How to honeymoon in Madagascar
28 Jun 2017
An island off the southeast coast of Africa, there is more to Madagascar than meets the eye. Here's how to make the most of it
If you’re looking for a honeymoon with a twist, you’d be hard pressed to beat Madagascar, with its extraordinary wildlife, landscape and culture. And, by building your own bespoke itinerary, it’s possible to create your dream getaway regardless of whether you’re on a careful budget or have cash to splash. To get you started on your plans, Africa Odyssey’s Marc Harris shares some of the best kept secrets of this paradise island.
Meet the lovable lemurs
With more than 100 different native species, the lemur has to be Madagascar’s best-known inhabitant. You can see different types right across the island – from the red-collared lemur that can only be found in the southeast, to the surprised teddy-bear-faced indri - one of the few animals in the world that cannot survive in captivity. So, if you’re a nature lover, plan a honeymoon that moves around the island to make sure you get your fill of these incredible mammals.
Explore a forest made of stone
Madagascan terrain varies greatly – you can move from rainforest to desert in 300 kilometres. But there’s nowhere quite like the awe-inspiring Tsingy. This UNESCO-protected stone forest has to be seen to be believed, with its 50-metre-high limestone spikes and lush canyons stuffed with 103 species of bird, 15 species of bat and 22 types of amphibian. Steps, boardwalks and suspension bridges offer unfettered access to this incredible view and, if you’re lucky, you might spot the endangered Decken’s sifakas performing their antics as they leap gracefully from one limestone pin to another.
Stroll along an avenue with an ancient twist
Head west to Morondava and wander along the Avenue of the Baobabs. Madagascar has seven different species of this remarkable tree and these are its largest. Baobabs can live for up to 800 years and are a legacy of the dense, tropical forests that once covered much of the island.
Go whale watching from land or sea
Madagascar’s ecology is remarkable – it is home to 5% of all the animals and plants known to man and is a favourite migration spot for humpback whales. Head to Manafiafy between June and November for a chance to spot these incredible creatures in their natural environment. The Manafiafy Beach and Rainforest Lodge offers a whale-watching lookout tower as well as boat trips. Bottle-nosed dolphins can also be seen here throughout the year. Manafiafy is a great choice if you want a mix of beach, forest, mangroves with outstanding birdlife and fascinating local culture.
Celebrate the ancestors
Madagascar’s rituals are as unique as its wildlife. If your timing is right, you might get to see the Famadihana ceremony, also known as ‘turning the bones'. According to Malagasy belief, people are made from the bodies of their ancestors. So, every seven years, between the months of June and September, families return to the burial places of their ancestors, rewrap them in scarves called lambas and spray them with perfume. Far from morbid, this is an inspiring display of music, feasting and family celebration. Or, if your timing doesn’t coincide, there are year-long chances to immerse yourselves in the indigenous culture of the Antandroy tribe when you stay at the secluded Mandrare River Camp – a tourist free destination that offers the best of high luxury glamping alongside a truly authentic Madagascan experience.
Get lost in the rainforest
If it’s rainforest you’re looking for, then Andasibe, with the Perinet Special Reserve and Mantadia National Park, is the place for you. Perinet is one of the best places to see – and hear – the indri lemur. The forest is also home to another 11 species of lemur, as well as reptiles, invertebrates and orchids. Mantadia is virtually untouched primary rainforest and home to different species to those found in Perinet. The trails are tougher, but the tourists fewer in number. Stay at the Andasibe Hotel, which sits on the edge of its own private rainforest and overlooks nearby rice paddies.
Chill on the beach
Madagascar takes its relaxation seriously and has plenty of spectacular postcard-perfect beaches to choose from. The popular island of Nosy Be offers a range of options depending on your budget, but if it’s paradise you’re looking for, it’s hard to beat Nosy Tsarabanjina, some 50 kilometres away from Nosy Be and accessible only by boat. This is the Maldives of Madagascar, with world-class diving, outstanding beaches and crystal-clear waters.