Madagascar is an excellent destination for sporting activities. Climbing, diving, hiking and canoeing/kayaking are all in plentiful supply. Whatever activity you embark on, pick a reliable operator, especially with high-risk activities such as diving, kitesurfing and rock climbing. Check the operator’s affiliations, the instructors’ qualifications and inspect your gear.
Diving & Snorkelling
There are three main diving/snorkelling areas in Madagascar: Nosy Be and the surrounding islands; Île Sainte Marie in the east, and the Great Reef, which stretches from Anakao to Andavadoaka in the southwest. Nosy Be is generally considered the best all-around, with good conditions year-round and a phenomenal marine biodiversity, including turtles, rays, whale sharks, humpback whales, coral reefs, myriad fish species and hammerhead sharks.
Although diving takes place year-round, the best time everywhere is usually between October and January.
Note that the only decompression chamber is located in Nosy Be.
Consider the following tips when diving and help preserve the ecology and beauty of reefs:
- Don’t touch living marine organisms or drag equipment across the reef. If you must hold onto the reef, only touch exposed rock or dead coral.
- Be conscious of your fins. Even without contact, the surge from fin strokes near the reef can damage delicate organisms.
- Take great care in underwater caves. Spend as little time within them as possible as your air bubbles may be caught within the roof and thereby leave organisms high and dry.
- Resist the temptation to collect or buy corals or shells.
- Do not feed fish, even if operators offer it.
Multi-day treks (three to 10 days, such as Maroantsetra to Cap Est, Ambalavao to Manakara, the Razafimaniry villages, Isalo and Makay etc) are becoming more popular and are often the highlight of a trip, but they require advance planning (for reservations and equipment to bring). A few tips:
- Operators can usually provide all the required equipment for camping, cooking etc; you'd be advised to bring your own sleeping bag however, or at the very least a sleeping liner, if you want to avoid bed bugs.
- Check the difficulty of the trek with your operator: some treks are notoriously hard (Maroantsetra to Cap Est, Marojejy etc) and require good physical condition as well as a love of challenges. Others treks, such as Razafimaniry villages, are accessible to anyone with a modicum of fitness.
- You'll likely go to the most remote spots on your trip whilst you trek; make sure you have a decent first aid kit, water purifying equipment (such as LifeStraw or chlorine tablets) to minimise plastic waste, and a good torch. A battery pack to be able to keep charging phones and other electronics is also handy.