It hardly needs mentioning that holidays to Madagascar normally revolve around one thing and one thing only: the hope of spotting some of its mind-bogglingly huge array of endemic wildlife. With this country covered in sweltering rainforests and comprising 3100-mile (5000km) coastline, there are plenty of places to look!
A whopping five percent of all known species on earth call the “Red Island” their home and few other countries on the planet can claim to have such an incredible diversity of species. So grab your binoculars: these are the four places that can’t be missed off your vacation itinerary to Madagascar.
Ring-tailed lemurs in Isalo National Park
Madagascar’s most famous resident, the ring-tailed lemur lives in dry forests in the south of the island and is easily spotted in Isalo National Park, 435-miles (700km) from the capital Antananarivo.
As they spend much of their time on the ground, you’re likely to be in luck when it comes to bumping into this cuddly critter. There’s a chance you’ll see them passing along the forest floor in front of you in groups of up to 17 females, so bring a decent camera to capture that magical moment.
Indri lemurs in Andasibe National Park
With 33 different species of lemurs native to the island, holidays to Madagascar wouldn’t be complete without meeting a few other types beyond the archetypal ring-tailed. Luckily, Andasibe National Park on the eastern coast, 100-miles (150km) from the capital city can almost promise you just that.
Here lives the largest of the lemur species, the indri. Although they dwell in trees, you can track them down in the early morning thanks to their distinctive singing. Made up of roaring and other sounds, these “songs” can last up to 3-minutes and carry far across the forest, meaning you’ll be sure to hear them and maybe even catch a glimpse of their black and white coat in the jungle canopy above.
Aye-ayes in Andasibe National Park
Despite their unusual appearance (their large eyes and ears and their bushy tails making them seem more like a rodent than anything else), aye-ayes are actually another species of lemur that is also native to Madagascar. But what makes them truly unique is their elongated middle fingers which they use to tap trees in search of grubs to eat.
Unfortunately, on holidays to Madagascar, the odds are rarely in visitors’ favor for seeing this strange creature: few tourists are lucky to spot them in the wild. But that shouldn’t stop you from trying. Again, some of your best chances are with a tour guide and a trip to Andasibe National Park.
Panther Chameleons in the north of Madagascar
To see the colorful panther chameleon, take a trip to the forests of Madagascar in the northeast of the island – just make sure you schedule your vacation for between September and December when sightings are most likely.
The forests around Daraina are their favored habitat and you’ll spot them thanks to their multicolored skin – which actually varies according to where on the island they live!
Advice for organizing holidays to Madagascar
For those who are serious about seeing some of the planet’s most fascinating and vulnerable species, nothing beats a trip to Madagascar. In order to get the most from your vacation, we recommend that you:
- Consider traveling to Madagascar between September and December for the best conditions for seeing reptiles, chameleons and rodents. Alternatively, October is when baby ring-tailed lemurs are born. Either way, avoid January through March as this is the cyclone season.
- Expect to pay to take a tour to see wildlife, particularly in national parks and more remote areas. Not only does this allow you to learn more about the species you’re viewing and have better success with spotting some of the shyer creatures, this helps to support the local economy.
- Malaria is a risk in Madagascar throughout the year so make sure you consult a doctor about using malaria tablets during your trip.