Do you go north, south, east or west?
Madagascar is very large and the roads are of poor quality. Many tourists prefer an airplane from the capital Antananarivo to the south, the north-east or the north. However, schedules are often unreliable and several beautiful nature reserves are not located in the vicinity of airports. A car is required and often a four-wheel-drive car.
The south and south-west
When drivin from the capital Antananarivo to the south, there is a bifurcation at the city of Antsirabe: the RN7 goes to the south, to Toliara/Tulear and Tolagnaro/Fort Dauphin, and the RN34/35 goes to the city of Morondava on the west coast.
After Antsirabe, the RN7 to the south passes the city of Fianarantsoa and a few beautiful nature reserves, Andrinitra (a mountain reserve with a 2500 m high peak), Rano mafana (a humid forest with lots of streams), and Anja (a small reserve between mountains, full of rintail lemurs).
At the town of Ihosy, there is another bifurcation: the RN13goes to the south-east and the city of Tolagnaro/Fort Dauphin, and the RN7 continues to the south-west, the city of Toliara/Tulear. The direction to the south-east and Tolagnaro/Fort Dauphin enables a visit to reserves such as Andohahela (with three distinct habitats), Berenty (a dry forest with succulents), and Cap Sainte Marie (the utmost south of the island and perhaps one of the most beautiful reserves). The direction of the south-west, to Toliara/Tulear makes it possible to visit reserves such as Isalo (a wonderful scenery, a gorge, a natural swimmingpool), Besa Mahafaly (dry forest and succulent bushland), and Tsimanampetsotsa (a soda lake with flamingoes and woodland rich on succulents).
From the capital Antananarivo via Antsirabe by car along RN34/35 to the coast at Moorondava takes a whole day. The only nature reserve along the road is Zazamalala forest and botanical garden (with ponds and birds nesting in baobabs ), about one hour before arriving in Morondava. During the dry season the beach resort Belo sur Mer can be reached by car. It is adjacent to the Kirindy-Mitea nature reserve (a dry forest). From Morondava to the north along RN8 passes the famous Baobab alley and the Mena Be nature reserve (Kirindy, Andranomena, Marofandilia). Part of this road is merely piste and the rivers Tsirihibina and Manambolo are crossed on a ferry to reach the Unesco heritage Tsingy de Bemaraha (unique limestone pinnacles, grottes and dry forest)at Bekopaka.
From the capital Antananarivo along RN4 to the coast at Mahajanga/Majunga takes a whole day. Near the coast lies the nature reserve Ankarafantsika (a dry forest and a turtle breeding center). The road from Antananarivo via Mahajanga/Majunga is the only option to reach northern Madagascar by car.
Most visitors to the north take a plane from Antananarivo to Antsiranana/Diego Suarez. From there on many nature reserves can be reached by car, e.g. Ankarana (limestone rock formations with grottes), Daraina (dry forest), and Montagne d’Ambre (a volcano with humid forest).
From the Capital Antananarivo to the east coast at Toamasina/Tamatave along RN2 takes most of a day. Halfway at Andasibe are the famous nature reserves Analamazaotra and Mantadia (mountaneous rainforest). In Toamasina/Tamatave there are several options. One is staying in this interesting port, e.g. visiting the beautiful Ivoloina park (full of introduced plants and lemurs). The beach of this city is not nice and the ocean dangerous, so many tourists favour the beach resort Foul Pointe, about 1-2 hours by car to the north. The RN5 goes to the cities of Mananara and Maroantsetra further to the north, but is known as one of the worst roads in the world.
Many people prefer a boat from Toamasina/Tamatave to visit the nature reserves Mananara Nord (Lowland rainforest and a maritieme resort) and Masoala (lowland rainforest). Another option is taking a boat to the tourist island Nosy Boraha/Ile Sainte Marie. Quite different is a boat trip along the Pangalana channel or following it (parallel to the coast) to the cities of Mananjary and Manakara.
Islands along the north-west coast
The word Nosy means island in Malagasy language and there are many along the north-west coast, such as Nosy Komba.
The biggest island is the perfume island‘ Nosy be (‘big island’). It has the nature reserve Loko Be (a beautiful forest) in the south.
There are nuemrous hotels and many of outstanding quality, offering a honeymoon-like tropical ambiance with comfortable to very luxury bungalows, beautiful palmtrees and a clean ocean inviting swimming and diving. However, these islands differ little from other tropical destinations, such as Caribbean, Indonesia, thailand. Nontheless many lodges offer an unforgettable holiday.