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Eight natural wonders of Madagascar

The incredible natural diversity of the Big Island is revealed in a unique nature and fauna in the world.

With its largely endemic fauna and flora, its Afro-Asian culture, its landscapes alternating forests, rice fields and geological curiosities, Madagascar is an island-country that defies classification. Express boarding for an overview of the curiosities of the Big Island whose beauty contrasts with the socio-economic misfortunes.

The grandeur of the Alley of Baobabs

The majestic Alley of the Baobabs, near Morondava. Dudarev Mikhail

It is an astonishing gathering of plant pachyderms. Less than 20 km from Morondava, in the west of the country, the Alley of the Baobabs bears its name well: on either side of the track, a dozen of these giants with trunks so massive that their branches seem in comparison tiny tower above the paddy fields. The site features the most imposing of the baobabs, Adansonia grandidieri. Of the eight species of these trees present in the world, Madagascar is home to 7, 6 of which are endemic. To best appreciate the show, join the alley at daybreak.

Amazing tsingy of Bemaraha

Footbridge over the famous big tsingy of Bemaraha, emblematic of the west of the country. Karim Nari

Imagine sharp needles of limestone, interwoven so densely that they look like a veritable stone forest. Weather and geology sometimes make things right. When Madagascar separated from the African continent 160 million years ago, this submarine plateau on which coral formations had sedimented was brought to the surface. Listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, the Tsingy de Bemaraha offer one of the most amazing landscapes in Madagascar. But the site has to be earned: before admiring these limestone cathedrals, you will have to cover long hours of trails in the west of the country. If you don’t have the time or the physical condition, head for the tsingy of Ankàrana, south of Diégo-Suarez, which are easier to access.

In the reliefs of Isalo

The rocks of the Isalo massif are adorned with colors that change throughout the day. ONTM / press photo

Between the verdant rice-growing highlands and the semi-arid south, the Isalo park is one of the most visited in the country. Reasons for this success: not only is it located along the RN7, which facilitates access, but its rock formations are made particularly photogenic by their color palette: golden under the sun, they are tinted with ocher and grey-green thanks to the lichens which are clinging to it. A postcard setting for hiking between canyons and natural pools, and getting to know Malagasy stars of the animal kingdom: the famous ring-tailed lemurs, or ring-tailed lemurs, which evolve in the folds of the relief. Isalo is also home to an icon of the country’s hotel industry, the Relais de la Reine.

Andringitra and Tsaranoro, the (almost) forgotten valleys

The sublime Tsaranoro valley remains away from the tourist routes. sunsinger

Unknown and often overshadowed by Isalo, the Andringitra National Park and its neighbor the Tsaranoro Valley are a delight for travelers who are ready to sacrifice a little comfort – and face a few hours of trail – to discover a space as beautiful and preserved as it is little frequented (except for nature lovers). Their sublime granite massifs are in fact criss-crossed by paths, including those that lead up to Pic Boby (2,658 m), the highest accessible peak on the island. In the neighboring valley of Tsaranoro – our favourite, because it has more possibilities for welcoming visitors – we will be dazed by the spectacle of the peak of the same name, made sparkling by lichens and the sun.

Sainte-Marie and its whales

From July to September, migrating humpback whales provide the spectacle around Sainte-Marie. ONTM / Photo press

Sainte-Marie is not only a tropical island close to the east coast, appreciated for its idleness, its beaches, its coconut palms and its sweetness of life. In the land of lemurs and chameleons, it is famous for its… humpback whales. From July to September, these great travelers migrate by the hundreds towards the outskirts of the island to mate and give birth, offering the spectacle of their jumps and their vocalizations. Tourist service providers have come together to supervise the observation of these cetaceans, thanks to an association and a code of good conduct. We cannot strongly recommend that you use service providers who respect it.

Nosy Be… and the other islands

Nosy be and the neighboring islands of Nosy Iranja or Nosy Komba are simply heavenly. evoks24

For many, Nosy Be is synonymous with Eden. For others, this island in the northwest of the country is resolutely assimilated to the misdeeds of “mass” tourism. Let us introduce two clarifications into the debate: 1/ the beautiful Nosy Be, destination for idleness par excellence, is certainly touristic, but we are far, very far even, from the frequentation of the beaches of the Costa Brava in summer… 2/ Nosy Be is bordered by a series of other islands as peaceful as they are paradisiacal, with beaches bordered by crystal clear waters and fringed with coconut palms. They are called Nosy Komba, Nosy Sakatia, Nosy Iranja (not forgetting the Mitsio and Radama archipelagos, and their luxury hotels). On good terms…

Parks, forests and lemurs

Aerial view of one of the many forest-fringed bodies of water in the Parc de la Montagne d’Ambre, in the north of the country. Karim Nari

They are called Montagne d’Ambre, Ranomafana or Analamazaotra, to name but a few. Their common points? These national parks scattered all over the island are home to vast forests – humid or dry – which provide refuge for specific flora and fauna. Often described as “Noah’s Ark of evolution”, Madagascar indeed displays a rate of endemism that lights up stars in the eyes of any naturalist. Many of the species of this “mega diversity” territory are only visible here! First of all the lemurs, friendly ancestors of monkeys that have become the emblem of the country. Being woken up in the early morning by the haunting cry of the indri-indri – Madagascar’s largest lemur – after spending the night in Analamazaotra Park, east of the capital, is a travel memory that not be forgotten.

Edens of the Great South

A lagoon in Andavadoaka. the Great South of Madagascar, of immense beauty, is also one of the poorest in the country. Pierre-Yves Babelon

Light sand tracks, turtles moving with small cautious steps, and the blue-green common thread of a coastline bathed in light. This is the Great South of Madagascar, on either side of the city of Tulear. On one side, the coastline rises to the southwest towards the virgin spaces of Salary and Andavadoaka. On the other, the tracks lead off towards Fort-Dauphin and its bay, passing through Anakao and the sublime deserted beaches of Itampolo and Ambola. Difficult to access and offering little infrastructure, this “land of thorns” reserved for the most adventurous is one of the poorest regions of the country. Going there is also a way to share the income from tourism with populations that are isolated and often left out.

Our advices

Fourth island in the world by area, Madagascar is a country larger than France, with often random infrastructures and where it is difficult to move around. Don’t try to see everything (one trip won’t be enough!). Instead, choose an itinerary in a part of the island according to your expectations and your desires. The RN7, the tarred road that descends 900 km south from Antananarivo, offers an excellent introduction to the diversity of the island. Adapt your tour to your expectations of comfort and your idea of ​​travel, and consider going through a specialized local provider. A few that we recommend: Evasions sans frontières – Océanes Aventures, Espace Mada and Malagasy Tours.


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