Must see attractions in Southern Madagascar

  • Top ChoiceSights in The Desert

    Parc National Isalo

    Isalo is one of Madagascar's most beautiful parks. It contains sculpted buttes, vertical rock walls and, best of all, deep canyon floors shot through with streams, lush vegetation and pools for swimming. All of this changes with the light, culminating in extraordinary sunsets beneath a big sky. Add all this to easy access off the RN7 and you understand why this is Madagascar’s most visited park.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Parc National Andohahela

    Parc National Andohahela

    This 760-sq-km park protects some of the last remnants of rainforest in southern Madagascar, as well as spiny forest and a remarkable 12 species of lemurs. It also boasts 129 recorded species of birds, and a variety of amphibians and reptiles, including crocodiles. In short, this is one of Madagascar's most diverse parks when it comes to both landscapes and wildlife. Questionable security in surrounding areas is our only explanation for why the park remains so little known.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Tuléar (Toliara)

    Arboretum d'Antsokay

    This is the one must-see attraction in Tuléar. Essentially a 400,000-sq-metre distillation of the entire spiny forest in one place, it's a fantastic collection of 900 plant species; take a guide (tip expected) to learn more about the weird and wonderful plants on show here. It was established by a Swiss botanist and conservationist in 1980; his ancient Citroen that once used to gather the plants is now being consumed by them. Madagascar National Parks (MNP) take note: clone this place. Night tours (Ar10,000) leave at 5.45pm.

  • Sights in The Cape

    Réserve de Nahampoana

    This 0.67-sq-km forest reserve, 7km north of Fort Dauphin (Taolagnaro), deserves much greater recognition. Its exotic tropical setting, with mountains for a backdrop, is prettier than Berenty. Add to this a robust and varied lemur population, including ringtail, sifaka, brown, bamboo and mouse species (some with the habit of dropping from trees to say hello), more-humane crocodile pens, extraordinary bamboo groves, night walks and a cooling sea breeze, and you wonder why so many people are driving west.

  • Top ChoiceSights in The Cape

    Domaine de la Cascade

    This gorgeous park, about 9km from the Total station on the road to Ambovombe from Fort Dauphin (Taolagnaro), covers 136 hectares, and with a budding ecotourism project in play, it consists of a nursery set in a paradisiacal valley with several walking trails (from 30 minutes to two hours), including one to a pretty waterfall where you can take a dip.

  • Sights in Parc National Isalo

    La Fenêtre de l'Isalo

    La Fenêtre de l’Isalo is a popular natural rock window that frames the setting sun, although we actually prefer it for the surrounding views of sweeping plains and weird-and-wonderful rock formations turned golden at sunset. At the time of writing, visitors were encouraged not to visit alone due to the threat of robbery – if there are other vehicles in attendance, take the 800m track off the RN7; the turn-off is around 1.5km south of La Relais de la Reine.

  • Sights in The Desert

    Parc National Zombitse-Vohibasia

    Parc National Zombitse-Vohibasia protects one of the last stands of dense dry forest in all of southern Madagascar, a bird-rich island of foliage in the heart of a denuded semi-desert landscape. The park's 36,300 hectares shelters an astounding 72 recorded bird species and eight lemur species.

  • Sights in The Cape

    Réserve Spéciale Cap Sainte-Marie

    Madagascar’s southernmost tip, Cap Sainte-Marie is a thought-provoking climax to the ‘eighth continent’, a stark and windswept place that, like so many places down here, feels like the end of the Earth. This 18-hectare reserve, partly created to protect radiated and spider tortoises, ends at the cliff's edge.

  • Sights in The Cape

    Réserve Privée de Berenty

    This well-known private reserve contains nearly one-third of the remaining tamarind gallery forest in Madagascar, nestled between the arms of a former oxbow lake on the Mandrare River. It was one of Madagascar’s first ecotourism destinations, its international reputation once drew nearly 8000 yearly visitors, helped by the friendly ring-tailed lemurs that greet you in the parking lot. Visitors can walk forest paths unguided in search of other lemurs. An excellent anthropological museum provides unique insights into local Antandroy culture.

  • Sights in Southern Reef

    Parc National Tsimanampetsotse

    This 432-sq-km park and its large, ancient salt lake hosts some part-time resident flamingos (April to October). Amid the spiny forest, watch also for a large banyan tree full of parrots and ring-tailed lemurs. The park is home to four further lemur species. Verreaux's sifaka are commonly seen during daylight hours, and keep an eye out for sleeping nocturnal species such as the tiny grey-brown mouse lemur, fat-tailed dwarf lemur and white-footed sportive lemur.

  • Sights in Ifaty & Mangily

    Reniala Nature Reserve

    This is a 0.6-sq-km spiny forest full of baobab trees and some birds. There are two circuits, one of 45 minutes to an hour and the other of 1½ to two hours. The Arboretum in Tuléar is better, but this one's still worth supporting and worth a visit. There's also an on-site lemur rescue centre, with some in cages, others in semiwild enclosures in readiness for their release into the wild.

  • Sights in Réserve Spéciale Beza-Mahafaly

    Réserve Spéciale Beza-Mahafaly

    Southwest of the RN7 from Andranovory, the Réserve Spéciale Beza-Mahafaly is better known as a scientific venture rather than a tourist destination, but travellers are welcome to explore its six hiking circuits (750m to 12km). The spiny and riverine forest here harbours four species of lemur (ring-tailed, white-footed and mouse lemur, as well as Verreaux's sifaka), four species of tenrec (including the large-eared tenrec), fossa, radiated tortoise and more than 100 bird species.

  • Sights in Northern Reef

    Mangrove Information Center

    On the west side of the road, 12km north of Tuléar, a sign directs you to the Mangrove Information Center a 2-sq-km wetland complex created by Honko, a Belgian NGO. The main attraction is a 1.5km wooden boardwalk. It’s a nice place to stretch your legs on the way north, with a trail through the mangroves, educational placards and a lovely tower overlooking a river. Guided tours of between 2km and 4km, and one to three hours in duration, are excellent.

  • Sights in Fort Dauphin (Taolagnaro)

    Libanona Beach

    What luck for locals to have this fine beach right in the city! It's known for its surfing, both board and wind. Don't leave your belongings unattended on the sand or they may just disappear. And don't even think about wandering around here at night. But do come during the daytime for one of southern Madagascar's best beaches.

  • Sights in Ifaty & Mangily

    Village des Tortues

    Near Reniala Nature Reserve, this 70,000-sq-metre park protects over 1000 radiated and spider tortoises. A guided tour of the grounds (in English) tells you the full story of these endangered animals and how they are being conserved. It takes less than an hour, so it's a worthy break from the beach.

  • Sights in Parc National Isalo

    Canyon des Makis

    Canyon des Makis is an important hiking area north of town, with some lemurs in residence. It's a 17km drive from Ranohira and an easy 2km hike, taking around 2½ hours. If you need a vehicle, count on paying Ar100,000 for the return journey, including waiting time.

  • Sights in Parc National Isalo

    Canyon des Rats

    Around 17km north of town, Canyon des Rats is a traditional burial area with some lemurs in residence. Often combined on a hiking expedition with Canyon des Makis.

  • Sights in Fort Dauphin (Taolagnaro)

    Fort Flacourt

    This fort is used as a military base and the soldiers at the entrance endlessly discuss whether or not to let you in, how much to charge and who should get the money. If they let you in, they'll insist on a guide. There’s not much to see except for a few cannons, a small museum with some antique maps and some fine views, so consider these negotiations a highlight of your visit. The end-of-peninsula location is the other highlight.

  • Sights in Tuléar (Toliara)

    La Table

    This table mountain is unmissable as you approach Tuléar down the RN7, about 10km from town. There’s a relatively easy trail to the top, which takes about 20 minutes to climb, and is a great place to watch the sunset. Go early or late in summer. For Ar40,000 you can hire a taxi in town to take you here and the nearby arboretum.

  • Sights in Parc National Isalo

    Maison de l’Isalo

    The buttons don't work at this once-interactive little museum, but it's still a good introduction to the history, culture and geology of the park. If you're staying in town, combine it with a trip to La Fenêtre, or pause on your journey to/from Tuléar.