There’s an engaging eccentricity to Madagascar; charismatic endemic wildlife combines with world-class beaches to make it a great choice for a family holiday served with a dash of adventure
Above all Madagascar has the capacity to surprise, whether it’s the outlandish colours of its chameleons and geckos, the yellow Renault 4 taxis in Diego Suarez or the magnetic charm of its many lemurs. Or for that matter the excellent food that’s widely available and reflects a blend of the indigenous Malagassy (Indonesian) culture, overlaid with the French. Stop in a road-side restaurant and you’ll be as a likely to find pork served with eel (a Malagasy delicacy), as to find excellent home made foie gras.
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But of course the wildlife are the stars of the show, and many of Madagascar’s parks offer excellent opportunities to see not only lemurs, but also exotic birdlife and brightly coloured insects straight from the imagination of Edward Lear. As well as exploring the rainforests by day, nightwalks are low-key but hugely enjoyable for children who will love spotting nocturnal lemurs, sleeping chameleons and all manner of creep crawly, including some impressive spider action for those who wish to seek them out.
Parks like Andasibe-Mantadia give you the chance to observe (and hear the haunting calls of) families of habituated indris, as well as to see numerous other species of lemur in the wild. At the other end of the spectrum (and the country) Ankarana National Reserve not only boasts numerous lemur species, but also has some of the most extraordinary scenery, from limestone “tsingis” (like fluted stalactites) to an extensive network of caves and sinkholes that wouldn’t look out of place in a Disney movie.
Children (and adults) will be entranced by a reserve for relocated lemurs where the animals have no fear of humans and feel comfortable climbing onto your lap, shoulders, head or anywhere else that gives them a greater chance of scoring a mango fix.
And the wildlife doesn't stop outside the rainforests, Madagascars seas are teaming with marine life, from the humpbacks that migrate south in August and September to whalesharks that appear in December. Children will be mesmerized by the chance to swim with ghost-like manta rays or massive green turtles while everyone will relish the chance to kick back on pristine white sandy beaches, gorge on the local seafood and cool of in turquoise waters.
Madagascar is an exciting and action-packed destination for a family safari, but it also offers one or two challenges that make it sensible to consider carefully whether it's right for you and your kids. We've travelled in Madagascar with our children so would recommend a conversation to discuss the options as a starting point - drop us a line to get the conversation started
What short comings should I be aware of for a trip to Madagascar?
Shortcomings to be aware of relate mainly to the poverty of Madagascar so it’s important to see them in that context. Accommodation in some areas, for example, isn’t as polished as in much of the safari world. However, even in lodges where the initial impression is on the shambolic side, it is generally offset by welcoming people and warm hospitality, good food and a level of comfort that forgives short comings. Roads in some areas are in a poor state of repair, so you need to be aware of this, however for those who wish to experience Madagascar for what it is, the chance to travel through rural tracts of the country outweighs the bone-shaking drives.