Most associate Madagascar with furry lemurs and unspoiled lengths of dirt roads. The country is known to be for those who prefer the wilder side of travel, but it does offer some upscale experiences that will make any person rethink their St. Barts destination cruise. Here are a few ways we recommend you bring your wild side over to the fancy 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. The food is international, but is heavily influenced by Creole and French styles. This is also the best place to find traditional Madagascan food, or Malagasy cuisine. Like many Indian Ocean islands, the Madagascan style of cooking has evolved with the competing influences of Chinese, African, and Indian cuisines.
Dishes are generally vegetarian. They explode with spices and color. Game meats can also be found, so expect peppery and smokey dishes that will surely tickle your palate in ways that you’ve never experienced before.
While Malagasy cuisine can be found 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, which are the stew-like “national” dishes of Madagascar.
When it comes to sunning at luxury resorts, travelers turn to the Caribbean, Mediterranean, or Southeast Asia. Locations in the Indian Ocean have picked up in recent years, in the Maldives and Mauritius especially. It’s an area of the world east of Africa that is starting to pull in tourists. So while other resorts have overbooked and somewhat more expensive costs, the Indian Ocean might be your best bet for untouched beauty.
Madagascar, in particular, possesses wonderful beaches, facilities, and services. In fact, the Andilana Beach Resort in Madagascar is rated in the top 25 best resorts in the world (and ranked second in Africa).
It isn’t hard to see why the Andilana Beach Resort ranks so highly, especially if you look at its staff of 400, which is guided by a European management. The resort’s local restaurant is known as Pili Pili. Stunning and reputable, it has a wonderful view of the blue ocean and hundreds of positive reviews. The whole resort of Andilana is located on an island called Nosy Be, which is basically the hub of all things luxury and is where all of Madagascar’s resorts are located. Flights directly to Nosy Be are possible from Europe and boat rides from Madagascar are also available.
If you want to enjoy luxury beaches beyond typical resorts, there are beaches that are more off-the-beaten-path but which do not compromise on beauty, relaxation, and fun.
There are other places around Madagascar to relax, play, or start on a new adventure, like islands, bays, and inlets like Nosy Boraha, Antsiranana, Ifaty, Mahajanga, and Ambatomilo.
Nosy Boraha is a tropical island with aquamarine waters, lush jungle, and quaint wooden piers. You have access to its facilities, spas, and hotels, and its beach at Princesse Boraha. Andovokonko Bay is a wonderful beach, known for its excellent kitesurfing possibilities. Moving southward, the beaches around Ifaty-Mangilay village offer a side of Madagascar not often seen by tourists. Situated on the southern coast of the island, it’s close to an animal reserve and a colony of turtles.
Mahajanga, on the North-Western tip of the island, is a well-frequented tourist beach. With sandy roads and a coconut-lined boardwalk known as “Le Bord,” Mahajanga also offers you access to urban services near the beach (Mahajanga is a major port). Finally, one of the most remote beaches on this list, Ambatomilo lagoon offers a pristine turquoise beachfront. Guests can stay at the nearby Ankasy Lodge, and (depending on whether you want to disconnect from technology) enjoy its isolation from the cell towers and cables that make TV, phone, and internet possible.
The wonderful thing about Madagascar is its fusion of rustic and refined tastes that gives birth to a new type of luxury: barefoot luxury. On Madagascar’s Barefoot Luxury Kayaking Adventure, French-trained chefs accompany 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.
You journey by kayak down the spine of the island and meals are prepared throughout the day, with chefs going to work either in luxury hotels or three-person tents.
This type of holiday adventure is something special to experience in Madagascar, and is unique because it combines the elegance of hotels and cuisine with outdoor kayaking, games, snorkeling, and beaches. Jenman Safaris provides several adventures that are tailor-made to exploring Madagascar in your own way.
Madagascar has a native cottage-industry of luxurious handicrafts, textiles, and artwork. There are several types of products you can buy for the genuine Malagasy shopping experience. The list of Madagascar luxury goods could be much broader, and you may find that the marketplaces of the country account for a significant luxury market beyond the well-known shops (be aware that marketplaces are open to the vagaries of haggling!).
Be on the lookout for silk products. Madagascar is home to its own variety of rough silk, which is spun into scarves and lamba (sarong-type articles of clothing) of enviable quality.
Slow-growing hardwoods are endemic to Africa, and particularly the island of Madagascar (rosewood, palisander, ebony). Take advantage of local wares and purchase some wooden artisanal work, which range 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 (liquorice, vanilla, cinnamon). A major cottage-industry in Madagascar is in essential oils. Outside of tourism and fisheries, its oil exports are by all accounts a major source of income. Take a visit to the nation’s capital Antananarivo for an emporium of moisturizers, shampoos, and lotions (at Epicerie Fine la Ferme Morarano), that are derived from natural oils imported from the central hills.
Have you been to Madagascar? Did you have a luxurious time? Let us know what your favorite spots were in the comments below!