When thinking of Madagascar the first thing that may come to mind is King Julian, which wouldn’t be surprising as he has made his species, lemurs, and his country, Madagascar, famous with his animated antics. What you may not know are the interesting facts about this country and the reasons you should make time to take a trip there.
Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world, off the southeast coast of Africa, on the Indian Ocean. Being one of the last places in the world to be settled in by humans, it is also one of the few countries in the world that has not yet been fully discovered because of its rare vast diversity.
Madagascar may be one of the poorest countries in the world, but it is also among the safest in Africa, thanks to the undeniably beautiful Malagasy culture that makes the people who they are.
Madagascar is one of the most bio-diverse countries on earth, home to thousands of species of plant and animal life of which about 80 percent cannot be found anywhere else on the planet. 65 percent of all bird species are endemic to Madagascar, which means that they can only be found there.
The huge and immense tropical forests of Madagascar are considered a true Eldorado by researchers and scientists worldwide. Even the large rainforests of South America cannot compete with the enormous biodiversity of Madagascar’s flora and fauna.
10 REASONS TO GO TO MADAGASCAR
Go Snorkeling by the Beach with whales and pirates
With a combination of diving and whale watching a great place to check out would be The Ile Sainte Marie, which is a beautiful island that lies off the east coast of Madagascar. The island’s array of protected bays and inlets drew pirates to Ile Sainte Marie during the 17th and 18th centuries, and the wrecks of several pirate ships can still be viewed from the shallow waters of the Baie des Forbans. Today the island is one of the top tourist attractions in Madagascar. The still, clear waters of the island’s bays make ideal spots for snorkeling. Migrating humpback whales visit the island waters during summer and early fall. Where else in the world can you experience anything that even comes close to diving by pirate ships while watching whales swim by?
The Queen’s Palace at Antananarivo was built for Queen Ranavalona in the 17th century. She was referred to as the “Wicked Queen” and “Bloody Mary of Madagascar” due to the viciousness with which she punished missionaries and executed her own subjects. The palace itself, locally known as Manjakamiadana, is the largest of several buildings in the royal complex, although much of it burned down in 1995 after an accidental fire broke out. Much of the stone facade has since been restored, while several royal artifacts saved from the fire are housed inside.
Also check out the Royal Hill of Ambohimanga, a UNESCO World Heritage site that lies about 12 miles from Madagascar’s capital city of Antananarivo. It’s characterized by burial sites, ancient city ruins and historically significant religious features that have existed for more than 500 years. Ambohimanga most famously served as the royal palace of the Merina clan, which hailed from the highlands around Antananarivo and ruled Madagascar during the 19th century when the French and British were both vying for control. Ambohimanga is considered the birthplace of the Malagasy people and therefore, a significant symbol of cultural identity.
The North is home to the Nosy Be archipelago, the most visited region of the country. It’s a collection of postcard beaches, turquoise waters, and idyllic islands scattered off the coast. Translated as the big island, Nosy Be is Madagascar’s largest, most popular holiday resort. It is surrounded by numerous other smaller islands like Nosy Komba, Nosy Tanikely or Nosy Sakatia, each of them a true tropical paradise.
There are tons of things to do here, from laying on the beautiful beaches of Andilana and Amporaha to visiting the island’s highest point, Mont Passot, or checking out the markets on the outskirts of Hellville City. Nosy Be offers a true spectacle of perfumes, with scents of ylang-ylang, vanilla, lemon grass and patchouli exciting your senses as soon as you step off the plane.
Antananarivo, the capital city, is a chaotic and crazy place, reflecting the magic and mystery of Madagascar and its Malagasy inhabitants. It may not be the most beautiful city but it has an enduring charm with its hawkers, bustling markets and multicolored houses cascading down the hillside. It is just 12km from the international airport and thus an important hub for most travel in Madagascar. Antananarivo is generally a stopover on the way to the coast but it does have a range of luxury hotels and rustic guesthouses to ensure you can start and finish your Madagascar trip in style!
The Tsingy de Bemaraha Reserve lies in the southern region of Madagascar’s largest natural reserve, Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve. The word “tsingy” refers to the pinnacles that dot the park’s limestone plateau. Located near the country’s west coast, the park features a broad expanse of mangrove forest. The park is home to seven lemur species, including the Deckenssifaka, a genus of lemur notable for its creamy white fur and black face. It is one of the main tourist attractions in Madagascar that is beyond impressive. It’s not easy getting there as it takes 1 complete day via 4×4 on very rough terrain. There are two parks, Big Tsingy (large park) and the Small Tsingy (small park). Though you definitely will not regret it!
View Nature you cannot see anywhere else
As was mentioned earlier, Madagascar is known for its uniqueness and variety when it comes to nature. There aren’t many other places in the planet that can say they have countless flora & fauna not found anywhere in the world. Throughout the entire island you can find the 70 different species of Lemurs and see through chameleons.
Madagascar & the islands surrounding the country have eight plant families, five bird families, and five primate families that live nowhere else on Earth. The parks you want to see are Berenty, Andasibe-Mantadia, Ankarana Montagne d’Ambre, Kirindy, Ranomafana, and Masoala.
More than bargained for Nightlife
The adventure does not stop when the sun goes down, and when the moon comes out the extremely glee Malagasy go out to party. A few places you might want to check out are the Le Baladin in Sambava, Mojo by No Comment, or Le Casba in Antananarivo, and the New York New York Shisha Tapas in Toamasina.
The Malagasy are known for their open and warm, welcoming spirits and that is visible in their uncanny knack for great hospitality. Whether you are in a fancy hotel, or visiting one of the more humble homes you will be treated like royalty. Some of the best recommended spots to stay would be…
• Riake Resort and Villa, a beautiful secluded hotel in Sainte-Marie, overlooking the beach is a perfect getaway, with white beaches and a breathtaking sea view, this place could only be described as magic.
• Princesse Bora Lodge and Spa has a variety of activities that you could take part in, apart from the snorkeling and kayaking and whale watching, there are also bike rides and a choice of pools to swim in. And of course, the Spa. A perfect paradise for relaxation.
• Le Pavillon de l’Emyrne, in Isoraka, is famous for its old school French Malagasy charm, friendly service, free spa service, manicures and pedicures. This elegant hotel is the place to be. The wonderful atmosphere keeps you wanting to go back time and time again.
• Madagascar Underground in Antananarivo is a marvelously unique hotel with authentic Mexican food. With an enjoyable atmosphere and a wide variety of music, Madagascar Underground is a perfect spot for an affordable and enjoyable holiday.
A melting pot of Cuisines
Malagasy cuisine encompasses the diverse culinary traditions of the island, with influences from the Arabs, Indonesians and French. A variety of ingredients grown on the island are used in the various dishes. Food is often served steaming hot and the simplicity of the food adds to the charm of the dishes. Malagasy food is often not hot and spicy, however, sakay, a chilli relish is always available to turn the heat up. Other popular meals include, Ro, which is a mixture of rice with herbs and fragrant leaves, as well as Ravitoto, which is a preparation of mean and herbs, that often accompanies Ro. Popular drinks include Ranovola, which is burnt rice water; Malagasy wine, produced by seven vineyards in red, white, rose and grey types; Litchel, an aperitif made from lychees and Rhum arrange, which is homemade rum.
All visitors to Madagascar, including Kenyans require entry visas. For short visits (90 days or less), every visitor can obtain a visa upon arrival at the airport in Antananarivo, provided your passport is valid for at least 6 months beyond the last day of your intended stay in Madagascar. You also need to carry an airline-issued ticket or passenger receipt confirming your intention to leave Madagascar within 90 days.
Flying to Madagascar is a pretty easy process. There is one daily flight from Nairobi to Antananarivo, and 2 weekly flights to the capital city of this exotic island. The average flying time from Nairobi to Antananarivo is 3 hours and 23 minutes. Kenya Airways offers the most nonstop flight flights to Madagascar. If flying from outside of Kenya, Paris, France- Charles De Gualle Airport is the most popular connection for one stop flights between Nairobi, Kenya and Antananarivo.Air France and Air Madagascar are the other airlines that offer flights in and out of Antananarivo to Nairobi. The cost of these flights are approximately between KES 75,000/- and KES112,000/-, which is definitely worth it, considering how spectacular this island is. However, the earlier you book, the cheaper the cost is.
Shingai is an upcoming writer with a passion for words and expression through writing. She lived in Zimbabwe as a child and has traveled to over ten countries. She craves adventure and hopes to be an inspirational writer. She is currently pursuing a degree in English Literature with a minor in Psychology at Daystar University.