Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world and is blessed with incredible coastline and outer islands that rival those of its neighbours. Aside from the beaches and islands, Madagascar is a hotspot of diversity with most of its wildlife and plants being endemic to the island. There are over 100 different species of lemurs found throughout the rainforests, spiny forests and grassy plains. Unfortunately, over the last few decades most of Madagascar’s natural forests have been cut down for the furniture business and this has resulted in many of the lemur’s habitat being destroyed. It is vital the national parks that are on the island remain as a safe environment for the lemurs.
With regards to beaches and islands, there are plenty to choose from and the choice of which one to go to depends on the itinerary you chose on your Madagascan holiday. Below are some of our favourite islands, beaches and lodges.
Who should come to Madagascar? A safari to Madagascar is as diverse as its wildlife and so appeals to many different people. Families love searching for the different species of lemurs and chameleons and because all of the activities are based around forest walks kids will be kept active throughout their holiday. For honeymooners, there are so many choices of stunning beaches and lodges to choose from making Madagascar the perfect destination for an adventure honeymoon. For wildlife enthusiasts, we don’t need to say anymore – the lemurs, birds, chameleons, frogs, lizards and more that are found nowhere else on earth should be enough of a draw card.
What is there to do in Madagascar? Most of the wildlife activities are focused on jungle walks in search of lemurs, birds and other wildlife. In the south in Isalo, there are some amazing hikes through the canyons and bluffs. As far as beaches and islands go, there is scuba diving, snorkelling, kayaking, boating, sailing, fishing, whale watching and more, but again depends on the beach lodge or island you chose.
How do I get to Madagascar? Getting to Madagascar is fairly easy with direct flights from Johannesburg, Paris and Nairobi which makes it a stand-alone destination or can be added to a safari in East Africa or Southern Africa.
Where to stay in Madagascar? For the purpose of this section, we are going to focus more on our favourite beach and island lodges that combine well with the wildlife element found on the interior of Madagascar.
Miavana is a luxury lodge on the private island of Nosy Ankao which is off the north east coast of Madagascar. The only access is by helicopter from either Diego Suarez (30-minute flight) or Nosy Be (1-hour flight). Surrounded by so many shades of turquoise waters, this is the quintessential tropical island getaway. The island has a rich history and has even been used as an escape for pirates. The small village of about 10 people were completely wiped out when they ate turtle meat that was poisonous because of the season algae they had been feeding on. In the late 1990s the waters around the island were setup to harvest seaweed which employed local communities, therefore taking pressure off the surrounding coral and marine life. After several years of rising water temperatures, the seaweed began to die and out of this Miavan was born to help employ the local communities that had relied on the seaweed farming.
The private island is 10km2, guests have the whole island to explore and to find their own piece of paradise and with so much to do, you will never be bored. Land activities include lemur tracking through the forests on the island and look out for crowned lemurs that call the island home. Cycle around the island, go on day and night walks, watch turtles lay their eggs (seasonal) and watch as the hatchlings make their way to the ocean (seasonal), explore nearby islands and their breeding terns or simply relax on your own stretch of beach. The underwater world is incredible and is best explored on snorkelling or diving trips. Above water guests can try their hand at fly-fishing, sea kayaking, dolphin and whale watching. The island has its own helicopter on standby for those who wish to explore a little further afield. Helicopter picnics can be arranged with visits to the mainland and other reserves.
With just 14 exclusive villas right on the beach and each with their own plunge pool, guests are guaranteed exceptional personal service during their stay. The fine dining meals are freshly prepared by the team of chefs and served in the main dining area where guests can choose whether they want to have their table setup on the beach or secluded for more privacy.
Why we love Miavana:
Exclusive luxury Lodge
Plenty to do above and below the water
Conservation efforts: Miavana belongs to Time & Tide whose core focus is on community and conservation and Miavana is no exception. The introduction of seaweed farming in the 90s took pressure off the marine life that had been over fished for years, but also helped over 500 families earn a living. Since the rising sea water temperatures, the seaweed farming has since ended and the Time & Tide Foundation is helping bridge the gap by assisting with school and health initiatives for the seaweed farmers. Due to habitat loss on the mainland, several families of endangered crowned lemurs have been relocated onto the island
Masoala Forest Lodge
Masoala Forest Lodge is a favourite of ours here at Stanley Safaris. It is located deep in the Masoala Peninsular and is only accessible by 2-hour boat trip from Maroantsetra which a 1-hour flight from the capital Antananarivo. Set in an old vanilla and banana orchid and just off the beach, Masoala Forest Lodge offers both wildlife and beach combinations. The Masoala National Park is home to an array of animals including red-ruffed lemurs, incredible birding, mongoose, chameleons, lizards and so much more. Explore the park on foot in search of the wildlife with one of the expert guides from the lodge.
On the ocean, guests can head out on sea-kayaks, snorkelling or at the right time of the year can go in search for humpbacked whales and dolphins. With miles and miles of golden beaches backed by tropical rainforest teeming with wildlife, you will quickly see why Masoala Forest Lodge is one our favourites.
The lodge itself, is fairly simple with just 7 Meru Tents raised on platforms giving guests uninterrupted views into the forest canopy. The ensuite bathrooms are slightly separated from the tent by a short walkway. There are 2 main areas where great fresh, home cooked meals are served. Most dinners are served out on the sea-deck overlooking the stars and ocean.
Why we love Masoala Forest Lodge:
Remote location in heart of the Masoala Peninsular
Mix of wildlife and beach
Rustic camp right on the beach
Conservation efforts: Pierre and Maria who own the lodge, work closely with the local village to help teach them more about subsistence farming. The lodge is committed to a program of community benefit, allowing the villagers to maintain a lifestyle in the Masoala Forest. When the lodge was being constructed, only local Malagasy craftsmen were commissioned to do the work. The lodge has been designed with the environment in mind and have adopted a “no single use plastic” policy. They have been working with the Zurich Zoo and Madagascar National Parks by embracing a philosophy of sustainable tourism that directly benefits the local communities.
Another favourite of the team at Stanley Safaris is Tsarabanjina off the north west coast of Madagascar. Another private island perfect for honeymooners looking for that Robinson Crusoe feel. With just 25 rustic beach bungalows divided between north and south beach, guests are guaranteed privacy on this tropical island paradise. The laid-back atmosphere lends it perfectly for a barefoot chic retreat surrounded by crystal azure waters. Each of the thatch bungalows looks directly onto the beach and ocean beyond. Fresh seafood and Malagasy specialities are served in the sand floored restaurant, just adding to the barefoot luxury theme.
Being a private island, the diving and snorkelling offers unspoilt reefs teeming with marine life. Alternatively enjoy a boat cruise, sailing, beach volleyball, sea kayaks, SUP and island walks. Getting to and from Tsarabanjina requires a 1-hour boat transfer from Nosy Be or a 15-minute helicopter flight.
Why we love Tsarabanjina:
Typical white sandy, azure water tropical island
Rustic, Robinson Crusoe bungalows on the beach
Barefoot, laidback luxury
Lots to do
Conservation efforts: Tsarabanjina belongs to the Constance group of luxury hotels throughout the Seychelles, Mauritius and the Maldives and as a group they have committed to care for the Indian Ocean where their properties are located. Each of their lodges have agreed to an environmental policy that focusses on environmental awareness, energy, water and waste and green procurement, destination protection where the cultural values of the area are protected and enhanced.
Princesse Bora Lodge
Off the east coast of Madagascar lies Ile Sainte Marie, a long thin island surrounded by coral reefs and beaches, with a relatively lush interior. The main drawcard to come to Ile Sainte Maria is for the humpbacked whales that migrate past the island between July and September. The main lodge on the island is the stunning Princesse Bora Lodge. From here guests can enjoy boat trips to go look for the humpbacked whales that migrate from Antarctica to mate and give birth. The bungalows are simple in design with ensuite bathrooms. The food is traditionally prepared and locally sourced by the team and served in the main restaurant.
Why we love Princesse Bora Lodge:
The whale watching is impressive
Relaxed atmosphere on the island
Only small fishing villages on the island making the experience authentic
Conservation effort: Princesse Bora Lodge works with the local CetaMada research team in offering guests the opportunity to help with the humpbacked whale research. With the help of the CetaMada and the Swiss association Solferino, Princesse Bora Lodge have created the Anjaranay Community Center to support the local development and help improve living conditions of the people of Ile Sainte Marie. Every year Princesse Bora Lodge works with the local communities to offer alternatives to fishing, by training them in crafts, agriculture and aquaculture which all limits the pressure on the marine life.
Anjajavy le Lodge
Set on the west coast of Madagascar on a private reserve and several beaches, Anjajavy is one of the original luxury beach lodges in Madagascar. It is also the only Relais and Chateaux property in Madagascar. There are 24 traditional thatched villas all facing out towards the ocean. There are 7 coves to choose from along the coast, allowing guests to get some privacy. The main beach is in front of the main lodge and infinity pool. Every afternoon high tea is served in the lush gardens behind the lodge and guests are often joined by groups of lemurs who forage in the trees above. Guests get to choose off the a la catre menu for their meals which are freshly prepared by the team of chefs. Being a Relais and Chateaux property means there is a big emphasis on the food which is exquisite.
The private reserve is home to a number of lemur species which can be seen on guided walks during the day and at night. There are pathways leading through the reserve where guests can explore on their own. Other activities include village visits, boating excursions to nearby beaches and coves, sailing, fishing, kayaking and snorkelling.
Why we love Anjajavy:
Private reserve with lots of lemurs, birds and reptiles
7 coves and beaches to choose from
Remote with the only access by air from Antananarivo
Conservation efforts: Anjajavy is a private reserve conserving the critically endangered lemurs that live here. There is a conservation center at the lodge where guests can learn more about the goal to protect nature, enhance it, use it in a sustainable manner and understand it.