Madagascar is a wonderful land full of contrasts. It’s a beautiful country where seaside resorts also boast of its forest lodges, and the French influence is solidly mixed in with the Malagasy traditions. It’s a place that one must experience at least once in his lifetime. It’s a charming country that’s remains largely unexplored by tourists.
Here are the top 10 places you just can’t miss while in this gorgeously charming piece of paradise.
1. Ranomafana National Park
In the Southeast region of Madagascar lays Ranomafana National Park. The park is one of the country’s most popular. And if you want to experience nature, you can’t go wrong with the eastern section of the park. It has the most scenic views with a number of streams splashing through the dense forest.
The park is also home to the golden bamboo lemur, an endangered animal. Its diet consists of bamboo shoots that have large doses of cyanide lethal to other animal species.
2. Masoala National Park
Masoala National Park covers about 250 miles of rainforests. It also has three marine parks. Located in the northeast portion of the main island, Masoala is home to 10 lemur species. Among them is the world’s largest nocturnal primate, the aye-aye. On top of that, numerous kinds of birds and reptiles also reside within the depths of the forest.
The three marine parks, Tampolo, Ifaho and Ambodilaitry, are great for snorkeling and kayaking activities.
3. Andasibe-Mantadia National Park
In the east, tourists will find the Andasibe-Mantadia National Park. Trumping Masoala, this park has 11 lemur species. That includes Madagascar’s largest lemur, the indri. Andasibe-Mantadia is also one of the easier parks to visit as it’s located near Antanavario, Madagascar’s capital city.
4. Royal Hill of Ambohimanga
The Royal Hill of Ambohimanga is a sacred spot to the Malagasy people and has been for 5 centuries. The hill is called such because it used to be the home of Madagascar royalty. A wall constructed with mortar made of lime and egg whites surrounds the village. But the former home of the island’s greatest monarch, King Andrianampoinimerina has walls of solid rosewood.
The two dusty fishing villages on the southwest coast are called Ifaty. It’s protected from the rough sea waves by a 60-mile coral reef. The place is ideal for fishing, diving and snorkeling. The area also boasts of a desert inland area with spiny forests of strangely-shaped baobab trees.
6. Avenue of Baobabs
Speaking of baobab trees, between Moronda and Belon’I Tsibihina in the west lays a dirt road lined by baobab trees. This area is one of the most visited places in the region. The baobab trees are over 80 years old and used to be part of a dense tropical forest before it was cleared for agriculture. Now, only the baobabs stand like isolated sentinels against the landscape.
7. Nosy Be
Nosy Be is a small island. It is one of Madagascar’s premiere tourist spots. The beaches here aren’t as perfect as other tropical beaches. But it’s still a tranquil place with clear waters and amazing seafood restaurants. Bonus: eat like the natives did in the good old days, have your seafood served on the sand.
8. Tsingy de Bemaraha Reserve
In the southern region of the nation, one will find Tsingy de Bemahara Strict Nature Reserve. This is easily the country’s largest natural reserve. The park’s plateaus are made of limestone and dotted by “tsingy”. There’s also a broad mangrove forest and 7 lemur species. The most famous lemur in the area is the deckens sifaka with its creamy white fur and black face.
9. Isalo National Park
An area notable for its varied terrain, Isalo National Park is located in the southern region of Madagascar. Grasslands, steep canyons and sandstone formations make up the terrain and tours can range from a few hours to several days in length.
10. Ile Sainte Marie
Off the east coast of the nation lies Ile Sainte Marie. During the 17th and 18th centuries, pirates were drawn to the islands protected bays and inlets. In fact, several pirate shipwrecks are still visible in the shallow waters. Now, the still and clear waters of the bay make for an ideal snorkeling spot. And if you visit during summer, there’s a good chance of spotting migrating humpback whales.
Madagascar is a country that defies logic. With its popularity starting to take off, you’ve got to “move it” to what has been nicknamed “the eighth continent” before the rest of the world beats you to it.