Tourism & Communications
Around 200,000 foreign visitors arrive in Madagascar each year. While many people come on business, holidaymakers also account for well over a quarter of visitors.
The chances of seeing some of the rarest lemur species or those which are active at night (such as the canopy-dwelling aye-aye) are much higher in one of the island’s zoos.
Visitors who travel to Madagascar expressly for tourism have a choice of holiday experiences. Some come to relax on the country’s sandy beaches and snorkel or dive in the oceans, where there are some wonderful coral reefs.
Other visitors are attracted by the island’s amazing flora and fauna – see Geography & Wildlife. Hikes through the country’s rainforests are particularly popular. Visitors are usually keen to see plants and animals which are unique to this part of the world, especially the island’s lemurs.
However, some trekkers head for the south and west of the island to enjoy hiking in mountains where the scenery isn’t obscured by trees. Two national parks towards the south, the Isalo (see photo opposite) and Andringitra – – offer spectacular walking among granite peaks, sandstone massifs and impressive canyons.
It’s an added bonus to many visitors that Madagascar’s welcoming people have a unique and fascinating culture to learn about – see People & Culture. In addition, many locals are skilled in handicrafts such as weaving and textiles, allowing visitors to choose from a range of souvenirs to take back with them.
An unpredictable travel experience
Roads in Madagascar are extremely variable, with some good tarmac routes but many others which are slow and bumpy. Torrential rain in the wet season causes even surfaced roads to deteriorate quickly and money hasn’t been available recently to repair them – see Economy & Industry.
For long journeys, taxi-brousses or bush taxis are the usual way to travel. These are normally mini-vans and leave for their destinations only when they’re full. So it can take a while before journeys begin. It’s also quite common for maintenance stops of some description along the way, because most vehicles are old and poorly serviced.
For shorter distances, rickshaws (known as pousse-pousses) are available in the towns and cities. Rickshaw pullers are always pleased to take tourists, because foreigners tend to feel sorry for the energy and exertion they have to make and therefore be more likely to tip.
For a slower and more relaxing style of travel, river journeys are becoming popular with some tourists. These are often made in traditional pirogues or canoes, which can be hired specially.
For travelling a significant distance across the country, Madagascar’s national airline operates a good network of domestic routes. It’s affectionately known as ‘Air Mad’ (short for ‘Air Madagascar’).