Madagascar: a travel guide

A vast, beautiful island off the coast of southern Africa, Madagascar offers an abundance of sights to discover from stunning landscapes to beautiful beaches, secluded wildernesses to the island’s unique biodiversity.

The ultimate Madagascan travel guide: Isalo National Park

The ultimate Madagascan travel guide: Isalo National Park

The Malagasy people

Settled around 2,000 years ago by Indonesians, then later by Africans and other ethnic groups including Arabs, Indians and Europeans, Madagascar is a country where religious beliefs, traditions and even ethnicity alter from region to region.

Beliefs and customs

Most Malagasy people hold traditional beliefs about the importance and worship of their ancestors, even when these have become bound up with the traditions of more mainstream religions.

But whatever their religious beliefs, most Madagascans live their life according to a series of ‘fadys’, rules governing what is allowed and acceptable. Fadys vary from region to region, and from village to village.

The Malagasy language

Although the culture and people of Madagascar can vary greatly from region to region they are connected by the Malagasy language. French may be the other official language but if you’re going off the beaten track it might be worth learning a phrase or two in Malagasy.

See our guide to the rich culture of Madagascar for some key phrases.

Must-see sights

Discover the tsingys found at Ankarana National Park

Discover the tsingys found at Ankarana National Park

• Ankarana National Park

A spectacular landscape of Jurassic limestone eroded into jagged needles known locally as ‘tsingy’ characterise this northern national park which also features dense tropical jungle and deep caves.

• Montagne d’Ambre National Park

Volcanic hills shrouded in dense rainforest featuring beautiful waterfalls, the Montagne d’Ambre National Park is home to a number of species of lemur.

• Bermaraha

A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a moonscape land of limestone needles, canyons and mountains. Its protected forests and mangrove swamps are home to a variety of rare wildlife.

• Isalo National Park

Deep sandstone canyons mark the dramatic semi-arid landscape interrupted only by natural pools, caves and waterfalls in this beautiful park in central Madagascar.

• Andringitra Mountains

High altitude biodiversity thrives in the relatively accessible stunning mountain prairies of this national park in the southeast.

The avenue of Baobabs

The avenue of Baobabs

• The Spiny Desert

Home of the ring-tailed lemur the thorny trees here make it a difficult environment for wildlife which has adapted to survive.

• Avenue of the Baobabs

All that is left of a once mighty forest the stunning avenue of Baobabs has trees reaching up to 40 meters tall.

• Kirindy Reserve

This dry tropical deciduous forest in the south is protected and features a stunning array of local wildlife.

Islands to visit

• Constance Tsarabanjina

Located off the northwest of Madagascar, to the north of Nosy Be, this tiny private island resort offers the ultimate in barefoot luxury. Just 25 secluded villas run along two perfect white-sand beaches with uninterrupted ocean views. In the evening enjoy a cocktail in the beach bar before dining on seafood caught by local fishermen that same day. • Ile Sainte Marie

Every year between June and September more than 7,000 humpback whales migrate through the waters of Madagascar and Ile Sainte Marie is a great place from which to watch their acrobatics.

Constance Tsarabanjina, Madagascar

Constance Tsarabanjina, Madagascar

• Nosy Be

A popular spot for travellers to take a break and enjoy the beach, Nosy Be is a laidback beach haven with some great diving opportunities.

Towns and villages

Madagascar has a rich history and bustling culture in its capital city, towns and villages.

• Antananarivo

The buzzing capital is a great place to get a feel for Malagasy life with bustling markets, churches, restaurants, museums and even a botanical garden to explore.

• Antsiranana

The gateway to the Montagne d’Ambre and Ankarana National Parks, this brightly coloured port with its beautiful, crumbling colonial architecture is well worth a visit.

• Ifaty

This is the collective term for two beautiful fishing villages which have become popular with travellers thanks to their long beaches, good surfing and diving.

• Anakao

Another spot popular with travellers are the bustling fishing villages of Anakao A and Anakao B. With their perfect white sand beaches, turquoise water and assortment of accommodation this is a lovely spot to stop and catch your breath.

Things to do

Whale watching

Whale watching

There is much more to Madagascar than Lemurs and Baobabs trees so take the time while you’re there to soak up a bit of local culture and colour.

• The Rova

The Rova is the royal palace and burial ground of the Merina royal dynasty set high on a hill outside Antananarivo with views over Lac Anosy.

• Musée Andafivaratra

Also in the old royal quarter, just a short walk from the Rova, is the Musée Andafivaratra a baroque palace full of artifacts from the reign of the Merina Kings and queens.

• Whale watching

If you visit Madagascar between June and November then make sure you take a trip to watch the migration of thousands of humpback whales through the country’s waters. From June to September the best sightings can be made from Ile Ste Marie but from August to November head to Nosy Be or Tsarabanjina to catch this amazing sight. See our guide when to go whale watching in Madagascar

• La Varangue

Experience world-class Madagascan cuisine at the beautiful La Varangue. All the food is organic and locally sourced and can be enjoyed (weather permitting) on the beautiful terrace overlooking the capital.

• Sports fishing

The waters off Madagascar are teaming with big game fish including Marlin, Sailfish, Yellowfin and Dogtooth Tuna. See our guide to big game fishing in Madagascar.

Discover the vibrant colours when scuba diving in the Indian Ocean

Discover the vibrant colours when scuba diving in the Indian Ocean

• Scuba diving

Thanks to the late development of tourism in the country the waters around Madagascar have remained relatively undiscovered by scuba divers. Be the first to explore its stunning coral reefs, huge sponge gardens and dramatic rock formations. See our guide to diving in Madagascar.

Time of year to visit

Madagascar has two distinct seasons but within each there is much local variation of temperature and rainfall.

The wet season runs from November to April while the cooler, drier season runs from May to October. For divers it is the months in which the seasons shift which offer the best underwater visibility.

Getting around

Getting around Madagascar requires part organisation and part Zen-like patience as local public taxis ‘taxi-brousse’ or local minibuses will rarely go at the time promised, preferring instead to wait until they are full.

The larger bus company based in the capital, offers a more comfortable option, ferrying tourists between major points of interest in the south and east.

It is possible to rent a car but as the roads can be difficult most rental companies will insist on you hiring a driver too. Motorcycles and mopeds can also be hired in some places.

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Jahaz signature cocktail: Lemongrass Drop

Get a taste of the Maldives with one of Constance Halaveli’s signature cocktails – the Lemongrass Drop – created by barman Mr Udaya.

Enjoy a signature cocktail at the Jahaz Bar

Enjoy a signature cocktail at the Jahaz Bar

Ingredients

  • 50ml vodka
  • 15ml vanilla liquor
  • 5ml passion fruit syrup
  • 1 inch fresh ginger
  • 1 stick lemon grass

Method

1. Put in a Boston glass the vanilla liquor, the peeled-chopped ginger and the chopped lemon grass.

2. Mix until the aroma transfers to the liquor.

3. Add the vodka and the passion fruit syrup.

4. Add ice and shake until it becomes very cold.

5. Let it drain into an ice cold Martini glass.

6. Decorate with a lemongrass leaf which imitates a straw.

What’s it like at Jahaz bar?

Feel the sand between your toes in the sleek, contemporary Jahaz Bar where the modern island interior of rich woods, high-rafted ceilings and elegant modern furniture combines seamlessly with the sand floors and beach and pool views.

At night hang out by the bar and let our barman fix you one of his signature cocktails or move outside and relax on a beanbag under a sky full of stars.

During the day, enjoy Jahaz’s location on the beach beside the pool to enjoy a range of cool fresh fruit juices and light refreshments.

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Tim Thelan wins Senior Open de Portugal by one shot

Will Tim Thelan be gracing the Legend this December?

Will Tim Thelan be gracing the Legend this December?

American Tim Thelan celebrated his first victory since his winning streak in 2012 at the Senior Open de Portugal at Vidago Palace.

With a final round score of even-par 72 he beat his nearest competitor Carl Mason by just one shot.

Having come second at the Travis Perkins Masters and third in Moscow, Thelan was thrilled to take top place on the podium in Portugal with a score of 12 under par.

The win will aid the American in his progression towards the MCB Tour Championship at Constance Belle Mare Plage, Mauritius, in December.

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Beautiful islands of the world

From the low-lying coral atolls of the Maldives, spectacular granite formations of the Seychelles and varied dramatic landscapes of Mauritius and Madagascar, the Indian Ocean offers idyllic islands for every taste.

Seychelles

The granite boulders of the Seychelles

The granite boulders of the Seychelles

Granite boulders strewn across pristine white sand beaches and verdant, mountainous interiors boasting unique endemic flora and fauna epitomise the islands of the Seychelles’ archipelago.

The coast of Constance Lémuria, Praslin Island, Seychelles

The coast of Constance Lémuria, Praslin Island, Seychelles

Mauritius

The 'underwater waterfall' of Mauritius

The ‘underwater waterfall’ of Mauritius

A friendly smile and a warm welcome is most people’s first impression of this beautiful island of long sandy beaches, rolling plantations and stunning mountainous landscapes.

An aerial view of Constance Le Prince Maurice, Mauritius

An aerial view of Constance Le Prince Maurice, Mauritius

Madagascar

The dramatic Tsingys of Madagascar

The dramatic Tsingys of Madagascar

The fourth largest island in the world, Madagascar offers visitors a variety of landscapes from arid desert to rich rainforest with unique wildlife and breathtaking scenery to discover.

Robinson Crusoe seclusion at Constance Tsarabanjina, Madagascar

Robinson Crusoe seclusion at Constance Tsarabanjina, Madagascar

Maldives

The vibrant coral atolls of the Maldives

The vibrant coral atolls of the Maldives

A series of white sand coral atolls scattered across the vast expanse of the Indian Ocean, the Maldives offers a sense of peaceful isolation where you can experience the tranquillity of private islands and high end luxury hotels.

Island luxury at Constance Halaveli, Maldives

Island luxury at Constance Halaveli, Maldives

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3 unusual dishes from the Seychelles

The cuisine of the Seychelles is a warm, fragrant fusion of influences from Africa, France, China, India and England.

Unusual dishes from the Seychelles: Tuna ravioli with semi ripe papaya

Unusual dishes from the Seychelles: Tuna ravioli with semi ripe papaya

Known locally as Creole cuisine, the dishes in the Seychelles are flavoured by the rich local spices which historically grew in plantations and were shipped across Europe.

Chilli, garlic, ginger and cinnamon all play a major part in the warm seafood and meat curries and marinades often served with rice and chatini (a mild, vinegary chutney of fruit or vegetable).

As a series of remote islands, the ingredients for many of the traditional Seychellois dishes were based on locally available ingredients.

Here are some of the popular dishes requested by guests at Constance Lémuria, Praslin and Constance Ephélia, Mahé.

1. Recipe: Banana curry cannelloni with Snapper

This delicious recipe from Constance Ephélia blends the warm flavours of Creole curry with sweet banana to create the perfect accompaniment for fresh fish.

2. Recipe: Tuna ravioli with semi-ripe papaya

Created by the chefs at Constance Lémuria this dish uses 100% Seychellois ingredients including the traditional papaya, tuna and palm kernels.

3. Recipe: Octopus salad

Using freshly octopus and garden vegetables, this is a delicious salad that uses local lemongrass to add some zing.

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Discover the perfect spa treatments at U Spa

At U Spa we create a unique spa experience for our guests based on their specific needs, goals and preferences.

U Spa treatments at Constance Ephélia

U Spa treatments at Constance Ephélia

Every spa guest will be met by a spa host who will discuss with you what you’re looking for from your U Spa experience, and then recommend a treatment or program of treatments tailored to your particular needs.

U Spa Classic Treatments

Our range of U Spa Classic massages, facials and body treatments are designed to make choosing the perfect treatment for each guest simple and straightforward.

All our Classic treatments feature our own range of products inspired by the scents of the Indian Ocean and specially created for us using 100% natural, botanical ingredients including ylang-ylang, vanilla, coconut, sweet orange, frangipani and aloe vera.

Go Deluxe

At Constance Belle Mare Plage, Constance Ephélia and Constance Lémuria U Spa guests can experience the holistic, Eastern-inspired approach of Shiseido with treatments including its luxurious skin beauty and smoothing Future Solution LX Facial Ceremony and the sumptuous Kuroho Body Bliss.

At Constance Le Prince Maurice spa guests can savour the skincare expertise of Sisley Paris including the Anti-aging Sisleÿa Facial and Sisley Collection Phyto-aromatic body treatments.

U Spa at Constance Hotels and Resorts

U Spa at Constance Hotels and Resorts

Also at Le Prince Maurice, the U Spa Deluxe collection features the medical health pedicures and manicures of Brice Nicham.

At U Spa Constance Halaveli guests can experience the technologically advanced skincare offered by Swiss skincare specialist Valmont. Treatments include a Source of Bisses Hydration Facial and a strength of the Solano Hair Treatment.

Signature U Experience treatments

Choose a Signature U Experience massage, facial or body treatment for a completely bespoke approach. We will create a treatment entirely based on what you have told us you want from the treatment, your favourite scents and your specific wellbeing needs.

The Signature U Experience massage offers the ultimate in tailored spa treatments. Our most experienced spa therapist will blend a variety of techniques and oils based around what your body needs that day to promote good skin, muscle, blood circulation and lymphatic drainage.

For those who have a favourite massage technique which they know works for them, or those who want to try something new we also a offer a range of authentic traditional massage styles including Balinese, Ayurvedic, Thai-Shiatsu and Swedish as well as a specialist Sports Massage and Target Area Massage to relieve tension in the neck, shoulders, back or feet.

Classic facial and body treatments

Classic facial and body treatments

Classic facial and body treatments

Breathe in the scents of wild flowers and spices as you relax with one of our body treatments or facials.

Our natural Indian Ocean-inspired U Spa products feature exotic scrubs and wraps to help exfoliate, repair and tone tired skin.

Adding the finishing touches

Want perfect feet for walking barefoot in the sand, or a French polish for your nails? U Spa offers sophisticated pedicures and manicures as well as waxing, tinting, make up and hairdressing.

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