Wild landscapes, traditional village culture, beaches - Madagascar may be an island off the coast of East Africa, but there’s nothing small about it. Adventurous travellers will be hooked from the start, this isolated island is packed with astounding wildlife (including lemurs!), landscapes and people you’ll find nowhere else on the planet.

I was lucky enough to visit Madagascar and join this Highlights of Madagascar tour with G Adventures. Here are some of the photos and experiences from my journey.

Highlights of Madagascar map

Day 1: Antananarivo

My tour began with some simple time to just wander and explore the streets of central Antananarivo the country's capital and largest city. You'll encounter streets filled with old colonial architecture - remnants from the French colonisation before the country gained independence in 1960.

Antananarivo (referred to locally as “Tana”) has two forts which overlook the city, while within the city limits lay the Royal Palaces. A 'must see' is the Queen's Palace which is on a hill overlooking the city. If you don’t fancy the steep ascent to the top, you can take a bush taxi with the friendly locals and experience Malagasy hospitality.

Malagasy cuisine is influenced by Southeast Asian, African, Indian, Chinese and European migrants who have settled on the Island. I recommend you try the national dish which is ‘Romazava’ (pronounced ‘roomazav’), a meat and vegetable stew, spiced with ginger and containing brèdes mafana (‘bred mafana’) – tasty, tongue-tingling greens.

Another good local dish is ravitoto (‘ravtoot’),which is shredded manioc leaves with fried beef and coconut. Meat lovers should also try ‘Zebu’ which is very popular in many Malagasy dishes.

Day 2-3: Andasibe-Mantadia National Park

After your time in the city, you'll continue east as the tour makes stops along the scenic rainforest route of world-renowned Mantadia National Park (formerly known as the Perinet Reserve).

The tour group travels by comfortable air conditioned mini bus from Tana to Toulear on the coast. Every day you’ll have plenty of opportunity to stretch your legs and visit various National parks and villages along the way. The great bonus of travelling with a small group like this (with a maximum of 16 people), is you’ll always have the flexibility to stop to take photos along the way.

Days 4-5: Antsirabe/Fiadanana

As you drive and when you stop you can take in the lush landscapes of rice fields and panoramic views of the nearby mountains.

Pop fact: the Malagasy (residents of Madagascar) are the highest per capita consumer of rice in the world, so the highlands which are lush and fertile and the perfect place to grow this staple food. You’ll see acres and acres of highlands covered with rice terraces - as you’d expect in south east Asia, which is a little strange at first.

If you take this tour with G Adventures you will take a trek through the highland villages and stay overnight in a homestay with a local family to experience village life. This homestay has to be one of the highlights of my trip, spending time with the locals and dancing around the camp fire listening to a local Malagasy band underneath the stars!

Day 6: Ranomafana

Ranomafana is one of the most important mammal and reptile sites in Madagascar.

It’s amazing - approximately 95% of Madagascar’s reptiles, 89% of its plant life, and 92% of its mammals exist nowhere else on Earth! You‘ll have plenty of time on this tour to see this country’s amazing eco system and amazing animals in their natural, including the various different lemurs species, Chameleons, Tomato frogs and Fossas!

Day 7: Ambalavao

Ambalavao is a beautiful town in the hauts plateaux region of Madagascar. The brightly painted buildings of the main street look a bit like gingerbread houses with their steeply tiled roofs and carved, weathered wooden balconies. Outside local women sit in the sunlight, spinning silk. The little town is famous for its "Papier Antemoro", a papyrus-type paper impregnated with dried flowers and sold throughout the island.

Days 8-9: Ranohira/Isalo

The Isalo National Park was created in 1962 to preserve the ancestral beauty of the site. Archaeological relics and funeral sanctuaries create a magical atmosphere made of strong contrasts.

We spent the afternoon trekking in the park, climbing the sandstone rocks, cliffs, and canyons and capturing some amazing views of the park. Once we’d trekked for a few hours we took a break from the sun and dipped in amazing waterfalls in the park!

Day 10-12: Ifaty

While in Ifaty there are several optional activities such as taking a ride in a dugout canoes, visiting the spiny forest reserve, going snorkelling or diving on the reef, or simply relaxing on the beach.

Optional activities are offered with this tour and your guide will advise you when you arrive what’s possible. I’d certainly recommend the night walk in the national park so you can see the animals in the evening.

The last two nights of the tour are spent on the gorgeous beaches of Ifaty. Look forward to some relaxation and plenty of time to enjoy the beaches of the coast and before flying back to Tana at the end of the tour.

Day 13 & 14: Toliara/Antananarivo

Want to visit Madagascar?

I can arrange all aspects of you trip to Madagascar, including flights, accommodation and tours. Whether you'd like to fly direct or if you'd like to find out how to include this destination in a multi-stop ticket, I can help you explore some off-the-beaten track spots - just contact David.

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