What is the best time to visit Madagascar ?
The arrival of visitors to Madagascar is still dependent on the season. The flow decreases in summer, during the rainy season, and gradually picks up again until the opening of the tourist season in April. This means that it is possible to visit Madagascar all year round, whatever the season. In any case, it is important to know the best time to visit Madagascar.
What are the main seasons in Madagascar?
The climate that prevails in the whole of the Big Island is punctuated by two main seasons: the rainy season and the southern winter.
The rainy season, from November to March, is characterized by transient but regular rains often in the late afternoon and night. Rains can be abundant in some areas and scarce in others.
The dry season, which extends from April to October, is marked by the virtual absence of rain. The temperature generally decreases during the southern winter from June to August, especially in the central highlands including Antananarivo, Antsirabe and Fianarantsoa.
In the extreme north, rain is abundant (1200 mm of precipitation per year), the sun shines during a long dry season and the sunshine decreases during the rainy season. The temperature of the sea is 25° from July to September, which is favorable for swimming even in winter.
In the northwest, the climate is hot, humid and rainy during this period. Rainfall reaches an annual average of 2000 mm. In Nosy Be, the sun is almost permanent during the dry season from May to October and the average annual temperature of the sea is 27°.
In the west coast, temperatures decrease between April and October even at night. The same is true for rainfall. These can decrease up to 700 mm per year. In Morondava, rain falls abundantly during a short period, between December and February, while during the dry period from April to November, rain is almost non-existent. The permanent presence of the sun in Morondava makes the temperature of the sea very pleasant for swimming between July and September.
In the semi-arid zone of the southwest, rainfall is rare and can be as low as 500 mm per year. During the southern winter, the temperature drops even at night during the months of May, June, September and October.
In Toliara, the annual rainfall is only 420 mm and the temperature can reach 40° from December to March, which makes this area the hottest of the country during this period. The temperature of the sea remains very pleasant for bathing (23.5°).
In the east coast, rain falls all year round, reaching 3350 mm per year especially on the eastern side of the mountains. In March alone, the average rainfall recorded is 400 mm and this decreases from September to November. This period is favourable to visit the east of Madagascar.
Moving southward, the rainfall gradually decreases to reach 1700 mm per year at Fort Dauphin. Even during the period between June and September, the sun shines 7 to 8 hours a day in this locality.
Places to visit according to each season
The north and northwest
Despite high rainfall, many activities are possible from December to March and during the southern winter from April to November in the north and northwest of Madagascar. Among others, the visit of the Three Bays in Diego Suarez (the Bay of the Dunes, the Bay of the Pigeons and the Bay of the Sakalava), the national park of the Amber Mountain, the reserve of Ankarana, the Red Tsingy and the tour of the islets around Nosy Be including Nosy Tany Kely, Nosy Komba, Nosy Iranja… These small islands have not only beautiful beaches but also a very rich biodiversity with a very high endemicity. After a hike or a visit to a reserve, visitors can enjoy swimming in the Bay of Pigeons, visit the surf kit of the Bay of Sakalava.
The West Coast
Access is rather difficult only between December and February because of heavy rains and the degradation of the numerous tracks, the west coast however reserves a wide possibility of interesting tourist activity from April to November. Among the unmissable activities is the famous Tsiribihina river tour in a traditional pirogue. It is a real adventure allowing to discover differently the Malagasy west coast through a succession of cliff landscape and luxuriant vegetation, impressive fauna and flora along the way. Arrival in Morondava, the visit of an exceptional landscape dominated by baobabs, giant trees that seem to grow in reverse. To mark the passage in the west coast, visitors immortalize their stay in the baobab avanue by admiring the sunset on this idyllic place.
The semi-arid zone of the southwest
Toliara, also called “Toliara tsy miroro” or Toliara that never sleeps is the largest city in the south of Madagascar. Besides the visit of the city, the oceanographic museum Rabesandratana and the museum of Toliara, visitors can go to the St Augustin. During a hike, discover the charming village of fishermen as well as the famous Bay of St Augustin, a must for a stay in Toliara. For the lovers of beautiful beaches, go to Ifaty, one of the most beautiful places of the Big Island and not less one of the most beautiful spots of diving. To finish in beauty the stay in the south-west, a visit in the national park of Isalo will plunge the visitors in an exceptional ecosystem composed of landscape of ruiniform relief shaped by the erosion and high of its 1240 m of altitude. The landscape is decorated by impressive panoramas and canyons that give it this mystical character. This park shelters a large community of fauna and flora mainly endemic.
The east coast of Madagascar
Apart from the visit of the natural reserves from Andasibe to the island of Sainte-Marie passing by Akanin’ny Nofy in the Pangalane Canal, the east of Madagascar will not fail to surprise the visitors. After having crossed the humid forest of the east via the National Road 2, the visitors will contemplate the fauna and flora of the National Park of Andasibe. The visit continues towards Akanin’ny Nofy, in the Pangalane Canal passing by a green landscape with an impressive decor of pachypodium, wild plants such as orchids and carnivorous plants. The presence of lemur species such as the macaco, the indri-indri or the sifaka characterizes the reserve. Among the places to visit imperatively in the Malagasy east is the island of Sainte-Marie. It is a detour impossible to circumvent to satisfy the need for relaxation in a paradisiac place.
Conclusion: The best time to visit Madagascar
The southern winter which corresponds to the dry season from April to November is generally the best time to visit Madagascar. During this period, the rain is almost non-existent, the tracks that became impassable during the summer are operational again and the tourist activities resume (whale watching in August). In any case, it is important to know the best time to visit the main tourist areas of the island:
- In the north, the best time to visit the northern tip of Madagascar is from April to November. Even if it is hot all year round, the rain is less abundant in the north during this period and the sea temperature is ideal for nautical activities. Note that rainfall is heavy from December to March, which will disrupt outdoor tourist activities,
- The best time to visit the northwest of Madagascar, Nosy Be in particular, is the month of July for those who prefer cooler weather, the month of June if you want to avoid the rain. In general, the sun shines from May to October with an average annual temperature of 27.5°. The period between November and March is the hottest and rainiest. In Majunga, the best period for sea activities is from January to July and from September to December,
- The best time to visit the Malagasy west and southwest coast is from May to October. For Morondava in particular, the climate is favorable from March to December, the annual temperature is 28° and rain is almost non-existent during the dry season from April to November. Moving southward, Toliara and Ifaty are cities that have the best climate almost all year round (11 months/12). On the whole, the Malagasy west coast has a fairly high temperature all year round,
- For the east, the best time to visit Madagascar is from September to November during which the sunshine is acceptable. From December, rain is abundant and this part of the island is constantly exposed to the threat of cyclones until April. March is the rainiest period but rainfall tends to decrease from September to November.