Month by Month
Whale Watching, August
Mango Season, October
Baby Lemurs, November
This is the beginning of cyclone season, which runs until March. Cyclones affect both the west and east coast. Most areas have received some rains by now, turning arid landscapes numerous shades of green.
New Year Celebrations
Like the rest of the world, the Malagasies welcome the new year with much partying on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.
The weather may be sweltering and humid, but for those who do make it at this time of year, the wildlife rewards are unique. Summer is also cruise-ship season from Tamatave to Nosy Be.
Reptiles & Amphibians
After many months of hibernation or reduced activity, snakes and frogs come out in force in the hot and humid summer climate. This is the best time of year to admire their colourful displays and incredible variety.
Madagascar has over 1000 species of this delicate plant, 90% of which are endemic. Many are endangered, however, so being able to see these floral works of art in the wild is an increasingly rare experience.
Many areas that were inaccessible during the rainy season are starting to reopen. Be prepared for slower travel times, however, and copious amounts of mud.
The main festival of the Christian calendar is fervently celebrated in Madagascar. Extended families gather, wear their best clothes, attend Mass together (sometimes twice on Sunday) and share a meal.
Nosy Be Jazz Festival
Started in 2017, this relatively new festival is already hugely popular, attracting artists both local and international. Concerts are held all over the island.
In the north, the wind has picked up and will blow until the end of the year. Tourism starts picking up again.
A combination of fantastic wind and good surf has turned Baie de Sakalava and Mer d’Émeraude (northern Madagascar) into the Malagasy capital of this extreme sport. Tuition and equipment are available and hotels offer special kitesurfing packages.
For a shot of artistic zing, head to Zegny’Zo, an international street-arts festival with a carnival-like atmosphere in Diego Suarez.
Held at the end of May or the beginning of June, the week-long Donia in Nosy Be is Madagascar's most high-profile arts festival. It is primarily a music event, although the fringe also involves a carnival and various sporting events.
The last few inaccessible roads start opening up. Humpback whales begin arriving along the western and eastern coasts to give birth and mate. Tourism season is well on its way.
Fête de l'Indépendance
Madagascar's independence day is a big deal. The official celebrations in Antananarivo feature military parades, speeches, shows and much flag waving. Elsewhere, there are street celebrations, themed parties in nightclubs and a profusion of red, green and white decorations.
It’s winter and temperatures regularly drop below zero in the highlands at night. Bring a very warm sleeping bag if you’re camping, and some layers for the evenings.
The ‘turning of the dead’, or exhumation, ceremonies to commemorate ancestors take place in the highlands from July to September. The practice is common from Antananarivo to Fianarantsoa and is an important celebration. Foreigners are sometimes invited.
The country’s flagship plant is harvested between July and October. It is a labour-intensive process, as vanilla pods mature at different times. Flights are full to the vanilla-growing northeast region at this time of year, so book ahead.
With school summer holidays in full swing in Europe, August is peak tourism season in Madagascar. Book ahead for the most popular trips and in areas with limited accommodation, such as Parc National Bemaraha.
Humpback whales migrate annually from their feeding grounds in Antarctica to the warm waters of the Indian Ocean and Mozambique Channel to mate and give birth. Famed for their spectacular breaching (jumping), they can be observed all along the coast from July to September.
Enjoy an afternoon of hira gasy – traditional storytelling narrated through dancing, singing and oratory jousting. Shows take place year-round but are especially popular in winter, when it's not too hot.
With spring under way, this is the perfect time of year to come to Madagascar. Temperatures are pleasant, there is little rain and there are no school holiday crowds.
Dry, deciduous forests are at their barest at this time of year – a godsend for birdwatchers. Deprived of their usual camouflage, Madagascar’s 280 bird species, a third of them endemic, are easier to observe. Don’t forget your binoculars.
As with spring all over the world, there is stunning blossom, birth and mating – a great time of year to admire wildlife. Temperatures are also at their best – warm but not stifling.
The delectable mango bursts onto the scene, inundating market stalls and roadsides and making its way into every dessert and fruit salad. The green fruit is picked in August and September to make achards (a pickled condiment) and savoury salads.
The exquisite purple blossom of the jacaranda tree is a sight to behold: its delicate colour contrasts beautifully with urban greys and country greens, while petals carpet the ground like a Technicolor version of snow.
Fossa Mating Season
The normally elusive fossa, Madagascar’s biggest predator (and the baddie in Madagascar the cartoon movie), makes quite a show of its loud nuptials. It’s best observed in the Réserve Forestière de Kirindy in western Madagascar.
Going strong for more than 25 years, this annual jazz festival in Antananarivo taps into Madagascar's rich musical tradition and brings together local and foreign jazz performers. Many of the events are free.
This is a lovely time of year, with visitor numbers petering out and the weather warming up. It is prime diving season, too.
If you thought lemurs were cute, wait until you see the babies, clinging to their mother’s fur or being carried by the scruff of the neck. The entire troop generally looks after the young.
Madagascar provides around 70% of the lychees consumed in Europe, but fear not, there are plenty left in the country to gorge on. The season lasts until January and lychees are a favourite Christmas food.
Christmas is a low-key event for Malagasies: families go to Mass and share a meal. Tourism peaks briefly around festive celebrations, with many Europeans enjoying the warm weather and tropical showers.
It is the height of summer, with great visibility and calm seas, ideal for diving, be it in Nosy Be, Île Sainte Marie or southern Madagascar.