Located off the east coast of mainland Africa, the fascinating nation of Madagascar is made up of one main island, which is the fourth-largest in the world, as well as several smaller islands.
Due to its geographic isolation, Madagascar’s native plants and animals were able to flourish – over 90% of its wildlife is unique to the country and visitors can expect to see a large array of animals and plants, including lemurs, fossa, orchids, baobab trees, chameleons and palm trees. Many different species of flora and fauna continue to be discovered and documented.
Madagascar’s geography is also diverse; from tropical rainforests and paddy fields to plateaus and sandy beaches, the country’s landscapes are a real highlight.
Cruisers can take the opportunity to appreciate the boundless natural beauty on offer. National parks, wildlife tours and other activities help the busy passenger enjoy all of the wonders on display.
Madagascar has a number of ports of call which are frequented by cruise ships. These include:
Which ports you visit will depend on your cruise line and itinerary.
Each port differs in regards to facilities available. Many of these ports can only cater to smaller vessels, so cruise ships typically anchor further out and tender passengers ashore.
Taxis and pousse-pousses (rickshaws) will be available outside most ports.
How To Get Around
It is recommended that cruise passengers make use of transport options available – some ports are quite a trek from the town centres and walking can be exhausting in the heat. Make sure you negotiate fares before setting off, but be aware that English-speaking drivers aren’t always available.
Currency – The currency in Madagascar is the Malagasy Ariary (MGA). Notes come in Ar100, Ar200, Ar500, Ar1,000, Ar2,000, Ar5,000 and Ar10,000 denominations. Coins come in Ar1, Ar2, Ar4, Ar5, Ar10, Ar20, Ar50, 1 and 25 denominations.
Time Zone – Madagascar follows East Africa Time Zone (EAT), which is 3 hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).
Weather – Madagascar enjoys a hot subtropical climate with colder temperatures in the mountains. December is the hottest month in Madagascar, with temperatures averaging 27 degrees Celsius. July is the coldest month, with an average temperature of 20 degrees Celsius.
Diving – Explore Madagascar’s beauty from all angles with a diving trip. Organised lessons and excursions let people of all experience levels enjoy the underwater beauty of this island nation. The aquatic creatures on show will give you a trip to remember – expect to see turtles, manta rays, fish of all sorts and possibly even dolphins or whales.
Avenue of the Baobabs – If your cruise takes you to the western side of Madagascar, it is worth going to the effort to visit this natural spectacle. The area is one of the most visited attractions in Madagascar; it showcases about 20 baobab trees (endemic to Madagascar) along a 260-metre stretch. The trees are around 30 metres tall and are thought to be up to 800 years old. For an unforgettable experience, sunset tours capture these national treasures in spectacular fashion – if your cruise itinerary allows you to be present at this time, you won’t be disappointed.
National Parks – Madagascar has an impressive collection of national parks. You will generally be able to find one in most areas. Cruisers calling in at Taomasina can access the Andasibe-Mantadia National Park, which is also known as Reserve of the Perinet. If Tulear is on your itinerary, you may want to make time to visit the Parc National de Isalo – this park features dramatic granite mountains and rocky outcrops. You can enjoy hiking and seeing the natural beauty of Madagascar here. For those who have their heart set on viewing parks and wildlife, it is worth asking cruise or port authorities at your destination for information specific to your location.
Lemurs Park – Lemurs have become a bit of an icon for this island nation. View them in their natural habitat at this park located in Antananarivo. Friendly guides will take you on a tour of the park, helping you spot the lemurs and also providing you with facts about other animals as well as local plants. The trip to the park can take a few hours, so be sure to check with your cruise line if you have time to make the journey. If you do get to venture to this area of Madagascar, expect to see some dancing lemurs as well as some varieties of nocturnal lemur which are kept in special dimmed enclosures.