Updated: 10/23/17 | October 23rd, 2017
Madagascar. It has an exotic hold over the imagination, conjuring up a land of wild nature: plains of baobab trees, armies of lemurs, unique animals, and lush rainforests.
Since so few people visit (roughly 350,000 per year), our imagination runs wild when we hear its name. It’s some otherworldly region, a lush rainforest teeming with wildlife and white sand beaches from end to end. It would be like Avatar.
Most people I talked to thought the same. After all, with so few visitors there, the chances of knowing someone who has been is tiny.
But the Madagascar most of us envision is not the one that exists. The country is quite arid thanks to mining, deforestation, and climate change. These days, the landscape is a lot less lush than it once was. It’s not as wild and exotic as we think.
Yet there’s a lot of beauty here. From Westworld-like deserts and tiny tropical rainforests to valleys filled with rice fields and giant mountains, Madagascar is still outrageously magical and raw. While I’ll be posting many articles on what to see and do in Madagascar and my experience with the poverty and privilege there, I thought I’d start with some photographs from my visit to set the scene:
Lemurs, lemurs, and more lemurs. There are over 60 species in the country. Seeing them was a highlight of the trip. They were so cute!
One of the beautiful and lush valleys on the island.
The Paradise bird. Just one of the many colorful birds I saw.
“King Julien” lemurs (so called because this is the kind that was the character in the movie).
The poor infrastructure in Madagascar makes the country hard to get around. There’s literally one highway going north-south.
There’s a lot of chameleons here too.
Madagascar has this samosa tasting spring roll. I ate them all the time. They made me very happy. Delicious and at three cents each, budget-friendly.
Baby lemurs! I really can’t get enough of them.
This lemur is actually asleep. It sleeps with its eyes open to deter predators. Creepy, huh?
Some of the famous baobab trees.
A beautiful pastel sunset over the capital, Antananarivo!
A narrow bridge made even more crowded by a weekly market.
Always be on the lookout for thieves!
A candid shot!
So many lemurs, so little time.
Hiking in Isalo national park, a very Westworld like place.
This spider was frighteningly huge.
Taking in the amazing view!
Learning about the country with my awesome guide, Patrick.
Out for a hike with my Intrepid tour group.
The zebu (a type of cow) market, where people buy and sell cattle. This animal is a work animal and, sometimes, killed for food.
The hills and valleys of Madagascar fill up the long, slow driving days. And they are a wonderful sight.
This is what most of Madagascar looks like.
Just another Lemur doing his thing!
Chatting with my awesome guide Patrick. He was a depth of knowledge on the country and a really friendly guy!
This big fella was just relaxing in the sun.
Home sweet home!
Taking the classic Instagram picture!
Ok, one last lemur picture.
I found my new best friend while in Madagascar! We’re buddies now!
Sixteen days was not nearly enough time to visit a country the size of France — especially since Madagascar severely lacks decent infrastructure. Roads are filled with potholes and there’s no regular train service.
So, while there was much I missed, I’m grateful for everything I did see.
I guess, as always, it’s just another reason to go back, right?
Note: I went to Madagascar with Intrepid Travel as part of our ongoing partnership. They paid for the tour and my expenses during the trip. I paid for my flights to and from Madagascar. They offer discounts to readers — click the link and save on your next trip!
Book Your Trip to Madagascar: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Use Skyscanner or Momondo to find a cheap flight. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned. Start with Skyscanner first though because they have the biggest reach!
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the biggest inventory and best deals. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
- World Nomads (for everyone below 70)
- Insure My Trip (for those over 70)
- Medjet (for additional repatriation coverage)
Looking for the Best Companies to Save Money With?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use to save money when I’m on the road. They will save you money when you travel too.
Want More Information on Madagascar?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on Madagascar for even more planning tips!