Due to its size, it is impossible to see all that Madagascar has to offer on a first-time visit. We recommend choosing one or two regions to focus on when planning a tailor-made itinerary. Venture through volcanic highlands, lush rainforests, idyllic tropical beaches and semi-arid rocky massifs in search of a unique array of wildlife, much of which is found nowhere else on the planet.
In the capital, Antananarivo, take an afternoon city tour to visit the hills of the royal palaces and the botanical and zoological garden of Tsimbazaza. In the evening, you can take a cooking class with a reputable local chef to learn how to make an authentic Malagasy dish.
Many people travel to Madagascar to search for the 60 species of lemur found across the island. The best national parks to see lemurs include the Analamazaotra Special Reserve, where you can find the largest of all the lemur species, the indri. From Andasibe, spend a full day walking through the primary forest of Mantadia National Park, home to the black and white ruffed lemur, the rare aye-aye lemur, and the critically endangered diademed sifaka. In Ranomafana National Park, spot three species of bamboo lemur: the grey, the golden and the greater. Finally, fly south to Toliara and drive eastwards to Isalo National Park where you can spot ring-tailed lemurs and the iconic ‘dancing lemur’, known as verreaux’s sifakas.
Also in Isalo National Park, visit the natural swimming pool where crystal-clear water plummets into a deep-green pool and in September admire the blooming of the dumpy elephant’s foot plant. You can also spot endemic birdlife here, such as Malagasy hoopoes, white-browed owls, Madagascar nightjars and long-eared owls.
A highlight of a tailor-made itinerary to Madagascar is most certainly a visit to the ‘wild west’. It’s a relatively untouched part of the island and almost inaccessible by road. Many people fly to this area to take advantage of the deserted white sand beaches of Ifaty, Anakao and Morondava. Walk down the impressive ‘Avenue of Baobabs’, where giant thousand year old baobabs stand almost exactly in a straight line.
If you are looking to relax at the end of your tailor-made itinerary, we would recommend Nosy Be and its surrounding tropical islands off the north-east coast. Only a boat ride away from Nosy Be; explore Nosy Komba, a small volcanic island where you can see the black lemur up close; the mountainous island of Nosy Tsarabanjina, home to rare birds and bordered by pristine coral reefs; Nosy Iranja is an important breeding ground for hawksbill turtles; and relax on the white sandy beaches of Nosy Saba.