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Overview

Simplistically, the Indian Ocean island of Madagascar consists of two ecological halves, both of which are exceptionally rich in wildlife, and notable for boasting one of the world’s highest levels of endemism. The moister northeast of the island comprises a narrow coastal belt hemmed in by a mountainous spine whose slopes naturally support a lush cover of tropical forest protected within a network of hiker-oriented national parks. The far north also possesses a string of idyllic beaches that compare favorably to its smaller but more vaunted neighbors, the resort-oriented isles of the Seychelles and Mauritius, but are less developed for ...

Simplistically, the Indian Ocean island of Madagascar consists of two ecological halves, both of which are exceptionally rich in wildlife, and notable for boasting one of the world’s highest levels of endemism. The moister northeast of the island comprises a narrow coastal belt hemmed in by a mountainous spine whose slopes naturally support a lush cover of tropical forest protected within a network of hiker-oriented national parks. The far north also possesses a string of idyllic beaches that compare favorably to its smaller but more vaunted neighbors, the resort-oriented isles of the Seychelles and Mauritius, but are less developed for tourism. The offshore Nosy Be and Ile Sainte-Marie in particular offer relatively affordable beach destinations but suitable primarily for those who prefer five-star luxury. But the distinguishing attraction of the region is its forests and unique wildlife, which have evolved in glorious isolation over tens of millions of years. Most famous are the monkey-like lemurs, several species of which can be seen in most of the major national parks, but the forests also host most of Madagascar’s 100-or-so unique bird species, along with a dazzling array of colorful chameleons, lizards, and frogs, and oddball carnivores such as the fossa. Of literally dozens of reserves, Ranomafana and Andasibe National Park stand out for offering relatively easy opportunities to see a wide variety of rainforest lemurs and birds on foot, while more serious hikers might want to visit the more challenging Masoala National Park, combined possibly with a trip to Nosy Mangabe, the best place to see the aye-aye, a bizarre and somewhat demonic-looking nocturnal lemur. Elsewhere, the deciduous forests of Ankarana surround a series of striking rock formations known locally as Tsingy.

Philip Briggs
About the Expert

Philip Briggs has written or contributed to 50-plus editions of Bradt, Insight, AA and Berlitz guidebooks to African destinations.

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Philip Briggs for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    November to April is the peak birding season, but is otherwise best avoided due to the extremely high rainfall and risk of cyclones.