This blog post was updated on February 13, 2020.
Most associate Madagascar with furry lemurs and unspoiled lengths of dirt roads. The country is well-known to those who fancy a wild vacation, but it also offers some upscale experiences that will make you change your mind about the unexplored charm of this fascinating country. Here are a few tips to embrace your wild side when in Madagascar.
Madagascar’s capital, Antananarivo — or Tana, as locals and well-seasoned visitors like to call it — is home to some of Madagascar’s best dining venues. Although mainly international, the food is heavily influenced by Creole and French styles. This is also the best place to find traditional Madagascan (or Malagasy) cuisine. Like many other islands in the Indian Ocean, Madagascan food has evolved thanks to the competing influences of Chinese, African, and Indian cuisines.
Dishes are generally vegetarian, filling your senses with an explosion of spices and color. Game meats can also be found, so expect peppery and smokey treats that will surely tickle your palate in ways that you’ve never experienced before. While Malagasy cuisine can be definitely served as street food, a sit-down meal in Tana will let you experience the true gastronomical prowess of Madagascar’s chefs. Popular restaurants include La Varangue and Le Rossini (for French/European cuisine) and the Radama Hotel Restaurant (for traditional Malagasy gastronomy). We recommend you dig into the ravitoto or the romazava, the stew-like “national” dishes of Madagascar.
When it comes to sunning at luxury resorts, travelers usually turn to the Caribbean, Mediterranean, or Southeast Asia. But locations in the Indian Ocean have picked up in recent years, especially in the Maldives and Mauritius. It is a fact: East of Africa is starting to pull in tourists too. So while other resorts have overbooked and somewhat more expensive costs, the Indian Ocean might be your best bet if you are looking for untouched, virgin beauty.
Madagascar, in particular, has wonderful beaches, facilities, and services. That’s the case of the Andilana Beach Resort, a stunning and reputable hotel blessed with a wonderful view of the ocean. The resort is located on the island of Nosy Be, which is basically the hub of all things luxury in Madagascar. Many airlines fly from Europe and the USA to Nosy Be, so it is more than possible to book cheap flight tickets to take you there wherever you are. Or, if you are already in Africa, you can take a boat ride from Madagascar.
If you want to enjoy luxury beaches while avoiding the typical, overcrowded resorts, Madagascar provides off-the-beaten-path options. Whether you’re trying to relax or start on a new adventure, islands, bays, and inlets like Nosy Boraha, Antsiranana, Ifaty, Mahajanga, or Ambatomilo are great choices.
Nosy Boraha is a quintessential tropical island with aquamarine waters, lush jungle, and quaint wooden piers known for its spas and hotels next to the Princesse Bora resort. Andovokonko Bay is also a wonderful beach, famous for its excellent kitesurfing possibilities. Moving southward, beaches around the Ifaty-Mangilay village offer a side of Madagascar not often seen by tourists due to its proximity to an animal reserve and a colony of turtles.
On the North-Western tip of the island, Mahajanga is the most frequented tourist beach. With sandy roads and a coconut-lined boardwalk known as “Le Bord,” Mahajanga port offers access to plenty of urban services near the beach. Finally, remote Ambatomilo lagoon has a pristine turquoise beachfront. Guests can stay at the nearby Ankasy Lodge and enjoy its isolation from cell towers and cables. Perfect for a cell phone detox!
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The wonderful thing about Madagascar is its fusion of rustic and refined tastes that gives birth to a new type of comfort: barefoot luxury. On Madagascar’s Barefoot Luxury Kayaking Adventure, French-trained chefs join you on the wildest adventures through the heart of this tropical paradise. From Antananarivo to Fort Dauphin, the Culture and Kayak Safari through Madagascar explores remote beaches, breeding-grounds for whales, and snorkeling spots.
This is what makes Madagascar a special country, the ability to combine the elegance of its hotels and cuisine with outdoor activities lost in nature. Jenman Safaris provides several tailor-made adventures to explore the country in your own way.
After scoring some cheap plane tickets to Madagascar, you might be tempted to shop your way through the country the moment you get there. Well, you’re in luck. Madagascar boasts a native cottage-industry of luxurious handicrafts, textiles, and artwork, with several types of products you can buy for the genuine Malagasy shopping experience. Be on the lookout for silk products. Madagascar is home to its own variety of rough silk, spun into scarves and lamba (sarong-type articles of clothing) of enviable quality. But also note that many marketplaces are open to the vagaries of haggling!
Slow-growing hardwoods (such as rosewood, palisander and ebony) are endemic to Africa, and particularly the island of Madagascar. Take advantage of local wares and purchase some wooden artisanal work, which ranges from chessboards to musical instruments and boxes. You can also look into locally grown vanilla, cinnamon, cloves, and peppercorns or even visit local French-influenced chocolateries. The town of Hell-Ville has local varieties of flavored rum (licorice, vanilla, cinnamon). One of the major cottage-industries in Madagascar is the elaboration of essential oils. Outside of tourism and fisheries, its oil exports are by all accounts one of its biggest sources of income. Don’t forget to visit Antananarivo to discover an emporium of moisturizers, shampoos, and lotions at Epicerie Fine la Ferme Morarano, derived from natural oils imported from the central hills.
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