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Madagascar

Separated from the African continent 165 million years ago, Madagascar has kept from Africa the red soil and a very diverse flora and fauna. From Asia, Madagascar has inherited the majority of its population and preserved its rice fields. But Madagascar is neither African nor Asian. Only 400km away from the African continent, Madagascar has yet its own culture which is so original and touching. Laterite contrasting with white sand, tropical forests and stunning littoral, baobabs and lemurs….Discovering Madagascar means going from surprise to surprise.

 

Key Facts

  • Capital City: Antananarivo
  • Languages: Malagasy, French, English (they are all official languages)
  • Time difference: GMT/UTC + 3h
  • Entry formalities: mandatory for all visitors. You must have a return ticket and your vaccination booklet
  • Electricity: 110 or 220 volts (most common voltage is 220 volts)
  • Telephone: + 261
  • Health: No vaccination is mandatory, but you must be cautious because malaria, bilharzia and other tropical epidemics occur frequently in the island. You must use bottle water and rinse fruits and veggies before eating. Do not swim in stagnant water.

Money

Currency: Malagasy Ariary (MGA)

Daily Budget :

< 40 USD

  • Hotel room : 8-12 USD
  • Bush taxis : 10-12 USD
  • Cheap meal : 5 USD

50 -120 USD

  • Average hotel room or bungalow (20-50 USD)
  • Meal in restaurant (8-10 USD)
  • Hire car with driver ( from 60 USD/day)
  • Domestic flights

>120 USD

  • High end hotel room 70-80 USD
  • Best restaurants will not charge more than 15 USD for meal – Drinks not included
  • Hire 4×4 (90-100 USD/day) – Gas not included
  • Domestic flights

Best Time To Go & Climate

Best Time To Go

Climate varies significantly from an area to another and from season to season. The rainy season with its cyclones (from November to March) is the less favorable season. Roads are often blocked by downpours. Rains fall a lot in the east side of the island between June and September

High season (July – September)

  • Temperatures & rainfalls are reasonable.
  • Austral winter : cold evenings in the uplands
  • Rainfalls possible on Sainte-Marie island between June and August
  • Strong trade winds in Diego-Suarez region

Mid-season (April – June)

  • End of the rainy season : pleasant temperatures
  • Some roads are difficult to drive.

Low season (October – March)

  • Rainy season in the northeast from November to March-April
  • High risk of cyclones
  • Some trails are impassable
  • High touristic activities in November and December

Ceremonies And Festivals

January

The first month of the year marks the beginning of the cyclonic season in the Indian Ocean lasting until March. Cyclones hit usually the east coast, and sometimes the north of the country.  The rainy season starts in the entire country with variable amount of rain (depending on the Region) And A Sultry Heat.

February

As a consequence of the prevailing relative humidity and warmer temperatures, many reptiles and amphibians come out of hibernation. It is the best time to watch them and appreciate their bright colors

March

  • Alahamady Be (New Year’s Day) still celebrated by many people
  • World Women’s Day (8 march)
  • National uprising day (The Malagasy Uprising against French colonial rule, which began on 29 March 1947)

April

The dry season begins and will last until October. Average temperature ranges between 30 °C along the coast and 25 °C in the highlands.

Santabary (The Santabary Festival is the yearly celebration of the first rice harvest and gives plenty of opportunity to enjoy local food specialties and drinks). The event takes place every late April or early May, depending on when the rice is ready for harvest

May

  • Zegny’Zo festival brings together artists and musicians from the entire country and other Indian Ocean islands.
  • Donia festival in the island Nosy Be (end of May or early June) is a very festive event. Around 45,000-55,000 spectators are expected each year

June

  • The « varatraza» (trade winds) blows powerfully along Diego-Suarez region (north of the island) until October. If you are a kitesurf amateur, you will appreciate the Sakalava Bay
  • 26 June: Independence Day celebration. During the day, there are official and festive celebrations. This is also a key date for political demands.
  • Sambatra: The month of June gives the go signal for male circumcision ceremonies in the island.

July

We are in the middle of austral winter. On the mountain peaks, temperatures often go below 15°C. However, the weather is very pleasant along the coasts. In the rural areas, the “kabary” begins. The origin of the word “kabary” comes from the Arabic word “kabar” meaning “speech”. The “kabary” tradition consisting in making an elegant speech in front of the public using maxims and proverbs is a good way to preserve the Malagasy language. From July to September, people spend the money the won from the harvest of the rice to prepare ceremonies, marriages, and “famadihana” (famadihana is a funerary tradition of the Malagasy people in Madagascar. Known as the turning of the bones, people bring forth the bodies of their ancestors from the family crypts and rewrap them in fresh cloth, then dance with the corpses around the tomb to live music. This ceremony can last for many days in a very festive atmosphere)

August

Humpback whales migrate from the Antarctic to breed and give the first swimming lessons to theirs calves. Near the “Sainte-Marie” island, you will be able to watch a spectacular event.

September

It is the offseason or “working period” in the rural areas. Until December, farmers plow and return the soil, plant in the rice fields to prepare the next harvest

Flora and birds observation: September is a good period for flora and birds observation

October

It’s the mango season. There are a dozen of varieties and they are tasty. Jacarandas trees are in bloom. Do not miss the spectacular explosion of their bluish-purple flowers on the shores of “Anosy Lake” (artificial lake in the southern part of the capital city of Madagascar, Antananarivo)

Madajazzcar: Is one of the main musical events in the big island. This music festival takes place in Antanarivo since 1992 and welcomes musicians from the island and from all around the world.

November

The rainy season starts and most roads are impassable. One consolation: November is the month of litchis harvesting. The litchis from Madagascar are particularly juicy and tasty

December

December is the month of fruit harvesting on the east coast

Must See

The best of Madagascar:

Rice fields in Betsileo country: These rice fields will remind you that Madagascar is influenced by two continents: Asia and Africa. Rice fields are found everywhere in the highlands of the country. Most of rice farmers in the country are Betsileo

RN7: Driving the 940 km of the RN7 paved road will give you a unique opportunity to witness the cultural and geographical diversity of the country. Agricultural landscapes, mountain ranges, towns and villages with lively markets, RN7 is a perfect introduction to Madagascar and its peoples.

The Famous « Allee Des Baobabs » at sunset: This is certainly the most photographed place of the island. At the doorsteps of Morondava, the place called « Allée des baobabs » is the most impressive grouping of « Adansonia grandidieri » or « Grandidier’s baobab » trees of the country.

Tsaranoro  Valley: With its vast landscapes punctuated by villages built with dried mud, granitic massifs, the Tsaranoro Valley situated at the doorsteps of Andringitra, is among the most beautiful landscapes of the country.

Tsingy de Bemaraha: Some tourists travel to Madagascar just to visit the Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park. The Tsingys are karstic plateaus in which groundwater has undercut the elevated uplands, and has gouged caverns and fissures into the limestone. Because of local conditions, the erosion is patterned vertically as well as horizontally. The National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Lemurs: Lemurs are the national emblem of Madagascar. These monkeys ancestors are found everywhere on the island. It is impossible to leave the island without seeing them.

Île Sainte-Marie (Nosy Boraha): Physically off the east coast of Madagascar, Île Sainte-Marie was a haven for pirates and bandits. Today, this island is very appreciated by amateurs of diving. Humpbacks whales can be seen every year.

Nosy Be: Is an island off the northwest coast of Madagascar (also called the perfume island”, on account of Ylang Ylang production, flower of which the essence for perfumes is extracted). Nosy Be is Madagascar’s largest and busiest tourist resort. It is a perfect place to relax on white sand beaches under coconut trees. You will find the same atmosphere in Nosy Komba, the neighboring island. Nosy Komba is known for its many small and inhabited beaches as well as for its emerald like water. Nosy komba is a small jewel of nature, increasingly visited and becoming a mirror of its larger neighbor, Nosy Be.

Markets: Malagasy markets are very busy and lively. Visitors always discover something new in those markets. The most famous markets are Ambositra market and Ambalavao Zebu market

Cote de la vanille: In the Northwest of the country, the area bordered by Sambava, Vohémar and Andapa is called « côte de la vanille ». This area offers ideal conditions to grow the wild orchid producing vanilla. Harvest period is in July and August.

Ambohimanga: Ambohimanga is a hill and traditional fortified royal settlement (rova) in Madagascar, located approximately 24 kilometers (15 mi) northeast of the capital city of Antananarivo. The hill and its royal fortified city were added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites

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