Madagascar, which was previously known as the Malagasy Republic, is situated off the south-eastern coast of Africa and is the 4th largest island in the world. It is also a country of its own. The nation comprises the island of Madagascar, as well as, a number of smaller islands surrounding the mainland.
After the watershed split of the great continent Gondwana, Madagascar broke off from India, consequently forming a large island, which allowed plants and animals existing on the land to evolve in relative isolation. Nowadays, Madagascar is famous for its incredible biodiversity and uniqueness of its wildlife. Over 90 percent of the wildlife population is found nowhere else on earth, making a visit to this land of mountains, rainforests, beaches and rivers, a truly unforgettable experience.
After colonisation by France, Madagascar has received great French influence, which is evident in the food produced on the island and the language spoken. Aside from French, the locals in Madagascar speak their native tongue, Malagasy.
Very few people speak English on the island and traditional beliefs are still vastly adhered to, making this magnificent land an original travel destination.
The distinctive ecology has led some ecologists to refer to Madagascar as the Eighth Continent. More than 80% of Madagascar's plant species are found nowhere else in the world, including 5 plant families.
Madagascar is the world's principal supplier of vanilla, cloves and ylang-ylang. Canoe journeys through the quiet waters near these spice plantations are very fragrant, giving Madagascar its nickname, the Perfume Island.
Lemurs are only indigenous in Madagascar, and this large island is home to a large number of chameleon species, while the only real predator on the island is the fossa, which belongs to the mongoose family.
Southern Madagascar is a region made up of diverse terrain, ranging from the rice terraces, savannahs and rugged rocks of Isalo National Park, until reaching Tuléar, which welcomes visitors with its tree-lined avenues, bright bougainvillea and a culture influenced by French and Arab aspects.
With its spectacular rainforests, beaches and waterways, this former pirate hideout offers tropical snorkelling and stunning seaside accommodation. The East is where visitors will travel in order to see the endemic lemurs living in the tropical rainforests and national parks.
The Northern part of Madagascar is well-known for its diversity of landscapes, vegetation, interesting national parks, Nosy Be archipelago and the truly tropical climate. This region offers the most ideal seaside scenery and some of the best of snorkelling on the island.
The east coast of the island is almost entirely rainforest, which provides the chance to see brown lemurs and a variety of birdlife, as well as the rare, pure white Decken’s sifaka. The great variety of flora includes aloes, orchids, and baobabs. The deciduous forest is home to over 50 species of birds, 7 species of lemurs and the rare stump-tailed chameleon.
The Avenue of the Baobabs is an extra-ordinary stand of huge baobab trees. Located 45 minutes north of Morondava on Madagascar's west coast, the Avenue of Baobabs is one of the most visited sites in the Menabe Region. Some of the trees are over 800 years old and reach a height of over 30m. Truly a photographers paradise and especially beautiful at sunset.
The Emerald Sea, between April and November, is famously known as one of the best kite-surfing and wind-surfing spots in the southern hemisphere. Guided Kayaking at Ile Sainte Marie allows guests to explore the coastline of beautiful Sainte Marie with a local guide. Explore villages and relax in hidden coves, while admiring the crystal clear and calm water.
The climate of Madagascar is tropical along the coast, temperate inland, and arid in the south creating a variety of completely different biomes and diverse ecology.
The combination of south-eastern trade winds and north-western monsoons produces a hot, rainy season from November to April and a relatively cooler dry season between May and October.
The heavy precipitation due to the rain clouds that form over the Indian Ocean supports the area's rainforest ecosystem along the east coast of the island. The central highlands are both drier and cooler, while the west is drier still.
A semi-arid climate prevails in the southwest and southern interior of the island. The best time to visit Madagascar is during the drier May to October period, so as to avoid the risk of the monsoon season. Potential floods see the closure of many camps.
Southern Madagascar boasts a diverse terrain and includes must-see destinations such as Fort Dauphin and Isalo National Park, which is often referred to as Jurassic Park due to its mountainous make-up. There are superb hotels and many opportunities to enjoy world-renowned scuba diving on the white beaches of Southern Madagascar.
Antananarivo is the bustling capital city of Madagascar and this is where most movement passes through. The appearance of the city and its buildings shares a likeness to Asia; however, the overlying flavour of Madagascar is totally unique and Tana offers a real sense of Malagasy culture.
Nosy Be means "big island" in the Malagasy language. It is the largest and busiest of the numerous islands that lie off the north-west coast of Madagascar. It has excellent fishing on offer, as well as, unforgettable diving opportunities, and water sport activities.
Sun Safaris can arrange scheduled flights for visitors to Madagascar. Ivato International Airport is an airport located in Antananarivo (Tana), the capital of Madagascar. Ivato Airport is the main hub for Air Madagascar and the majority of flights around the island originate from here, which is a good thing considering the bad state of the roads. Besides the big cities, lots of little hamlets are also served via light air transfers.
By road is the only inexpensive way to get around, but Madagascar's roads are mostly very poor quality (except for two routes leading in and out of Tana). These road excursions will take guests into beautiful forested areas; however, if there is a time limit on the journey, travellers should be reminded that these trips will take a while longer than expected.
There are not many direct routes on land and the many small towns are accessible via one road only, meaning guests should be advised on which routes to take should they be self-driving. The best option is light air transfer to destinations on the island.