Madagascar has dense forests filled with amazing wildlife not found anywhere else in the world –unique lemurs, birds, frogs and chameleons, all rare and precious. One can enjoy walking alongside the pristine beaches, with bleached white sand and clear turquoise waters. I am always fascinated by the natural features – the red and grey tsingys, the stunning deserts and magnificent baobab trees.
What makes it now even more special is that there are some very comfortable and beautiful lodges and hotels to stay in, located perfectly to see some of the best things that Madagascar has to offer.
The most luxurious is the newly opened Miavana in the north-east, an hour’s helicopter flight away from Nosy be. This private island is super stylish with postcard-perfect sandy beaches.
There are ‘wow’ moments at every turn, one simply has to stay a week and indulge in the beachside villas that sit in 360 hectares of magic. One barely has to move during a stay here – why waste the energy when there is so most sun to soak up, whilst drinking a cocktail or two under the palm trees?
But on the other hand there are many options for exciting activities here if you do want to move from the beach - diving, wakeboarding and fishing will keep the energetic busy. For wildlife watchers, dolphins and turtles can be seen in the crystal water, and whales are often seen later in the year as they pass by. The food is impeccable, 5 star at its best.
On the west coast lies the equally wonderful Anjajavy, a Relais and Chateau property. Rustic and beautifully styled wooden bungalows face the sea where you can go paddle boarding, swimming and fishing.
But when you are not eating delicious fish and being waited on by attentive staff there is so much more to see and do. This is a place for those that want downtime on the coast, but want to be able to explore at the same time.
Tsingy, the surreal landscape of pointy limestone peaks often referred to as a stone forest, can be seen nearby. These bizarre structures house many species endemic only to that area. Cultural visits to local villages can also be arranged, and are not at all touristy.
When not watching sifaka in the gardens as they leap across between the trees, you could take a boat out to the mangroves. The bird watching here is also great, and for those interested in botany, one can see baobabs and also the incredibly rare suicide palm.
One lodge I can happily stay at for at least a week is Manafiafy. On the south-east coast and accessed from Fort Dauphin, one knows on arrival just how remote and special this little gem is. Located in a small forest-fringed bay, the lodge has wooden bungalows set around the bay with pathways down to the beach.
My favourite way to start the morning here is with a healthy breakfast of fruit before exploring the mangroves, where I have seen kingfishers and egrets and met the local fishermen. After a lunch of lobster on the barbeque, (oh go on then!), a siesta follows in the shade on the beach.
After a quick dip to wake you up, I recommend a walk to find chameleons and lemurs in the nearby littoral forest. There are five species of lemurs in the area including thick tailed dwarf, brown mouse lemur and sportive lemurs.
During my last stay here we walked along the eastern beach with the mountains in the distance behind the lodge, and saw humpback whales – amazing! We then walked to the nearby village, and kicked around a ball that we brought with us with the local children, before watching some ladies from the village weaving intricate palm mats.
Another siesta followed (why not?) and then another swim looking ahead to the open ocean through the rocks, where you can also go and have a Madagascar massage in the open air pavilion. That night we went walking in the forest before a gorgeous dinner listening to the gentle lapping waves.
I have such fond memories of Madagascar, and would urge anybody to visit! You can enjoy all of the fascinating wildlife and geological wonders whilst still staying in luxurious lodges and hotels, what could be better?
Background image and headline image copywrite Miavana – Time and Tide.
Miavana images all copywrite Miavana - Time and Tide
Anjajavy image - village ladies - copywrite Amanda Dawes
Anjajavy images - baobabs image - copywrite Philippe Claudel
Manafiafy images - humpback whale, dining on the beach and couple overlooking sea - copywrite Louise Jasper