Morondava, Madagascar

Madagascar Holidays

A paradise with a mysterious past. Beyond its glorious collection of wildlife – think chameleons, lemurs and whales – we can open up a treasure trove of culture, music, superstitions and pirate folklore for you.

Home to a natural world as magical and diverse as the people, Madagascar is a confusing, fascinating and exciting country.

Here, chameleons change colour in front of your eyes, lemurs dance through treetops, baobabs loom over paddy fields and whales calve off white beaches. And amongst this wealth of natural beauty hide pirates’ tombs, celebrations of the dead and whispered superstitions.

Highlights of Madagascar

Ringtailed lemur, Berenty reserve, Madagascar
Ring-tailed lemurs, Madagascar

The wildlife of Madagascar

  • Watch ring-tailed lemurs dancing in the trees of the Ifotaka forest
  • See chameleons change colour by torchlight on a night walk in Ranomafana
  • Search for the elusive and cat-like fossa in Kirindy National Park
Beach View, Nosy Be, Madagascar
Nosy Be, Madagascar

Beaches & islands

  • Snorkel over historical shipwrecks off the coast of Ile St Marie
  • Spend time with rays, sharks and dolphins whilst diving off Nosy Be
  • Watch whales breach offshore between June and September
Young boy in hat, Madagascar
Madagascar

Cultural highlights

  • Discover ancient haunted tombs in remote southern forests
  • Experience the buzz of a traditional weekly zebu cattle market
  • Take an urban Malagasy music tour around Antananarivo
Crowned lemur, Amber Mountains, Madagascar
Amber Mountain National Park, Madagascar
Malagasy or Madagascar tree boa, Andasibe Mantadia, Madagascar
Andasibe-Mantadia, Madagascar
Leaf tailed Gecko, Andasibe Mantadia, Madagascar
Andasibe-Mantadia, Madagascar
Kids playing, Anjajavy, Madagascar
Anjajavy, Madagascar

Family holidays on the island

Explore this diverse, exciting and adventure-packed island as a family, combining quirky endemic wildlife with unspoilt tropical beaches. In the forests of Andasibe, spot lemurs and chameleons as you explore on foot, before searching for haunted tombs in the mangroves of remote southern Madagascar. Finish on the beach, where you can snorkel, swim, kayak and sail, surrounded by an array of colourful marine life.

Explore Madagascar

  • Amber Mountain National Park
  • Masoala Peninsula
  • Ankarana
  • Ranomafana
  • Tsingy de Bemaraha
  • Kirindy
  • Isalo
  • Berenty
  • Antananarivo
  • Diego Suarez

Experiences

Choose from our collection of curated experiences that will help us to create a bespoke and memorable journey for you.

Trek the Masoala Peninsula

Venture to the rugged mountains and lush rainforests that offer challenging trails for the brave.

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Visit Local Communities

Discover some incredibly welcoming, and isolated, traditional towns and villages.

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Nosy Mangabe Nature Reserve

Travel by boat to the Nosy Mangabe Nature Reserve, home to white-fronted brown lemurs, black-and-white ruffed lemurs, leaf-tailed geckos, tree boas and even aye-ayes.

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Nosy Be Adventure

Spend time with rays, sharks and dolphins whilst diving off Nosy Be.

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Tsingy Rivers and Caves

Kayak along rivers and explore caves in Tsingy de Bemaraha.

Charter a Yacht

Island-hop along Madagascar’s north-western coast on a private, skippered yacht.

Wildlife Night Walk

Set out on a night walk, spotting chameleons, tenrecs and other nocturnal animals by torchlight.

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Whale Watching

Watch humpback whales come to calve in the sweeping Bay of Antongil.

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Anjajavy Adventure

Sail, windsurf, snorkel and canoe off the beaches on Anjajavy.

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Snorkel on Ile St Marie

Snorkel over historical shipwrecks off the coast of Ile St Marie.

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Need Inspiration?
Browse our Madagascar holiday ideas.

Our experts have created and curated these holiday ideas to get you started. Take the time to search through them and find something to spark ideas for a unique adventure.

Meet our experts

A passion for travel runs right through every one of our experts - meaning they're always ready with first-hand insight about their specialist countries.

Illona Cross

Born in a small South African town, I have always followed my passion for nature and discovery. After studying Nature Conservation in Pretoria, I was one of the first women to complete a very tough cadetship in the Natal Parks Board. It was here where I cut my teeth in African wildlife management. My desire to see more led me to work as a guide for AndBeyond, first in South Africa, then in Tanzania as the company expanded. Here, I lived and worked in the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro, guiding and running safari camps.
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Chris Johnston

Having trekked through rainforests, searched for ancient tombs and been mistaken for a priest, Chris continues to travel the length and breadth of this beautiful, baffling country. Whilst many people consider Madagascar a wildlife destination, he finds the culture and landscapes just as captivating.
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Chris and Illona's enthusiasm for the destination coupled with knowledge on the ground ensured we stayed at great places and saw a varied perspective of the country.

Madagascar

Frequently asked questions about Madagascar

How unreliable are Air Madagascar?

Unfortunately, they are still prone to cancelling or delaying flights. Certain routes are worse than others and we will only tend to include an Air Madagascar flight in your trip if it is on one of these better routes. Because flight times are never officially confirmed until the night before departure and delays are common, we always include a night in Antananarivo if you are connecting with either a domestic or international flight from an Air Madagascar flight.

Because of these problems with Air Madagascar, several lodges run their own scheduled charter services that run several days a week. Making use of these is an excellent way to connect remote parts of the country without the stress of using Air Madagascar. Alternatively, we can also arrange private charter flights between most of the parks in Madagascar. This is the fastest and most convenient way to travel around Madagascar but also the most expensive.

Can I cover all of the country's highlights in one trip?

In short, no. Unless, of course, time and money are no object. The size and diversity of Madagascar are hard to understand from a map, as are the logistical challenges. However, it’s best to simply focus on making the most of the areas that you do visit during the time you have.

This may mean that you only explore a relatively small part of the country in a typical two-week holiday. But we can steer you towards the most rewarding areas, minimising travel time and allowing you to enjoy what Madagascar has to offer, rather than rushing around trying to cover an infeasibly large area.

I've been on safari before. Will a holiday in Madagascar be similar?

No. It is no exaggeration to say that it could not be more different. Aside from the entirely different wildlife, landscapes and cultures that you will encounter, the main difference will be how wildlife viewing takes place. In Madagascar, almost all activities take place on foot, as opposed to in a vehicle. Generally, the walking is fairly easy going and you will rarely go too far, but these forest walks are the best way to encounter lemurs, chameleons, frogs, birds and more.

Furthermore, rather than viewing wildlife from afar, you will often get very close to animals. This will depend on how well habituated to humans the wildlife is – especially lemurs – but you can often get almost within touching distance.

What should I consider when planning a trip to Madagascar?

Hilary Bradt, one of the leading experts on Madagascar, who has worked with Steppes over the years sums it up when she says “ the Catch 22 of Madagascar is that the person who can afford a trip here, is often the type of person least suited to dealing with the changes” so if you prefer you wildlife trips without any unexpected surprises, then I would reconsider Madagascar. At first glance, Madagascar can seem overwhelming with places and parks that are as difficult to reach as they are to pronounce so we are very much here to discuss ideas and help you plan your perfect trip.

The most important thing to remember when planning a trip to Madagascar is that it is a huge country and the numerous parks are fascinating in their own right, but are not well connected. Stick to a handful of areas and do them well, rather than try and do it all as travel in Madagascar requires patience and planning – it is important to know what kind of trip you want from the start. For example, if you want to do a classic Madagascar safari, there is a fairly well-trodden route through the centre of the country and since we began offering these tours 20 years ago, a lot of people now do them. You will see a little bit of everything (lemurs, chameleons, baobabs) but not necessarily the best, but people do this as it is inexpensive and convenient.

If you really want to explore the country and leave the crowds behind, this requires more time and more money, but the rewards are incredible. Madagascar is an expensive country when compared to similar properties and safaris elsewhere, but it will be an adventure you will never forget, so choose wisely and be prepared to stretch the budget. Given the changeable nature of domestic flights in Madagascar, a night or two in the capital, Antananarivo somewhere in the itinerary is also usually unavoidable. If it were easy, everyone would go there and it would lose the very essence of what makes it such an exciting place to explore.

When is the best time to go to Madagascar?

The topography and geography of Madagascar make it unique in as much that there is always somewhere you can travel to in Madagascar at any time of the year. It has a number of different microclimates, so each season has different benefits. As a rule of thumb, June through to October is the best period to travel, but as a whole, each of the months offers the following

January through to March is the cyclone season in the North and many parks are closed or very difficult to reach. The south is fine at this time of year though.

March to June is a good time for reptile as it is hot and the lemurs are in great condition after enjoying the fruit and vegetation of the summer period.

July and August are very popular as this is when many South Africans, French and Italians, visit the beaches for their summer holidays so the costs reflect this, but the rest of the country is perfect for exploring and is well worth a visit.

September through to October / November is perhaps best for general wildlife as the spring arrives and the lemurs are having their babies and it is also a great time for birding as they start to nest, with reptiles also becoming more active as the temperatures increase.

June to September is also the best time of year to go for whale watching.

What is the accommodation like in Madagascar?

Madagascar has every kind of lodge imaginable, from the rustic bush camps in the wild to private island resorts where you are flown in by private plane or helicopter. In some of the more remote, wildlife-rich parks, the options for accommodation are limited, but we have visited them all, so can advise you on which is best for your type of travel.

Most of the more intimate, remote camps run on a generator with power provided early morning and at night when at the camp, but turned off during the day when you are out, similar to many upmarket camps in East and southern Africa. The luxury beach lodges rival any of these found elsewhere in the Indian Ocean, but without the crowds.

We tend to favour small, independently run lodges or boutique-style camps, with private en-suite facilities and an emphasis on quality guiding and comfort. In the cities, you will find international standard hotels, but even here services such as wi-fi can be very slow. Some of the lodges serve excellent food, particularly the more upmarket properties along the coast. You very much get what you pay for in Madagascar.

What is the weather like?

The temperatures vary greatly in Madagascar. In the north and in many of the coastal areas it is tropical with balmy evenings and lovely, warm temperatures year-round. The central highlands around Antananarivo and parts of the east coast can be pleasant during the day, but very cold at night, so jumpers and fleeces are required and many of the hotels have heaters and hot water bottles in the rooms. The south is much drier and warmer, but chillier at night.

There are lots of different parks. How do I choose the best Madagascar holiday for me?

The more accessible parks are less expensive, but busy, with standard accommodation although require less time, money and planning. The more remote, adventurous parks are wilder with better guiding and usually more interesting lodges, including some more luxurious but require a longer stay and a more flexible budget. Everyone comes to see lemurs and chameleons and they are found in all parks so don’t worry about missing out on this. The most popular parks are below.

Andasibe-Mantadia

Madagascar’s premier mountain rainforest reserve, only 3-4 hours drive east from the capital, Antananarivo so easy to reach and therefore popular. Most famous for the Indri, the largest lemur in Madagascar. Good network of walking trails, good choice of comfortable (not luxury) accommodation and good value. Can get busy as a result.

Ranomafana National Park

One of the more beautiful parks, on the classic Madagascar route, with waterfalls, rivers and rich lemur diversity, which are easy to see. Most famous for the golden bamboo lemur, 100 bird species and 36 endemics. Good accommodation (not luxury) accessible south from Andasibe (but would need an overnight stop from the capital en-route). Again, can be popular.

Isalo National Park

One of the oldest and most popular (still on the classic Madagascar itinerary) famous for its spectacular sandstone canyons, with some of the cliff faces filled with tombs in addition to the strange looking elephants foot and Isalo Aloe plants. Of interest to birders for kestrels and Malagasy hoopoe. Given the landscape, very good for photography. Good upmarket lodges and accessible from Ranomafana.

Amber Mountain National Park

In the tropical north, this lush park is a green oasis, full of colour. Pretty waterfalls, good trail systems, fascinating crater lakes and excellent for chameleons, with a very exotic feel. Interesting and boutique-style lodges. Accessed by flying from Antananarivo to Diego Suarez and then a drive from here of a few hours. Harder to reach but worth it.

Ankarana Special Reserve

Also in the tropical north, this is the most accessible and striking example of the Malagasy Tsingy (limestone pinnacles) which you can climb up and over thanks to a network of dizzying walkways, before heading underneath to explore forest filled canyons and caves. Accessible from Amber Mt National Park, with lodges in the region full of character. Plenty of lemurs, good birding and lots of bats. Again, more adventurous, but great fun to explore and uniquely Malagasy.

Kirindy

A dry deciduous forest on the west coast and considered one of the most rewarding wildlife habitats, but little visited. The open dry forest means the wildlife is easy to see, with plenty of lemurs and chameleons and particularly good for nocturnal lemurs. Also, the best place in the country to see Madagascar’s only large carnivore, the cat-like Fosa. Accommodation is very basic dome tents with private flushing loo and hot shower at the back. Usually combined with a trip to the famous Avenue of Baobabs. Park accessible by a 2-hour drive from Morondava, which itself is an hour’s flight from Antananarivo. Wildlife very relaxed and lack of vegetation cover makes for some great for photography.

Berenty and the Southern region

Most famous for the “Dancing” ring-tailed lemurs, at Berenty lodge which are a big draw for the photographers, but can feel a little fake and is not the only option. There is an alternative upmarket safari camp a few hours away, with plenty of wildlife, but also haunted forests, ancient tombs and colourful, authentic markets. Both places accessible only by plane into Fort Dauphin from the capital and then a few hours – very bumpy – drive through stunning scenery. Higher costs due to limited access but more remote and wild.

Masoala National Park

The Masoala peninsula in the Northeast has one of the greatest biodiversity in all of Madagascar, with lush rainforests extending down to the shore which are full of orchids, endemic lemurs and rare birds. It is hot and humid, but stunning and access is hard, with irregular flights to the access town of Maroantsetra, then a 2-3 hour boat journey. Very basic accommodation in the forests, but some lovely beach properties here although slightly higher costs due to access, but still hard to beat for those who love adventure.

Isle St Marie

One of Madagascar’s most stunning tropical islands, considered by many to be Madagascar in miniature. Beautiful beaches, traditional villages and markets plus tropical forests waiting to be explored on foot or by bike. Great for whale watching during the summer months and handful of luxury boutique beach properties. Accessible by regular flights from Antananarivo.

Nosy Be

Madagascar’s most popular beach destination with numerous lodges and luxury properties to choose from taking advantage of the areas beautiful beaches. Despite its popularity, there are enough smaller islands and upmarket places to stay tucked away along the coast to allow for a feeling of exclusivity and the chance to enjoy the tropical Indian Ocean. The main island has a number of interesting wildlife parks, which are fun for day visits along with vanilla and cocoa plantations to explore. Daily flights to the island from Antananarivo.

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Durrell Madagascar project tree planting
Durrell, Madagascar

Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust

We support projects right across the planet. Explore below to see where and how we’re making a difference – in some cases, we can even arrange a visit as part of your tailor-made itinerary.

With support from The Steppes Fund for Change, Durrell is working with local communities in Madagascar’s Menabe-Antimena Protected Area to preserve and restore forest habitat through community-led patrolling and reforestation efforts.

Read more about The Steppes Fund For Change

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Our knowledge and expertise sets us apart. So too our curiosity. A curiosity of the world and of you, and your passions. It is this that drives us to create a journey that is really bespoke to you, all the while ensuring we travel and operate sustainably.

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