Getting There

Madagascar: How to get there, where to stay, and what to do.

Le Plaisir on Île Sainte-Marie. 

Photo by Tricia Pearsall

Madagascar can be experienced via all manner of travel, from hard-core backpacking via taxi-brousse to fly-in resorts. I chose an overland route with a tour company to see as much as possible in the time available. Given the distances and variety of landscape, wildlife, and cultural offerings, two weeks is the minimum recommended stay. Madagascar is cool and dry from May to October, while the hot, rainy season runs from November to April.

Tour Companies

• My choice: Intrepid Travel. The Australian company, with all-local offices, offers five Madagascar itineraries. Their journeys comprise a small group of interesting and eccentric fellow travelers led by an encyclopedic and entertaining local guide. Accommodations are basic, but well appointed and comfortable. Plus, there are many options for individual opportunities. IntrepidTravel.com

• Other options: Madagascar Natural Tours in Antananarivo, KE Adventure Travel, Wilderness Travel, and National Geographic Expeditions.

Airlines

serving Antananarivo, Madagascar:

• My choice: Delta/Air France. 

• Other options: Turkish Airlines, South African Airways, Ethiopian Air, KLM.

Places to Stay

• Antananarivo: Hotel Belvidere is a contemporary Italian villa-inspired hotel on a hilltop overlooking the capital city. 

• Fianarantsoa: Hotel Ambalakely. 

• Ranomafana: Chez Gaspard features bungalows in a tropical garden. 

• Antsirabe: Résidence Madalief is an “eco-social” lodge that provides employment for highland villagers.

• Andasibe: Grace Lodge features charming thatched bungalows located near the national park and owned by local Malagasy woman. 

• Île Sainte Marie: Hôtel Vanivola. 

Places (and Dishes) to Eat

• Most Malagasy eat in hotellys, or small restaurants, but tourists are fêted at restaurants and hotels that pride themselves on Malagasy/French fusion food. We never had a bad meal. Popular dishes include zebu, chicken, all sorts of vegetables, and, always, rice. 

• Ranomafana: At Le Grenat Restaurant, try langosta with garlic sauce. 

• Local Betsileo villages around Fanarantsoa: We ate traditional romazava with zebu, rice, tomatoes, green beans, and carrots. 

• Ambalavao: Betsileo Country Lodge serves a delicious lunch. 

• Île Sainte Marie: Famed for its fish. In particular, try the grilled grouper at Vanilla Café and the fish kebobs at Le Plaisir. 

Things To Do

• Visit/trek as many national parks and preserves as possible to view lemurs, sifakas, indri, chameleons, baobab trees, and countless other endemic mammals, reptiles, birds, and plants. If possible, go with a local tracker or biologist. Don’t miss: Ranomafana National Park, Isalo National Park, Andasibe-Mantadia National Park, and Zombitse-Vohibasia National Park, all of which are very different. 

• Go for a night walk in one of the national parks or preserves. 

• Walk the historic colonial town of Fianarantsoa, and listen to the music pouring out of the many churches on Sunday morning. 

• Visit markets such as the zebu market in Ambalavao, the fruit market in Antsampanana, or any other local rural market. 

• Visit Île Sainte Marie for beaches, swimming, whale watching, diving, fishing, and scrumptious seafood. Recommended for diving or fishing: Mahery-Be Diving Club. [email protected]


This article originally appeared in our February 2019 issue. Click here to read more about Tricia Pearsall’s adventures in Madagascar.

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