So you want an adventure abroad? How about renting a four-wheel-drive and cruising by sandstone canyons and forests of rain, through a rainbow of wildlife, and chilling with King Julien, helping his crew of furry lemurs fight off the eerie-looking fossa? Or throwing on your SCUBA gear and submerging into crystal clear water, amongst whale sharks, dolphins, and clouds of colorful fish, working on that enviable tan, pitching a tent every night under the stars of a remote island? Embark on an adventure in Madagascar and all of your wildest travel dreams will come true!
Located in the Indian Ocean, off the southeastern coast of Africa, you will find the fourth largest island in the world. Madagascar is nicknamed “Rainbow Island” for its diversity of wildlife and landscape. With its northern mountains and southern deserts, western plains and eastern lakes, this magical island will attract outdoor lovers from across the globe, adrenaline junkies who get their rush from becoming one with nature.
If you are fascinated by seaside magic, head to Nosy Be, on the western coast of Madagascar, for an outdoor adventure. Nosy Be is a rare paradise, spreading irresistible laid back vibes while remaining off the beaten path. This location is the most expensive place to travel in Madagascar, but for good reason; it’s sunny year-round, lacks typical noisy tourist attractions, but still allows modern comforts. Check out the famous sugar cane fields and rum distilleries, explore the hinterland’s cocoa and vanilla plantations, crater lakes, and waterfalls, and spend your afternoons catching waves, or snorkel, dive, sail, and float with some of the most diverse marine life on the planet. End your days lounging beachside in a hammock, soaking in that mora mora, or “slowly slowly,” lifestyle.
Those looking for an adventure in Madagascar straight out of DreamWorks’ Madagascar movie, check out program opportunities in Fort Dauphin. Fort Dauphin is located along a peninsula in southeastern Madagascar, between the sea and mountains, so half the adventure is getting there; the expedition to Fort Dauphin will take you through spiny forests to a city with great beaches, dramatic hinterland, and a mirage of civilization. While traveling in Madagascar you’ll be able to truly appreciate the different types of animal and plant life as you dive deep into pristine jungles. You will also be able to spend your free time looking for lemurs, relaxing on the beach, and practicing your Malagasy with locals; just remember to keep your wits about you when exploring the city alone!
Be sure to visit the Central Highlands if you are on traveling to Madagascar between July and September. In this region of the country you can witness Famadihina, or the Festival of Dry Bones. The Malagasy people have deep-rooted traditions in honoring the dead, and at Famadihina, they open the tombs, wrap their deceased loved ones in silk cloth, and throw a party by hoisting them around their tombs to the rhythm of music. While it sounds strange, it’s one of Madagascar’s biggest festivals, so throw your reservations aside and put on your dancing shoes!
Adventure Travel in Madagascar
Whether you’re looking to get your adrenaline fix by diving deep into the jungles in hopes to meet leaf-nosed snakes and other critters, spending your days on the immaculate reefs, or immersing yourself in the local Malagasy lifestyle, an adventure in Madagascar will not disappoint!
Seventy-five percent of the animals found on the island are only found in Madagascar. Due to the nation’s unique variety of wildlife, many animal lovers travel to Madagascar to combine their desire for adventure with conservation volunteering. Alternatively, some travelers wish to explore environmental studies and contribute to environmental preservation and research. Travelers can explore the forests around Fort Dauphin, discover exotic species, and monitor endangered lemur populations while helping to conserve King Julien’s kingdom.
If you’d rather spend your time in water, try lending a hand on Malagasy beach conservation projects. Throw on your flippers and goggles, grab a snorkel, and surround yourself with sea life of all kinds. If you decide to support local conservation initiatives, your adventure travel in Madagascar may consist of locating and mapping important coastal habitats, observing the wildlife, and helping conserve beachside environments. After a full day on the water, you’ll be able to recover in a hammock, make friends with locals, or work on your scuba diving skills.
Most adventure travel programs in Madagascar accept applicants year round, but the ideal time to visit Madagascar is from May to October, during the dry season. From November to April, heavy rainstorms and typhoons may put a damper on your adventure travel in Madagascar. Regardless of your time in Madagascar, don’t worry about your Malagasy or French language skills; the majority of adventure travel programs in Madagascar are open to everyone, and locals will be sure to teach you some fun (or useful) phrases.
Costs & Affordability
Like most meaningful travel, the price tag on adventure travel in Madagascar varies depending on the adventure and length of the program you choose. Flights and program fees aside, on-the-ground costs will make you feel like a king!
Adventure travel in Madagascar can be extremely affordable. One U.S. dollar magically turns into over 3100 MGA (Malagasy Ariary), the local currency. Follow the locals and you’ll find cheap fruit markets, restaurants, and bars. Feast on French-European flavor at a nice restaurant for only a couple dollars or tour around the cities on their public transportation, with one-way tickets only costing about 17 cents. But shopping addicts beware: most clothes in Madagascar are expensive due to importing!
Most adventure travel programs in Madagascar include fees for food, accommodation, and excursions or activities. If you are worried about the flights and fees, don’t worry! There are creative ways to raise money for your adventure travel in Madagascar. Make a budget while saving at home, apply for a scholarship, or try fundraising to get you there.
Accommodation & Visas
Imagine spending your nights in a hammock on the beach, a sky full of twinkling stars overhead, or curling up in a tent nestled into the thick of the Malagasy jungle. Accommodation during your adventure travels in Madagascar can get downright outdoorsy. But for those who’d rather leave the adventures for the daytime, no worries; there’s a bed in Madagascar for every type of traveler.
Adventure travel programs in Madagascar offer a range of accommodation. Some programs will have you pitching a tent, meaning your toilet will be a hole in the ground. Others will offer group housing, where you will have the comforts of a cot, electricity, running water, and (spotty) wifi. Or you can mix it up, spending some nights under the stars and some under a ceiling fan. Either way, BYO sleeping bag, just in case you’ll be on the move.
Most visitors won’t need a visa to travel to Madagascar, if your travels will last less than 90 days. All you need is a valid passport and a thirst for adventure! If you want to extend your adventure in Madagascar, you may need to obtain a visa, however. For more information on the required process, visit GoAbroad’s Malagasy Embassy Directory.
Benefits & Challenges
Adventure travel in Madagascar will be wildly different from travel anywhere else. You will experience one of the most biologically diverse countries and come face to face with some of the most unique creatures on the planet. Your adventure in Madagascar will allow you to explore Mother Nature to new extremes.
As with most travels abroad, adventurers will face some culture shock when traveling to Madagascar. You will undoubtedly make friends with locals who have a friendly lack of personal space. If you don’t plan to break your bank with meals out every night, you’ll have to adjust to the norm of three light meals of rice each day. And you’ll stand out with the nickname vazaha, or foreigner, among locals. Stay patient and positive, and, if all else fails, just smile and wave, smile and wave.
You won’t regret leaving the comfort of your home to venture to Madagascar. Between the lush jungles, colorful reefs, and pulsating cities, there is so much to explore in this natural kaleidoscope. So take a leap and get your adrenaline pumping as you dive headfirst into the beautifully unspoiled land of Madagascar.