Whale Watching in Madagascar: When and where to go

Constance Tsarabanjina, Madagascar
Reading Time: 4 minutes

One of the top-list activities to do in Madagascar, is to embark on a remarkable journey to witness the majestic whales.

Whale watching in Madagascar

Whale watching in Madagascar

Constance Hotels invites you to experience the breath-taking spectacle of this gracious mastodon of the seas in this part of the Indian Ocean, where the azure waters become a stage for nature’s grand show.

From the about 80 recognised species of cetaceans, it is known or believed that around 30 species are present in the coastal and open ocean waters near Madagascar. This includes 9 species of baleen whales and 21 species of toothed whales and dolphins.

Read on to find out the best spots and times for whale watching in Madagascar.

When is the best month to see whales in Madagascar?

Timing is everything, especially if you want to observe whales in their natural habitat. The best months for whale watching in Madagascar are between June and September. This is when the humpback whales migrate to the warmer waters, providing the perfect opportunity for viewing. However, whales can also be spotted from August to November on some occasions.

Where to see whales in Madagascar?

In Madagascar, there are several prime locations for whale watching, particularly for observing humpback whales. These locations are renowned for their excellent vantage points and the frequency with which whales are sighted:

Whale watching at Ile Ste Marie (June to September)

Île Sainte-Marie is not only blessed with powder-white sand beaches and swaying coconut palms, but it is also famous for being the best spot to observe humpback whales. Situated on the Eastern shore of Madagascar, this is an ideal place from which to watch the stunning mating rituals and calving of the whales.

Schools of humpback whales leave their feeding grounds in the cold Antarctic to come to the warm waters around Île Sainte-Marie to calve and rear their young.

Every June to September you can find large groups of humpback whales in a relatively small area, which makes it easy to spot them on a whale watching trip.

Whale watching at Nosy Be (August to November)

Nosy Be is well known for its excellent snorkelling and scuba diving spots. But it is also an excellent place for whale watching. The migration of the humpback whales through the waters off the Northwest coast of Madagascar is slightly later but you are still likely to see mothers with their calves and pods of whales showing off their breath-taking acrobatics. Humpback whales gradually arrive to Nosy Be around the start of the southern winter (July), and the remain here until November. The high season for whale watching at Nosy Be is between August and October.

The vicinity of Nosy Be, encompassing areas like Nosy Iranja, is noteworthy for sightings of the exceptionally rare Omura’s Whale. In 2016, a record-breaking pod of 80 whales, including calves, was observed here, suggesting that these whales may be residents of the area. This discovery is thrilling for marine biologists, prompting the establishment of research centers locally.

Antongil Bay

Located near Maroantsetra on the northeast coast, whale watching in Antongil Bay offers a unique opportunity to observe humpback whales in one of their most important breeding grounds in the Indian Ocean.

The bay’s calm waters create an ideal nursery from July to September, allowing visitors to witness a range of whale behaviours.

Eco-friendly tours led by knowledgeable guides offer insights into these majestic creatures and contribute to conservation efforts.

Anakao and Toliara (aka Tulear)

In the southern regions of Madagascar, these areas offer a distinctive experience with a chance to see various whale species in a unique setting.

These less-visited areas provide a more intimate whale watching experience during the June to September season.

The tours here are often smaller and more personal, allowing for a closer connection with nature.

Majunga (Mahajanga)

Whale watching in Majunga, on Madagascar’s northwest coast, offers a unique, less commercialised experience. Best during the June to September humpback whale migration season, it provides opportunities to see diverse marine life.

Majunga, known for its scenic coastline and iconic Baobabs, also offers rich cultural experiences, local markets, and distinctive cuisine.

As the area develops in eco-tourism, there is a growing emphasis on sustainable and responsible whale watching practices. This destination is ideal for those seeking an authentic and tranquil whale watching adventure combined with the cultural richness of Madagascar.

Some facts about humpback whales

Humpback whales can be recognised by their large size, long pectoral fins, and unique tail flukes with distinct patterns used for identification. They have a dark back and lighter underside, and their heads feature knobbly protuberances called tubercles.

Humpbacks are known for their acrobatic behaviours, such as breaching, fin and tail slapping, and their complex, population-specific songs. Their small, often falcate dorsal fin and distinctive body shape and colour patterns are also key identifying features.

These characteristics make humpback whales one of the most recognizable and fascinating whale species.

Whale shark swimming

Nosy Be is also a fantastic area to see and even swim with whale sharks. It is not actually a whale, but as the largest fish in the sea match their size and gentle nature. As whale sharks are generally placid creatures, it is possible to practically swim alongside them.

Is whale watching in Madagascar a sustainable activity?

At Constance Hotels, we always cherish and nurture a culture of safeguarding and conservation of the environment when we propose an activity. This is why we make the sustainability of our activities one of the top priorities in our agenda. And whale watching is no exception to the rule.

Since 1979, when the Indian Ocean Whale Sanctuary was created, whales are protected from all types commercial whaling. Additionally, the government of Madagascar introduced regulations with the fisheries law 93-022 to ensure that the whales are safe and are not disturbed or stressed by boats in the area. As a result, most trips are hosted by experienced guides with a wealth of specialist knowledge.

As with all wildlife watching, we insist on the importance to choose responsible tour operators who adhere to guidelines that ensure minimal disturbance to the whales. The association called CétaMada and their objective is the preservation of marine mammal populations and their habitat in Madagascar.

Where to stay during you whale watching experience in Madagascar?

At Constance Hotels, we combine luxury with adventure. Our top-class Constance Tsarabanjina resort is a real treat when staying in Madagascar. The Tsarabanjina island provides truly amazing marine wildlife sightings and a tranquil and private atmosphere in an eco-friendly resort. Here, you can feel like Robinson Crusoe and can take part in various excursions.

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  • Reply
    February 11, 2016 at 3:25 pm

    Good afternoon,

    I would love to see whales near Tsarabanjina, but do you organize any boat trip from the resort?
    And, is it possible to dive near the island?

    Thank you

    • Reply
      Constance Hotels
      February 18, 2016 at 12:37 pm

      Hi Christian, thanks for your message. For information about what is on offer at Tsarabanjina, email our onsite manager Henri on

      We look forward to welcoming you to Constance Hotels & Resorts!

  • Reply
    Linda Walker
    February 8, 2018 at 8:09 pm

    Whale watching at Ile Ste Marie (June to September)
    We are a party of two adults and would like to book a day Whale Watching on any day between (and including) Thursday 30th August and Monday 3rd September. We will be staying on Ile Saint Marie, but have not yet booked a hotel.
    Are you able to advise if this is possible and the price ?
    I look forward to hearing from you

    • Reply
      Constance Hotels & Resorts
      February 14, 2018 at 12:27 pm

      Hi Linda, thank you for getting in touch. Our reservations team would be happy to provide more information with you about this – you can contact them directly on

      We look forward to welcoming you!

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