We are so often asked when the best time to visit the country is.
While it is actually possible to 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...
Generally speaking, seasons are as follows:
Summer: December to March
Autumn: April to May
Winter (dry season) : June to August
Spring: September to November.
The island has a very diverse and complex climate, reflected in its contrasting habitats ranging from semi-arid spiny desert to permanently humid rainforest and lots in-between.
We hope this selection of ideas provides some inspiration and guidance while you are in the planning stages for your next trip.
Marine Highlights - Whales, Whale sharks and Green turtles!
While Madagascar is world renowned as a Whale-watching destination from June to September 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 rare Whale sharks.
As is the case with Whale watching off Ile Sainte Marie; Nosy Be and Ifaty Beach, the excursions offered from Nosy Be and Nosy Sakatia to seek the Whale sharks are responsibly operated by responsible local organisers. A bonus is that oftentimes during the same day, it is possible to visit a location where people can snorkel and observe Green turtles, too. Marine highlights, broadly speaking, include the following:
* Whale watching (migratory Humpback whales): July to early September, Ile Sainte Marie, Nosy Be, Anjajavy. Ifaty.
* Spotting Whale sharks: September to December, Nosy Be only.
* Marine turtles: year round; Nosy Be archipelago (from the Mitsio to the Radama isles).
* Scuba diving: visibility is best in the dry season and spring, so from May through to October. Nosy Be archipelago offers the best opportunities.
Unquestionably, Madagascar's biggest wildlife drawcard is its Lemurs. These charismatic prosimians vary from the ape-like Indri to the tiny, nocturnal Mouse lemurs.
Many 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, travel from September to end of November.
For those keen on seeing as many of the nocturnal Lemurs as possible, note that the Dwarf lemurs can be sought only in the austral Spring and Summer, so from September to early April, because they aestivate (hibernate) in winter, a behaviour unique among Primates. Other nocturnal lemurs (Mouse lemurs, Fork-marked lemurs; Woolly lemurs and Sportive lemurs) can be seen year round.
Reptiles and Frogs (Herps):
If its 'herps' (reptiles and frogs) which you fancy seeing, Madagascar promises an unforgettable experience, with new species still being described quite frequently by the scientific community.
To max out on Madagascar's diverse creepy-crawlies, visit from later on during the austral Spring (November) all the way through to the end of Summer and the very start of the Malagasy autumn (April), when there's usually still plenty of critter activity about.
During the austral winter (May to August), many reptiles and frogs are less in evidence as they either remain hidden, or even aestivate, during the colder, drier months.
Botanizing - from Baobabs to 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 (some 1,050) than are found on the African mainland. The optimum times in which to see them in bloom are in September (early Spring) and in March (late Summer). The flagship Malagasy orchid, Darwin's orchid, pictured here, was presented to Charles Darwin, who never made it to Madagascar but on seeing the orchid, said that its pollinator would be a very long-tongued moth. Decades later, when the Hawk-moth in question was discovered, it was named Xanthopan morgani praedicta.
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 (Critically Endangered) 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 mid December. That's when the bulk of the resident species will be calling, displaying, sporting breeding plumage, and nesting.
During the Malagasy winter (June to August) a number of species, including Madagascar pratincole, Madagascar pond heron, Madagascar hoopoe and Madagascar bee-eater, migrate to the African continent.