Ask someone or Google what they know about Madagascar, and eight of ten responses you most likely would get answers along the line of lemurs, rainforests, poverty, or the movie of the same name, along with a sing-along from said movie. And though those answers are definitely parts of what makes up Madagascar (though the movie is still questionable, in my opinion), my beautiful home country is so much more than that. I was born in Madagascar to Malagasy parents but left when I was four. With the exception of returning every two or so years for furlough to see family, it wasn’t until last year when I was 29 years old that I lived in Madagascar. I have loved getting to reconnect with the beauty and resilience of my country, and I am so excited to share with you some of my favourite places with you.
Andasibe Mantadia National Park
Lemurs are endemic to Madagascar and one of my favourite places to visit is the Andasibe Mantadia National Park, a protected rainforest that is only a three-hour drive from the capital city. Andasibe is home to many different species of lemurs and you can see them existing in their natural habitat. One of my favourite lemurs is the Indri Lemur, one of the largest living lemurs that has a very loud and distinctive song used to communicate with one another. You can hear their songs echoing throughout the forest. If you wanted a photo opp with the lemurs who will jump on your shoulders, you are able to do so at the Vakona Private reserve. If you’re up for a bit of a trek, you can hike to places where you can see a waterfall and bathe in a natural pool nearby.
Overlooking the capital city of Antananarivo, the Rova palace (also known as the Queen’s Palace) complex gives a breathtaking 360° view of the whole city. Before being colonized by the French, Madagascar was ruled by monarchs. The Palace itself is still under renovations, but you can still visit the compounds. To me, the palace not only represents the past (where you can go learn about the different Merina monarchs from of old that ruled), but it also reminds me of the resilience of the nation and its people and the long painstaking renovations that the country has gone through and will continue to go through.
Manda Beach Hotel
The Manda Beach Hotel holds some of my fondest childhood memories of going on vacations with all of my family. Since we didn’t grow up with our cousins, whenever we would return to Madagascar, everyone in our family would drive the eight-hour trek to Foul-pointe and stay in the bungalows by the beach. We would spend time swimming in the ocean, eating fresh seafood cooked on the sandy beaches, going out to the reefs, kayaking or just lazily hanging out at the pool. There are also people who will walk up and down the beach selling fresh coconuts that you can sip on, oysters, and traditional Malagasy snacks.
I could go on about other places but these are just three of my favourite spots. If you’re thinking about visiting Madagascar, I would recommend not just going to the touristic places but also finding the places that the locals like to go to. It will make your trip so much richer.
Catch up on our “Three of my favourite places” series here.