Madagascar is an island full of interesting contrasts. Between ancient and modern influences, it is always full of surprises.
The fourth-largest island in the world, Madagascar is home to varying landscapes. As well as impressive cultural and historical sites.
Travelers to the island are constantly enchanted by the rainforests, the beaches, and the sharp limestone cliffs (or tsingys). And not to mention, all the unique wildlife found on the island.
While the country is quite poor, tourism has steadily increased over the years. This makes sense when looking at the list of unique things to do in Madagascar when traveling on holiday. These unusual experiences make visiting the island an unforgettable adventure.
What to Do in Madagascar?
Madagascar and activities go hand in hand. The island has tons to do and many things to see.
If you ever find yourself wondering what to do on the island, this list will help you decide what to see in Madagascar.
1. Watch the migration of whales around Antongil Bay, Madagascar
In the Baie d’Antongil, also called Antongil Bay, you can see the yearly migration of the Antarctic humpback whales.
From June through September, Antongil Bay comes alive. It’s a fascinating display of the traditions of whales courting and mating.
The humpback whales serve as the nation’s emblem of marine life conservation. The species was nearly extinct and saw a decline in their numbers.
But since 1996, Madagascar and the WCS have been researching these majestics sea mammals and numbers have picked up since.
By August, the female whales are calving. This warm water is the perfect environment for whales.
The stunning scenery also provides a wonderful backdrop for photographs. It is one of the best things to see in Madagascar if you are visiting during the migration season.
2. Take a trip to Zoma Market
The world’s second-largest open-air street market is in Madagascar’s capital city of Antananarivo. There are many treasures sold in the bustling market.
Here you can encounter the interesting Malagasy people, with their smiling welcomes and outgoing nature.
This is the place to go for gemstone jewelry, wood carvings, embroidery, and other handicrafts. Leather goods and fabrics are plentiful.
Shopping here gives you a chance to engage with the friendly locals on a more personal level.
The market is more well-known for selling fresh vegetables and fruits, some you have never seen before. And there is also a wide variety of meat and fish on sale.
3. Try out Madagascar snorkeling in Nosy Hara archipelago
One of the best things to do in Madagascar while on holiday is the rare opportunity to snorkel among the reefs of Nosy Hara Archipelago. The compelling ocean life is absolutely thrilling.
Snorkeling offers a rare opportunity to spend time watching these creatures in their natural habitat. Expect to see colorful fish, sea turtles, and manta rays. The crystal clear temperate water gives you a chance to explore in comfort.
4. Explore Ankarana National Park
Ankarana National Park is a clear favorite to see interesting lemurs with their huge glass-like eyes. Curiosity is one of their most endearing features!
Chameleons and fast-moving geckos provide endless entertainment and laughter.
Caves with their sparkling, crystallized stalactites and stalagmites are also spellbinding.
Bird sightings and ancient Elephant Feet Trees, along with the scattered limestone structures called Tsingy add to the wonder of this beautiful park.
Rainbow Tours, a UK based Madagascar holiday specialist created a fantastic infographic on the story of lemurs and some intriguing facts about them.
Have a look at it below and share these fun facts to spread the word about conserving lemurs in Madagascar:
5. Stroll down the avenue of the Baobabs
Between Morondava and Belon’i Tsiribihina is a magnificent line of baobabs. The avenue is on a national road (the N8) so it gets busy.
It’s one of the most popular attractions in Madagascar and you’ll find many people taking photos during sunset.
A little further on, you’ll find the “Baobab Amoureux” (Baobabs in Love), which is two trees twisted together. If you have a guide, they should be able to take you to both spectacular sights.
Neighboring Morondava and Tsiribihina, there are also good eateries and beaches to explore nearby. So your trip here will offer you even more entertainment in Madagascar.
Tip: If you’ve never had the fortune to spot a baobab flower, this may be the perfect opportunity.
6. Marvel at the Royal Rova and Lost Palace
Another must-see site in Antananarivo is the Royal Rova and Lost Palace.
We got lost in our thoughts imagining a time when kings and queens ruled over Madagascar. Many years ago, a fire destroyed the complex where their tombs now rest.
There is still a stone entrance standing and remnants of a church. The Rova was an incredible museum to browse in.
The Rova also hosts some of the country’s monarchs near its entrance. You can differentiate the kings from the queens who rest here.
Plain grey stone tombs hosts the previous kings, while the queens’ tombs the colour red — a color of nobility.
7. Discover the Tsingy Stone Forests
In a scene that looks a little out-of-this-world, Madagascar’s limestone forests are captivating – and slightly strange.
Enjoy one of the most amazing things to do in Madagascar and discover one or more of the many tsingy forests on the island.
These forests are not only home to the spiky limestone formations, but also to much of Madagascar’s fauna and flora.
The Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve is home to the largest example of a Tsingy forest.
It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, home to 11 different species of lemurs, as well as hundreds of birds and a number of reptiles.
Did you know? In Malagasy, the word tsingy means ‘the place where one cannot walk barefoot’.
8. Catch a sunset at La Corniche
La Corniche is a popular palm-lined promenade along Madagascar’s coast in Majunga. There are plenty of restaurants and hotels along the strip, as well as several street carts for snacks.
The promenade is a great place for people-watching, as both locals and tourists often head here for sunset.
It’s also a family-friendly place of fun during school holidays, and you’ll see crowds of people out, enjoying the sea breeze.
9. Enjoy island hopping
While Madagascar is quite a big island, there are many smaller isles near its shores, with many things to do. Madagascar should be your middle point for experiencing all these islands, which makes for great day trips.
We’ve mentioned a few already, like Nosy Be and Île Sainte-Marie. But there are others that you can reach with a short boat trip.
Some more islands to visit from Madagascar include:
- Nosy Komba (the island of lemurs)
- Nosy Tanikely
- Nosy Sakatia (the orchids island)
- Nosy Ve
An island-hopping trip means more diving spots, beaches, and other hidden gems to discover. It’s also incredible just being out on the ocean.
10. Chase waterfalls in Amber Mountain National Park
If you are wondering what to do in Madagascar to experience fauna and flora, you can enjoy all of this and more at the Amber Mountains.
Located in the northern parts of Madagascar, you’ll find this tropical paradise full of splendid waterfalls and volcanic lakes.
The park offers hiking trails that range in difficulty. Most end in spectacular sights of cascading waterfalls.
There is plenty of wildlife living here, including 7 species of lemurs and the world’s smallest chameleon.
11. Visit Analamazoatra Special Reserve
Set in the Andasibe-Mantadia National Park, this special reserve protects groups of indri lemurs. Not only are these animals one of the largest living lemur species, but they’re also endangered.
Like many of the island’s national parks, this region has hiking trails and waterfalls, as well as natural pools for you to enjoy while marveling at the wildlife.
12. Go on a Tsiribihina River tour
A tour down the Tsiribihina River provides a look at the magnificent Madagascar landscape from a different perspective.
You’ll cruise down the river in a canoe or a motorboat, with a guide who knows all the spots to point out.
Lemurs, chameleons, and birds are often spotted from these tours, and the tsingys in the background make for a picturesque trip. There are many activities available, so speak to a local or two to make your decision.
13. Find the pirate cemetery on Île Sainte-Marie
Otherwise known as Nosy Boraha, this island is just four miles off the east coast of Madagascar and was once a pirate haven. It’s one of the favorite Madagascar points of interest and is great for kids, too.
The island of Île Sainte-Marie was the un-official home of pirates. It has a number of inlets and bays that they used to hide their boats. Estimates suggest that over 1000 pirates would inhabit the island for over 100 years.
Additionally, the island is home to the world’s only pirate cemetery, making it quite an attraction.
But there is also lots of wildlife to see, including more lemurs and chameleons. Last but not least, there are great diving spots and whale watching tours if you haven’t had enough at Antongil Bay.
14. See the Royal Hill of Ambohimanga
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a royal settlement and burial site set on one of the twelve sacred hills in the capital city of Antananarivo. It’s also the most significant of these twelve hills.
See the wooden hut that was once a king’s palace, and its royal compound walls. As well as the outdoor open-air baths in which the king himself would bath.
Roam the site and take in the historical significance of it all. In addition, be sure to stop a moment and enjoy the views from the hilltop of one of Madagascar’s must see sites.
15. Learn more about the Missouri Botanical Gardens
If you’re a gardening fanatic, or have curious kids with you, this is one of the top things to see in Madagascar. Visit the botanical gardens to learn more about the island’s fascinating plants and sustainability efforts.
There are tours and classes available, but you can also simply stroll through the gardens and enjoy the lush greenery.
16. Laze on Kimony Beach
One of the best things to do in Madagascar is to visit one of the many beaches on the island. Kimony Beach is an unmissable spot, and should be at the top of your list to visit.
It’s the perfect area to spend time away from all of the busier activities in Madagascar.
Spend your day on the quiet, mostly deserted beach and soak up the sun undisturbed. Pack a lunch and lots of liquids, and lather on that sunscreen.
There aren’t many shops or restaurants nearby, so there aren’t large crowds either.
17. Camp out in Kirindy Forest
If a rustic wooden bungalow in a dense forest sounds like your ideal vacation, then Kirindy Forest has a place for you. The forest is privately owned and is home to many unique creatures.
While here, you’ll be in the best position to spot fossas, more lemurs, and reptiles like the flat-backed spider tortoise.
It’s also the only place you’ll be able to see the endangered Malagasy giant jumping rat.
Find All the Cool Things to Do in Madagascar
Have you added these Madagascar things to do and see to your travel wish list yet?
You can discover and explore so many activities in Madagascar. You will find no shortage of excursions to occupy your time.
These unmissable tips should get you started and give you inspiration on your Madagascar holidays.