8 reasons why Madagascar should be on your bucket list

Still relatively undiscovered, Madagascar is a unique destination of warm sunshine, rich biodiversity, culture and stunning scenery.

Diving in Madagascar

Diving in Madagascar

Here are our top 8 reasons why Madagascar deserves a top spot on your bucket list.

Perfect ‘holiday’ temperatures all year round

With average temperatures of around 30ºC, warm clear waters and an average of 7.5 hours of sunshine a day, Madagascar is an ideal holiday destination. The cooler drier ‘winter’ season runs from May to October while the warmer, wetter ‘summer’ season runs from November to April.

Laid back luxury

Although still relatively unexplored by tourists, it is possible to find a splash of luxury in Madagascar. Enjoy the laidback charm of Constance Tsarabanjina with a vibe of barefoot relaxation blended with low-key luxury.

Chill out on a hammock slung outside your own secluded beach villa on the tiny private Madagascan island of Tsarabanjina. Watch the dazzling array of stars from your own furnished terrace or stroll barefoot down to the restaurant and enjoy traditional Malagasy food with a touch of Constance flair.

Combine luxury and exploration with a guided nature walk around the island by hotel staff.

Be the first to dive waters teeming with rare marine life

Diving is spectacular in Madagascar all year round, particularly around the Mitsio Archipelago, including the island of Tsarabanjina.

Much of the ocean here is previously unexplored making it a fresh new territory for divers.

Some of Madagascar’s most spectacular marine sightings include:

Relax in a hammock at Constance Tsarabanjina

Relax in a hammock at Constance Tsarabanjina

Humpback whales – the whales travel to the warm waters around Madagascar to breed from August to October creating an awe-inspiring spectacle and a rare treat for visitors

Sperm whales – experience the majesty of these magnificent creatures first-hand throughout July and August

Manta rays – see these graceful giants as they migrate through the warm waters of Madagascan waters from May to October

Whale sharks – swim with the gentle giants of the ocean from September through to December.

Explore a completely stunning landscape like nowhere else on earth

From rich rainforests to startling deserts sprinkled with rare, exotic wildlife a trip to Madagascar is like discovering a forgotten land. Pick your way through the granite needle forests of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Bermaraha or experience the other-worldliness of a forest of Baobab trees. There are 20 National Parks in Madagascar for visitors to explore on foot.

Savour the warm spice of Malagasy cuisine

With influences from many of the nations whose people settled here including Africa, South East Asia, the Middle East and France, Madagascan food is a rich, delicious mix of flavours. Local spices and herbs such as chillies, cloves, garlic, vanilla and black pepper are a feature of Malagasy cuisine as is the wide variety of freshly caught seafood and locally grown succulent fruits and vegetables.

Discover Madagascar’s unique wildlife

With around 80 per cent of Madagascar’s wildlife unique to the country, including 150 endemic mammal species, it’s a must-see destination for anyone interested in the gems of the natural world.

One of the most treasured sightings for many visitors to Madagascar are the 100+ lemur species found nowhere else on the planet. Visitors during October and November may even be lucky enough to see newly-born baby lemurs.

Join the party

The Malagasy Kingfisher

The Malagasy Kingfisher

Enjoy the hospitality of the Malagasy people at a range of year-round festivals. Highlights include:

Anniversary of the Republic – Celebrated on 30 December this is a key date in the festivities of Madagascar.

Alahamady Be, 11 – 12 March – Two days of music, dancing and feasting are all part of the program for the celebration of the Malagasy New Year.

Santabary Festival, end of April/beginning of May – A festival celebrating the first rice harvest of the year with events across the island including feasting, music and dancing.

Feria Oramena, June – a carnival-like celebration of one of the nation’s favourite seafood, Lobster.

Hiragasy, July – a traditional Malagasy cultural event involving a competition with five-themed entertainments including oratory, dance, music, drinking and eating.

Madajazzcar, 1 – 12 October – A 2 week jazz festival held in the country’s capital attracting famous jazz musicians from around the globe.

Witness the spectacular birds of Madagascar

For anyone interested in bird-watching Madagascar is a must-see destination with over 100 endemic bird species including fish eagles, jacana, ground rollers and paradise flycatchers, as well as a vast array of migratory birds.

September to mid-December is the breeding season when many species don their finest plumage to attract mates. There are a number of bird watching safaris on offer, usually including lemur sightings as part of the deal.

 

Guide to diving in Madagascar

Madagascar is one of the hottest destinations for 2013 and if you love diving, it’s a hidden gem. Off the coast of the world’s fourth largest island, you’ll find waters that have never been dived in before, and underwater rock formations that add a special thrill to the whole diving experience.

Diving in Madagascar

Diving in Madagascar

Explore stunning coral reefs and gardens of huge sponges that are home to turtles, jack fish, scorpion fish, sting rays, moray eels, and grey and white tip sharks.

Constance Tsarabanjina reopened earlier in 2013 after a major refurbishment. Barefoot luxury set on its own castaway island, it’s the perfect place to stop a while as you explore the oceans off the island.

Highlights of diving off Tsarabanjina

1. The Tétons

These stunning towers of rock off the coast of Constance Tsarabanjina are covered under the waves with vibrant corals and tunnels that divers can swim through, lined with colourful sponges and sweetlips.

2. South Beach

Beginners can explore the beautiful reef just off the shores of Tsarabanjina, where you’ll discover the beauty of reef diving and the colourful creatures who live there.

3. Kassimo

Good for divers of all levels this long underwater barrier is home to snapper, diagramme voiliers, grouper, giant sting ray, giant loach and grey or white-dotted sharks.

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Recipe: “Henan’ Omby Ritra”

This “Henan’ Omby Ritra” dish is a classic one from Madagascar’s culinary heritage, and normally contains zebu. This delicious version is served only on special order for our guests. Ask any of our chefs at Constance Tsarabanjina for it & they will put all their love and passion into preparing it.

"Henan' Omby Ritra"

“Henan’ Omby Ritra”

Ingredients

The meat:

  • 1.5kg zebu (rump, chuck or cheek). May be replaced by beef
  • 2g black pepper
  • 10g garlic
  • 10g ginger
  • 1 onion
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 red pepper
  • Peanut oil
  • 200g sealing dough (200g flour and 100ml water)
  • Salt/pepper

1. Brown the meat in oil in a casserole for 5 minutes with the chopped onion, crushed garlic, salt chopped tomatoes and ginger slices. Cover it with 0.5 litres of water and cook it for 15 minutes.

2. When the water has completely evaporated, let the meat brown before cooking it in the tomato sauce. Pour in 3 cups of water. Add the chopped pepper and cracked black pepper. Cover and finish it in the oven and let everything cool. Keep the compote of pepper confit.

3. Once the meat is completely cool, put it into another cast iron pot, add the remaining sauce, cover it with the lid and add a strip of sealing dough to ensure the whole thing is hermetically sealed and any evaporation is reduced to a minimum.

The garnish:

  • 200g black Chinese rice (Venere)
  • 20g butter
  • 1 onion
  • 4 potatoes
  • 100g spring onions
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • Olive oil
  • Salt/pepper

1. Cook the potatoes in boiling water. Peel them and mash them with a fork, adding the olive oil and the chopped onion tails. salt it and set it aside.

2. Sweat the chopped onion in butter. Stir in the black rice until it goes white and cook it like risotto, adding the chicken stock as you go along until it is soft.

Finishing and presentation

Bake the sealed casserole in a hot oven at 160/170˚C for 10 to 15 minutes.

Remove it from the oven and, using a small pairing knife, open the lid of the pot in front of the guests. Be careful not to burn yourself!

Accompany everything with the mashed potatoes and black rice. Serve the pepper compote with a spoon.

Sommelier’s suggested wine

Strong fruity red wine:

  • Saint-Emilion Grand Cru, Château Monbousquet, 2008 France
  • Vin de Pays des Bouches-du-Rhône, Domaine de Trévallon, 2008 France

Sunday Times recommends a September break at Tsarabanjina and Ephélia

Tempting you to make the glorious summer months last a little bit longer, in this week’s Sunday Times Chris Haslam recommends booking a September break in the sun.

A September break at Constance Ephélia, Seychelles

A September break at Constance Ephélia, Seychelles

Resorts Haslam recommends for a last blast of warmth before autumn arrives in the Northern hemisphere include Constance Tsarabanjina in Madagascar and Constance Ephélia in the Seychelles.

Describing the laid back vibe of Tsarabanjina, basking in 25°C sunshine, Haslam declares, ‘The choice of activities is almost endless: you can lie in a hammock, go snorkeling, read a book, lie in a hammock, go snorkeling or circumnavigate the island in 45 minutes.’

He claims the Seychelles is also the perfect September getaway (average temperature 27°C with, ‘white beaches, sapphire seas, coconut palms and superb seafood.’

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Discover the exotic birds of Madagascar

Famous for its unique wildlife Madagascar has always attracted visitors keen to discover rare and exotic plants and animals. Here we take a look at the extraordinary birds of Madagascar.

Madagascar Fishing Eagle

Madagascar Fishing Eagle

Madagascar Fish-Eagle

The large Madagascar fish-eagle (Haliaeetus vociferoides) is the largest raptor in Madagascar and is one of the rarest birds of prey.

The body is a dark reddish-brown with dark brown wings. Its cheeks and throat are a whitish colour while its short tail is pure white.

The juvenile Madagascar fish-eagle has streaks on its head and pale fringes to its flight feathers. Its underparts are paler and tail darker than the adult’s. It hunts near or over water and often perches for long periods on tall trees.

The Madagascar fish-eagle has a melodious call, similar to the closely related African fish-eagle (Haliaeetus vocifer).

Madagascar Kingfisher

The Malagasy Kingfisher

The Malagasy Kingfisher

The Malagasy Kingfisher or Madagascar Kingfisher (Alcedo vintsioides) is a member of the Alcedinidae family. It is found in Madagascar, and Mayotte (Comoros). Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical mangrove forests.

The Malagasy Kingfisher is found in all types of wetlands, as well as along the island’s coastline. Both sexes are similar.

White throated rail

The Aldabra rail is the last surviving flightless bird in the western Indian Ocean.

It has a slender build with a long, fairly slender neck, legs and feet. The plumage is well defined, being largely bright chestnut except for the striking white throat.

The fairly long, straight bill is dark with, in females, a bright pink base, and in males, a dull or dark red base. Juveniles generally have duller plumage than adults.

Being a flightless bird, the wings are short and are often held close to the body where they blend in with the rest of the plumage.

Many consider the Aldabra rail a subspecies of the white-throated rail (Dryolimnas cuvier).

Madagascar Paradise Flycatcher

Madagascar Paradise Flycatcher

Madagascar Paradise Flycatcher

The symbol of Constance Tsarabanjina, the Malagasy Paradise Flycatcher is a medium-sized passerine, measuring 18cm in length and weighing about 12.2g.

Males have long tail plumes, which can add as much as 18cm to their overall length.

The female is largely rufous orange, with a black head and nape. The flight feathers on her wings are black with rufous edges, and she has a thin, light blue eyelid wattle.

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The rich culture of Madagascar

Embark on an adventure to the remote island of Tsarabanjina and discover the friendly people and rich culture of Madagascar.

Constance Tsarabanjina, Madagascar

Constance Tsarabanjina, Madagascar

Take advantage of the one-night stopover on the mainland before travelling on to Constance Tsarabanjina to immerse yourself in the colourful local customs and traditions of Madagascar.

Ethnic groups in Madagascar

The diverse ethnic groups which make up the Malagasy people, divided into 18 ‘tribes’, are united around the common Malagasy language and traditional beliefs in the importance of kinship and the veneration of their ancestors.

Local crafts

Crafts including raffia weaving, woodcarving and silk weaving – particularly the weaving of the silk lamba, the island’s national dress – can be traced back to the very first inhabitants of the island and are central to the island’s cultural history.

The traditional woodwork of the Zafimaniry people of Madagascar were considered so important that in 2008 UNESCO included them on its List of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Music of Madagascar

Music plays an important role in the lives of the Malagasy people with beats and rhythms echoing the music of Africa and Indonesia and often played on traditional instruments or sung with only hand clapping accompaniment.

Lemur in Madagascar

Lemur in Madagascar

Learn Malagasy

Seize the opportunity on the mainland or on Tsarabanjina to really get a sense of what makes the people of this region so special. Here are some Malagasy phrases you might find useful during your visit.

Welcome: Tongasoa

Good morning: Mbolatsara/ Salama

How are you? : Karakory/In vao vao?

Goodbye: Veloma/Samitsara

Have a nice trip: Soavadia

Goodnight: Samy mandry mifoha

Enjoy your breakfast/ launch/dinner: Mazotoa misakafo

Slowly: Mora Mora

Local Mitsio fishermen in Madagascar

Local Mitsio fishermen in Madagascar

Thank you: Misaotra

Thank you so much: Misaotra Betsaka

Best wishes: Mirary soa/ Tsara tsara

Island: Nosy

Fish: Laoko

Rice: Vary

Lemurs: Komba/Maki

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