- The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes. Marcel Proust
Madagascar is the fourth-largest island in the world, having broken off from Africa during a cataclysmic earthquake some 165 million years ago. The country's distinct culture, traditions, religion and language resulted from a fusion created by Indian, African and Arabic tribes that peacefully inhabited the land together over many hundreds of years. Madagascar attracts thousands of adventurous tourists from every corner of the world thanks largely to tourist-friendly resorts areas, wildlife preserves and myriad natural and historic attractions.
Antananarivo, formerly French Tananarive, is the capital and largest city in Madagascar. The Malagasy capital is one of the most vibrant cities in all of Africa, and visitors will enjoy rich historical, architectural and cultural sites all over the hillside city with palaces and churches along cobbled streets. The city is divided into 3 levels: the downtown (ancient swamp), the intermediate level (known as “Plateau du Colbert” and located in the middle of the cliffs, and the old city in upper town (“La Haute Ville”), where Palaces (Queen’s palace, ancient Prime Minister Rainilaiarivony palace, ancient Justice palace), cathedrals and the residential area of ancient noblemen families are located.
Nosy Be is Madagascar’s largest and busiest tourist resort, situated off the northwest coast. Its tropical climate and superb location make it a perfect beach resort destination. Nosy Be’s beaches are ideal for swimming as they shelve gradually, staying shallow for miles out to sea, but they are peaceful and hassle-free, with pirogues lying abandoned in the sand and shows floating past offshore.
Ranomafana National Park
Ranomafana is one of Madagascar’s best known and most important parks. Created in 1991 following the 1986 discovery of the golden bamboo lemur, Ranomafana has served as a model for subsequent parks and reserves in the country and abroad. Note that once you go to the more distant areas where most tourists don’t go, then you get the real wildlife experience.
One of the unique ways to explore the country is by taking a river tour by pirogue or canoe. There are several reputable companies that lead tours and you can camp on the riverbank and cook under the stars as all manner of wildlife surrounds you and lulls you to sleep.