Where to go camping in Madagascar?

Although camping is a very popular activity in Europe and the rest of the world, it is not often expected to be found in Madagascar. There is a regrettable habit of thinking that the large island does not offer many activities outside of conventional tourist sites. However, in recent years, outdoor camping has been gaining popularity in Madagascar. Today, several national parks are opening camping areas in collaboration with local guide associations or community groups. This development allows for combining camping stays with various outdoor activities.

Here are the national parks available to accommodate camping activities in Madagascar:

There are not many of them, but several national parks in the north, south, west and east of Madagascar are ideal for camping.

In the north, the Montagne d’Ambre National Park, located 35 km southwest of the city of Antsiranana in the Diana region, is an isolated volcanic massif reaching 1475 meters in altitude. Comprising dense humid forests with a high level of endemism, housing thousands of species of precious woods such as Dalbergia chlorocarpa and Canarium madagascariensis, Montagne d’Ambre is a true melting pot of biological diversity, all within relatively easy access.

Moving further north, we come across the Ankarana National Park, renowned for its network of underground rivers, the largest in Africa. With its unique ecosystem, this protected area promises adventure and discovery, being the only park where one can observe the Tsingy besides the Tsingy de Bemaraha in the west of the island.

Descending towards the northwest part of Madagascar, in the Boeny region, we find the Ankarafantsika National Park, comprised of a mosaic of dense dry forests and savannahs. Highly favored by birdwatchers, this park is known for its lakes, the last refuge of flagship species such as the Madagascar fish eagle, Coquerel’s sifaka, and mouse lemurs, while also offering the opportunity to observe the daily activities of the Sakalava people in the surrounding areas.

Continuing in the north, but this time in the northeast part, we find the Marojejy National Park, classified as a World Heritage Site. This terrestrial park is an impressive massif, harboring a dense low-altitude humid forest that is home to the Propithecus candidus, also known as the Simpona fotsy, as well as palm trees and ferns. Additionally, there are secondary low-altitude forests, dense humid mountain forests, and ericoid brush.

Further on, we encounter the Masoala-Nosy Mangabe National Park, also a World Heritage Site, consisting of a dense mid-altitude humid forest and eastern littoral forest, housing endemic species such as the red ruffed lemur, rare endemic palm trees, and carnivorous plants like the Nepenthes masoalensis. This park also includes coral reefs, habitats of marine turtles, and contains 50% of Madagascar’s fauna and flora.

Moving to the eastern part, Analamazaotra – Mantadia, located in Alaotra Mangoro, province of Toamasina, is part of the Andasibe-Mantadia National Park. Among the most visited parks in Madagascar, it is 3 hours’ drive from the capital, Antananarivo. Offering a wide variety of endemic animal and plant species, it delights eco-tourists, ornithologists, biologists, or simply enthusiasts of trekking and discovery. The Andasibe-Mantadia complex unveils exceptional faunal and floral richness.

In the western region, we also have the Kirindy Mitea National Park, classified as a UNESCO biosphere reserve. The southern Menabe forest is one of the few remnants of forests in western Madagascar, still retaining considerable biodiversity. This region serves as a transition between the biodiversity of the west and the south, housing dense dry forests covering 70% of the park, as well as spiny forests with Didiereaceae and Euphorbiaceae, a brackish coastal lake, and habitats for numerous species including birds, reptiles, and lemurs.

And finally, let’s head for the southern part of the island :

Ranomafana National Park: Spanning over 41,600 hectares, Ranomafana National Park is a must-visit site in Madagascar. This park marks the transition between the Central Highlands and the eastern coast of Madagascar. Surrounded by hills, cliffs, and mountains, it is covered with dense humid forest and crossed by several watercourses. All these elements contribute to its picturesque and verdant landscape, making it a perfect haven for numerous animal species.

Isalo National Park: Isalo National Park is a natural rocky massif, reminiscent of a field of ruins due to its highly unusual relief, which resembles the American Wild West – hence its nickname « The Malagasy Colorado. » Composed of rocks formed over 150 million years ago, the park offers a mix of desert landscapes and verdant canyons, traversed by numerous rivers originating from beautiful natural pools. This contrast creates an absolutely stunning visual spectacle.

Should we consider camping as a travel alternative in Madagascar?

Absolutely, camping should be seriously considered as a travel alternative in Madagascar. Despite not being a part of the island’s traditional tourism practices, the rise of outdoor camping presents a significant opportunity for local development and the expansion of activities available to travelers. With camping areas now available in multiple national parks, in collaboration with local guide associations and communities, Madagascar offers new avenues for travelers seeking authentic experiences and a closer connection with nature. Camping not only facilitates immersive exploration of the island’s natural and cultural wonders but also plays a vital role in supporting the economic growth of surrounding regions through the promotion of responsible and sustainable tourism practices.

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