Highlights & Parks

Madagascar also knows as “the red island” is unique to say the least! 88 million years ago it separated itself from the super continent Gondwana. Nature took its course and flora and fauna evolved in a mysterious way without interference. This is the reason why 90% of the Flora and Fauna found of Madagascar is unique and cannot be found anywhere else in the world! Matoke tours specializes in tours to the red island. From the Spiny forests and tropical islands in the North, to the Lemurs, birds and reptiles in the national parks of the South. Madagascar has a special season when giant whales migrate off the coast which makes it ideal for whale spotting. If you cannot get enough you can extend your tour to the nearby island of Mauritius for a tropical extension.

 

Highlights & ParksPractical information
Highlights & Parks
Antananarivo

Antananarivo

Antananarivo is the largest and most chaotic city of Madagascar. Founded in c.1625, the city became the residence for Imerina rulers who captured the town in 1794 and made this the capital of Madagascar. Antananarivo lies on a high hill and various avenues and flights of steps lead up to a rocky ridge (1431 metres) on which stands the Royal Estate, with towered palaces built by the Imerina kings. Tana, as the capital is universally known, is all about eating, shopping, history and day trips. The town centre itself, with its pollution and dreadful traffic, puts off many travelers from staying more than the 1 ‘necessary’ night. However, every capital has an interesting story and since Tana has been the home of Malagasy power for three centuries there is a huge amount of history and culture to discover. When you have (or want to create) time for a city tour, you might be pleasantly surprised but the sights and interactions you experience in this bustling city.

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Andasibe national park

Andasibe - Mantadia National Park

This park is situated about 4 hours’ drive from the capital, Antananarivo, to the East. This humid National Park of 155 km2 is one of the most well-known and most visited rainforests in Madagascar where rain falls on average 240 days a year. There are 14 different types of lemurs of which (by far) the best known on is; the rare Indri Indri. This is the largest half ape in the world and only exists in the east of Madagascar. You would think they are very difficult to find but the Indri Indri can be heard from afar by the hard and distinctive call they produce. In addition to the lemurs, there are many other endemic animals to be found such as species of chameleons, frogs, leaf tail geckos and special birds such as the nightjar.

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Antsirabe

Antsirabe

Antsirabe is the fourth largest city in Madagascar and located 4 hours driving south from the capital. Antsirabe is the city of the pousse pousse, a brightly colored rickshaw that is pulled by manpower. Because Antsirabe lies in hilly surroundings they often had to use an extra man to push them up the hill, the name comes from the front man pulling the rickshaw shouting to the back; ‘push push’. The area is ideal for hiking and cycling through the green countryside and many rice fields.

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Ranomafana national park

Ranomafana National Park

Ranomafana is without doubt the most popular national park in Madagascar. Ranomafana became a national park in 1991 after the golden bamboo wall was discovered in 1986. This lemur was seriously threatened with extinction. The park consists of more than 416 km2 of rainforest, filled with unique flora and fauna. 'Rano' means water and 'Mafana' means warm in Malagasy. This name comes from the hot springs situated in the park. For this reason, the French established a spa in this area and around it the village Ranomafana developed.

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Isalo national park

Isalo National Park

One of the highlights of your trip is definitely Isalo National Park. This park is one of the oldest parks in Madagascar and consists of sedimentation formed in millions of years. Due to tectonic friction, this sandstone mountain has been pushed upwards and created a beautiful plateau full of natural pools, waterfalls, green oases, grassland and a pallet of colors. It is not called "The Colorado of Madagascar" for nothing. At sunset the colors of the massif are changed into a breathtaking array of warm tones.

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Tulear and Infaty

Tulear and Infaty

You either start your journey on the RN7 in Tulear with a domestic flight from Antananarivo or you end the RN7 on the Mozambique canal. South of Tulear there are a number of beautiful lodges, but most visitors decide to travel a little further (1 hour approximately) to the beautiful bay of Ifaty. Here you find a few atmospheric accommodations located between the fishing villages, making the whole setting very authentic. The beaches are not quite as beautiful and tropical as on the islands Ile Sainte Marie and Nosy Be, however the sunsets are definitely to write home about. Besides, there are many fun activities to book making this a very pleasant spot to rest a few days here and enjoy the sea breeze.

 

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Diego Suarez

Diego Suarez (Antsiranana)

Diego Suarez is called Antsiranana in the local Malagasy language, so do not get confused. It is located in the far north of Madagascar and is often named ‘the Havana (Cuba)’ of Madagascar. Also, in this tropical city you will find people living at a relaxed, slow-moving pace; nearly everything shuts between noon and 3pm while residents indulge in long afternoon naps. Imagine long wide streets with colored facades, colonial-era buildings filled with shops, cozy bars, good restaurants and lots of street life. Diego is also a mooring for cruise ships and is surrounded by beautiful bays with sky-blue water providing a nice fresh ocean breeze. This city is a lovely base from which to explore Madagascar’s northern region.

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Amber mountain N.P.

Amber Mountain National Park

In Northern Madgascar are the easily accessible Amber mountains located. With a height of between 800 and 1400 meters these mountains are still covered by a beautiful rainforest with a large biodiversity filled with endemic animals. It is a lot cooler in the park compared to the lowland which is very pleasant for hiking. With a high annual rainfall, numerous rivers and streams this national park forms the most important water resource for Diego Suarez. This city, located 30 km further north, is surrounded by dry, sparse forests and semi-desert with succulent plants. The park offers great scenic beauty with waterfalls and several crater lakes. In addition to 8 lemur species and 35 frog species, you can also find one of the most unique chameleons’ in the world here. The Brookesia or Amber Mountain leaf chameleon is the smallest chameleon in the world, no bigger than the tip of your finger. Cute!

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Nosy Be

Nosy Be

"Nosy" means island and "Be" means big in Malagasy. The ‘big island’ located in the northwestern tip of Madagascar has a population of 75,000 people who mainly live of agriculture and tourism. Despite being Madagascar’s number-one beach destination, the prices are competitive (except for the most exclusive resorts). Many visitors find the combination of white sand beaches, beautiful bays, a lack of major development and the typical ‘’mora mora’’ (literally translates to ‘’slowly slowly’’) lifestyle a perfect ending to an adventurous tour in Madagascar. The nickname of Nosy Be is "The island of perfume". A name inherited by the "Ylang Ylang flower" plantations used to make the perfume. Besides, there is a lot of sugar cane production as well as many flavors of rum Madagascar became famous for. Apart from the beaches, boulevard and many restaurants, there are also volcanic lakes and intricate coral reefs that are practically begging to be explored. 

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Ankarana N.P.

Ankarana National Park

One of the oldest parks in Madagascar is Ankarana National Park founded in 1956. This park consists of a beautiful sea of ​​sharp limestone rocks with deep gorges, rivers and caves which actually makes this the biggest underground network of Africa. In those rivers live crocodiles, but also many other reptiles and amphibians. With an annual rainfall of almost 2000 mm, the underlying rocks undergo a heavy erosion producing an amazing karst topography; the eroded limestone scenery known as “tsingy”. The pinnacles are surrounded by a large deciduous forest full of other endemic animals and plants. The park is one of the most popular among hikers in specific because it offers many incredible walking trails with unique landscapes and a lot of animals!

 

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Palmarium - Canal des Pangalanes

Palmarium - Canal des Pangalanes

The 'Canal des Pangalanes' is one of the longest canals in the world with a total length of 655 kilometers. Many lakes, lagoons, and rivers are interconnected gullies dugged out by hand during the early French colonial years for the transportation of goods. Shipping on the Indian Ocean was too dangerous. On some stretches the canal is only 100 meters removed from the Indian Ocean. Nowadays there are a lot of water lilies and hyacinths and it is only used by the local people for fishing using their pirogues (traditional dugout canoes) or to wash themselves in. This is a perfect spot for visitors to enjoy the peace and the unique ecosystem that provides the typical flora and fauna.

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Sainte Marie

Sainte Marie

Sainte Marie, together with his smaller brother Iles aux Nattes, are the typical tropical islands you imagine with beautiful beaches, an exuberant tropical vegetation, few tourists and a very relaxed atmosphere. Sainte Marie is only 50 km long and has beautiful bays and lagoons easy to reach and perfect for swimming. There are many good hotels to be found and the locals are very friendly. The great highlight of Sainte Marie is when you are able to visit this paradise June to September; ‘the whale season’. There is even a festival organized in honor of the arrival of these mighty water giants coming from Antarctica to hibernate and calve. For the whale lover and true hotspot!

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Tsaranoro Valley

Tsaranoro Valley

Tsaranoro circumscribes the Tsaranoro Massif and Tsaranoro Valley. This valley lies at the foot of the Andringitra mountains; a breathtaking area for walking surrounded by high cliffs such as the Tsaraonoro and the Chameleon hill. The valley has a sacred forest full of legends and a natural swimming pool. The Tsaranoro Massif and Andringitra Massif forms the natural border between the territories of the Bara and Betsileo people.

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Ambalavao and surroundings

Ambalavao and surroundings

Ambalavao is a picturesque town surrounded by mountain peaks, rice fields and vineyards. The inhabitants of Ambalavao are part of the 'Betsileo' people; the third largest tribe in terms of population in Madagascar. Betsileo means ‘the invincible ones. Their typical architecture makes the town photogenic and cozy. They are very diligent (cattle) farmers. On Wednesday and Thursday, the largest zebu market in the country takes place in Ambalavao. In addition, there are also winegrowers, traditional ‘paper makers’ as well as weavers of wild silk which are interesting craft places to visit.

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Andringitra National Park

Andringitra National Park

The fairly youg Andringitra National Park is hidden behind the high peaks of the Tsaranoro valley and Ambalavao. The walking trail options are varied with the toughest (3 day) hike being the one to the top of the 2nd highest peak (2660m) of Madagascar; Pic Boby. Althoug one of the wonderful dayhikes will show you that despite the fact that this is one of Madagascar’s most scenic parks, Andringitra is still relatively unknown and not touristy at all. It is a rugged area with deep valleys, high ridges, beautiful valleys, many rocks, special plant and animal species as well as with tropical areas full of lemurs. A visit to the park requires some effort with some typical bad roads to get you there but it is so worth it.

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Zombitse National Park

Zombitse National Park

Between Isalo National Park and Tulear lies the Zombitse-Vohibasia National Park; unique in that it is the transition zone between the dry forests of the south and west and the humid forests of eastern Madagascar. It is one of the youngest parks in Madagascar, founded in 1997. The park is divided into three forested sections consisting of deciduous forest, savannah and marshland. Unfortunately, centuries of deforestation from slash-and-burn agriculture have devastated the area to a somewhat plant-devoid plateau inhabited by cattle herders. Because of the growing population of these tribes (Bara and Mahafaly), they need an increasing amount of space for their cattle. In Zombitse you have a chance to see the Verraux Sifaka, brown lemurs and ring-tailed lemurs, as well as special bird species.

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Morondava

Morondava

The coastal town of Morondava is the gateway to the highlights of the west; Tsingy de Bemaraha and the famous Baobab Avenue. On a peninsula between a mangrove forest and the beach you find a few beautiful accommodations set in a cozy atmosphere with nice bars and restaurants within walking distance. This laid-back town with its’ simple decaying clapboard houses and sandy streets is the starting point for the off-road 4WD venture connecting Western Madagascar to Tulear in the south. Morondava is an ideal place to catch your breath for a day before or after a number of adventurous travel days.

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Kirindy Forest

Kirindy Forest

This forest is not to be missed forest when you visit the west of Madagascar. Kirindy Forest Reserve is privately owned and intended to protect very special biodiversity. The main reason for a stop here would be the unique animal species living here. Think of the Fossa, the giant rat, Madame Berthel's lemur, the tiny mouse lemur and much more.

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Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park

Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park

This spectacular mineral forest is located on the isolated west coast of Madagascar. Tsingy is the Malagasy word for “walking on tiptoes” and the almost impenetrable labyrinth of limestone needles justifies this name. Millions of years ago these limestone plateaus were under water, but by shifting the earth they were pushed to the surface. After years of rain and wind, the plateaus have been transformed into razor-sharp rocks where animals nevertheless have managed to adapt to the challenging conditions (including 11 lemur species). The reserve’s canyons, gorges, forests, lakes and mangrove swamps display an astonishing richness of fauna and flora which have not been completely recorded. The area (1.575 km²) was designated a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO in 1990 and became an official National Park in ’98. Now this adventurous area is a main highlight in Madagascar. 

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Ankarafantsika National Park

Ankarafantsika National Park

Ankarafantsika is one of Madagascar's last deciduous forests consists mostly of woodland. This is where some of the most endangered species of Madagascar still live including the greater big-footed mouse, not known anywhere else. The Ravelobe lake is home to crocodiles and attracts many birds. More than 50% of the 129 species of birds recorded in the park, are endemic to Madagascar. This is very special! Also, the extremely rare big-head turtle lives here. Furthermore, there are 8 types of lemurs in the park including 2 species of mouse lemurs; the world's smallest primates. The species you are going to see is the Coquerel Sifaka. These little creatures love hanging around the camp in the afternoon. There are beautiful walks of various lengths to be made in the park. Another highlight of Ankarafantsika are the two towering Baobabs that have been saved.

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Nosy Komba

Nosy Komba

Nosy Komba lies between the mainland and Nosy Be and is nicknamed "the island of lemurs". The island, as you may have guessed, owes that name to the many lemurs living on the island. It is known for its’ many small beaches and emerald colored water. Nosy Komba is much more exclusive than its’ bigger brother Nosy Be. The island is circular and on a map looks like a giant turtle. This is because the island was originally a volcano. The highest peak of the island has an altitude of 622 meters and is now covered by dense tropical forest. The island has fertile soil, rocky ground and volcanic rocks surrounding the island, this protects the shores from rough waters. The islands’ 4000 inhabitants mainly live from fishing and tourism. There is a varied range of nice lodges to choose from, removed from other lodges by the rocks making your stay a more exclusive experience. This is a real paradise and a dreamy place to end an impressive journey through Madagascar.

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Nosy Sakatia

Nosy Sakatia

On the west side of Nosy Be lies the island of Nosy Sakatia, ‘’the island of orchids’’. This is definitely the most authentic island in the archipelago and lies inside a preserved and protected ecosystem. Here you find beautiful endemic flora and the local people will proudly give you a tour of their island. A beautiful stretch of beach with calm water and sea turtles make this island an ideal spot for snorkeling, canoeing, diving and swimming. For those who want to enjoy water activities, picture postcard worthy beaches and be away from any tourist crowds, it is the perfect holiday spot. For romantic lovebird as well as for families with children, there are a few beautiful lodges you can choose from to spend your days in this paradise and far away from reality.

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