Madagascar: best time to visit
Madagascar: best time to visit
We've been arranging thoughtfully crafted, once-in-a-lifetime trips to Madagascar for 20 years now - nobody in the Anglophone market knows the island and its inhabitants quite as well we do. One of the things we are most often asked, is 'When is the best time to visit Madagascar?' While you can visit throughout the year, where and when you travel, really does depend on what it is you most want to see and to do while there.
Here, our London team and our excellent Malagasy colleagues share some ideas which should inspire you during the planning stage for an unforgettable trip.
Swimming with Whale shark in the Nosy Be archipelago is possible from October to December
Whale sharks - something new and exciting!
While Madagascar is world renowned as a whale-watching destination from June to October with the presence of migrating Humpback whales, not too many people are aware that from October to December, visitors to Nosy Be archipelago off the balmy north-west coast, have the opportunity to see and swim with Whale sharks. As is the case with Whale watching off Ile Sainte Marie, Manafiafy, Ifaty and Nosy Be, the Whale shark excursions are arranged with care by an outstanding operation on Nosy Be.
Ring-tailed lemur and young at Anja Parc by Rainbow Tours' Craig Kaufman
Lemurs with youngsters
We are often asked when the best time is to see lemurs with their youngsters. These charismatic prosimians vary from the ape-like Indri to the tiny, nocturnal Mouse lemurs which include our tiniest relative, the endangered Madame Berthe's mouse lemur. Mosy of the 'true' lemurs have their babies at the very beginning of the austral spring, which kicks in at the start of September, so if this is what you're keen to see, try to travel from September to earlier December.
Two Malagasy icons in one frame: a chameleon scaling a baobab tree
Baobabs and Orchids
Madagascar is well known for its enviably rich biodiversity but even those wildlife lovers with high expectations will find the abundance and diversity of plants here quite bewildering. While the island accounts for just 2% of the African landmass, it is home to about 20% of Africa's vascular plant species, and among these, the endemicty rate exceeds 75%. These stats along, are indicative of Madagascar's importance in terms of global biodiversity.
Six of the world's Baobab species are unique to Madagascar, with another two in Africa and one in Australia. To see as many of the Malagasy species as possible, go to Menabe Antimena Protected Area in the central-western lowlands for the three 'southern' species, and then up to Montagne des Francais Reserve and Ankarana & surrounds, for the three 'northern' species.
Orchids abound in all ecotypes across the island, which has more species than are found on the African mainland. The optimum times in which to see them in bloom are in September and in March.
Sickle-billed vanga at Ankarafantsika National Park (Jan Gersag, Rainbow Tours client, 2018)
Over 41% of the bird species in Madagascar are endemic, meaning they can’t be found anywhere else on Earth. This includes five endemic families, namely the highly terrestrial Mesites; the strange Cuckoo-roller; the quietly beautiful Ground-rollers; the flamboyant Couas, the peculiar Asitys and the exceptionally diverse Vangas. Additionally, Madagascar is home to some of the world's rarest birds, such as the Madagascar fish eagle, down to some 120 breeding pairs at most. The best time to go birding is during the austral spring, from the very beginning of September through to December. That's when the bulk of the resident species will be calling, displaying and constructing nests.
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