Every June, the channel between Ile Sainte Marie and the mainland sees the arrival of thousands of humpback whales from the southern chill of the Antarctic. The tropical waters of the north east coast are an ideal breeding ground for these mammoth mammals, who remain in Madagascan territory until their calves are born and have grown up – around four months in total.
With the humpbacks remaining so close to shore, the north east coast of Madagascar offers some of the finest whale watching opportunities in the world. The chances of witnessing close-up, acrobatic scenes of lunging and breaching are high. A humpback will swim vertically upwards from a great depth, heading straight out of the water in spectacular fashion. More often, you’ll see them travelling close to the surface, before flicking their flukes (or tails) up and down to propel them out of the ocean. It’s an awe-inspiring sight, especially when the whale manages to clear the water completely before crashing back down into the sea.
No-one is certain why humpbacks and other cetaceans breach. Theories range from establishing dominance, courting or warning of danger, to scaring prey, removing parasites from the skin or simply as a form of play. Either way, the thrill of the leap is something adventurous travellers will treasure for a long time to come.
It’s essential that whales are not disturbed or stressed in any way by boats coming in to their breeding ground, and the Madagascan government has put in place restrictions to make sure this is the case. Whale watching trips take place between June and September at Ile Sainte Marie and Antongil Bay, which is the largest bay on the eastern coast and also home to sharks, dolphins and sea turtles. Between August and November, there’s more great whale and dolphin watching at Constance Tsarabanjina/Nosy Be on the north west coast, where the migration occurs slightly later.
- Find out more about whale watching at Constance Tsarabanjina
- Discover the best time to go whale watching in Madagascar
- Experience other marine wildlife in the Indian Ocean.