Things to do in Madagascar

Our top activities in Madagascar

Look for Lemurs

High up on any list of things to do in Madagascar are the irresistible lemurs. Their ancestors are believed to have floated across to Madagascar some 65 million years ago on natural "rafts" of vegetation, and evolved into over 100 species. The name comes from the Latin 'lemures', meaning ghost, and many Malagasy fady taboos involve lemurs, with some seen as benevolent ancestors, and others as bringers of bad fortune. Different lemurs inhabit different regions, and more are expected to be discovered. Sought-after species include the ring-tailed lemur and the sifaka, which appears to dance around on its back legs. The indri is the largest living lemur, and its eerie, whale-like song sung is by several individuals each morning to communicate with other groups. Take a guided night trek to spot nocturnal species, including one of Madagascar’s most bizarre-looking lemurs – the aye-aye, with its freakish, long, skinny finger.
Sadly, at least 17 species are known to have become extinct since humans arrived on the island, all of which were larger than the surviving lemurs, including some as big as gorillas.
Listen to indris singing in the forests of Madagascar:

World-class hiking

To really experience it, you’ll have to leave the 4x4 behind and set out on foot. Hikes take anything from a couple of hours to several days. Stop by some of the little villages along your route to add a cultural element to your nature tour, and enjoy a warm Malagasy welcome. See our Madagascar walking vacations travel guide.

River canoe expeditions

Laurenne Mansbridge, from our supplier Pioneer Expeditions, recommends a river expedition to get to the heart of Madagascar: "My favourite things to do in Madagascar are definitely the river journeys, because they allow you to get into the middle of nowhere, to places where there’s no roads in and no roads out.
You trek to the departure point and then go out on the inflatable canoes – it could be for one day or three days – but you have to complete the full journey. You see a lot of Malagasy life that way – you might come across a village right on the bank and see the people who live off the river – sapphire miners, people panning for gold – and they’re always pleased to see you and interested in the weird tourists in the canoe."

Getting involved in volunteer projects

Madagascar volunteer vacation placements include school building, reforestation, English teaching and marine conservation. Alternatively, ask your tour company to stop by some of the villages and projects on your way round the country – donations are always welcome, whether it’s cash, toys or school supplies.
Photo credits: [Lemurs: Maureen Didde ] [World class hiking: Kat Maddams, Frontierofficial ] [River expeditions: Pioneer Expeditions] [Construction volunteering: Cleo Dane Legge, Frontierofficial ]
Written by Vicki Brown
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Photo credits: [Page banner: BMR & MAM]
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