The best time to visit Madagascar depends on where you want to go and what you want to see. The southeastern trade winds of the Indian Ocean dominate the island’s climate and it has a distinct seasonal cycle. The austral winter (April to October) is generally dry and warm, with higher temperatures at sea level and further north or along the west coast. This season is ideal for sightseeing because it is pleasant but cooler than summer, though many animals are less active and some species hibernate.
For whale-watching, however, the best time to visit Madagascar would be between the months of June and September, when humpback whales migrate north along the east coast. In the months of November and March, a hot, rainy summer brings torrential rains and fierce cyclones to the eastern slopes and highlands. November is typically considered as the ideal month to visit Madagascar for wildlife viewing because it is the beginning of the summer, when showers are mild and infrequent.
Climate in Madagascar
Latitude-wise, Madagascar is in the tropics from 12° to 25° south and slightly beyond the Tropic of Capricorn at its southernmost point. Latitude-wise, Mexico and Queensland are both in the tropics.
The island’s seasonal cycle is dictated by the southeastern winds of the Indian Ocean. As a result of a hot, wet season from November through March, the eastern slopes and highlands can get up to 4m of rain in a few months, which is nearly four times the UK’s average annual rainfall. Seasonal cyclones attack the east coast and wreak havoc on the interior. They destroy bridges, wipe away roads and riverbanks, and make travel impossible.
However, the west and southwest regions of the island are experiencing relatively lighter precipitation. However, they do not always accomplish much more than sprinkle water on parched ground in the semi-desert of the far southwest. A dry, cool season lasts the rest of the year in Madagascar, lasting generally from April to October.
When planning a trip to Madagascar, it’s important to consider the country’s several climate zones. In the highlands, for example, it can rain at any time of year, and the nights can be very cold. In order to keep warm, wear layers of clothing whether going on a hike or a climb. Many months are wet in the northeast, with Masoala and Baie d’Antongil acting as a greenhouse for most of the year.
When is the best time to go to Madagascar in the year?
Madagascar’s best months to visit are generally April through October, according to most experts. Naturalists refer to this dry, chilly season as the austral winter. These days are often sunny and moderate to hot, with mild nights. On the west coast, temperatures are maximum at sea level, as well as in the north and north-west. A fleece and an additional blanket at night will come in handy if you live in Fort Dauphin in July.
When to visit Madagascar in winter
There are a few dry days in Madagascar’s summer, but don’t expect it to last long. When the eastern slopes and highlands are hit with up to 4m of rain, many roads close and paths become impassable as a result. Cyclone season is in full swing, with storms pounding the island’s east coast daily. Severe rain and bursting riverbanks can make travel difficult during these months. Toward the west, the rains aren’t quite as heavy, and in parched regions such as the southwestern semi-desert, not a drop falls.
Visiting Madagascar in December — February
Madagascar is hot from December to February, with average monthly temperatures hovering between 20 and 30 degrees Celsius in several parts of the country. In addition, the east coast has been devastated by cyclones. The semi-desert, which is generally arid, is at its lushest during this time of year.
Party animals might want to visit Madagascar over New Year, when the occasion is normally marked with a three-day extravaganza of ceremonies, song and dance, though don’t expect many offices to be open.
When to visit Madagascar in spring
The rain showers start to ease off in March, as summer draws to a close. April to May fall within Madagascar’s austral winter: a season of dry, pleasant days and mild though sometimes chilly nights. Many people consider this to be the best time of the year to visit Madagascar.
Visiting Madagascar in March — May
Generally speaking, April and May are bright and dry, with nice temperatures that are yet mild enough to enjoy hiking and sightseeing excursions. Madagascar’s west coast and north tend to be the hottest, with temperatures lowering as you move south.
However, April also sees leaves start to fall from the trees, animals shift down a few gears and some species hibernate for winter. If your main interest in natural history then April and May might not be the best time to visit Madagascar.
However, May is a good month for festivals: Zegny Zo is a lively festival of culture and arts in Diego Suarez, while Donia hosts a week-long programme of traditional music and dance shows across Nosy Be.
When to visit Madagascar in summer
This is the best time to visit Madagascar if you want dry, pleasant days. It is also optimum whale-watching season, though the downside is the wildlife back on land is sleepier.
Visiting Madagascar in June — August
June to August are great months to visit Madagascar. Though this cooler season is what naturalists call the austral winter, the weather remains clement. Temperatures are highest at sea level and also in the north and on the west coast. Nights can be a little chillier, particularly if you’re heading south.
From June through September, the central highlands celebrate Famadihana with hundreds of two-day family exhumation and reburial ceremonies. Expect lots of feasts, music and dancing, but take a jumper to ward off the chill.
A journey to Madagascar in winter, when trees are bare and many animals hibernate, is not recommended for anyone interested in wildlife. Saying that, whale watchers can enjoy a continuous regatta of humpbacks up the east coast (and to a lesser degree the west) during their northerly journey past the island from June to September.
August is a great time to go snorkelling and diving, when the waters are clear and the visibility is at its optimum. This month also sees Festivanille Satrahagna Sambava kick off with a vanilla-flavoured series of weekend festivals in the Sava region (Vohémar, Andapa, Antalaha and Sambava). Celebrations include sporting contests, music and dance.
When to visit Madagascar in fall
Scuba diving and snorkeling are best enjoyed during Madagascar’s rainy season, when river sediment has had time to scatter and settle. But it’s not so great for nature lovers; you’ll witness less wildlife and the trees will lose their color. However, this is prime whale-watching season and a terrific opportunity to witness humpback whales in their natural environment….
Visiting Madagascar in September — November
In September and October, the austral winter is drawing to a conclusion, and these are still wonderful months to travel to Madagascar. Most of the time it is sunny and pleasant but not too hot. Be sure to pack a few extra garments if you’re visiting southern Madagascar because the temperature drops significantly as you go southward from the northern tip of the island. Madagascar’s west coast is at its warmest during this time of year.
There are a lot of tour companies that provide scuba and snorkeling excursions in September/October when the water conditions are ideal. If you’re lucky, you’ll see the last humpback whales migrate through the island in September (your best chances are on the east coast). The Madajazzcar Antananarivo, an annual international jazz festival held every October, is a must-see for music aficionados.
Masoala is best visited in October or November. It still rains a lot, but the dry spells are much longer and the sea is calmer during this time of year.
November is the best month to visit Madagascar if you want to view the island’s unique creatures. During the first rains, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and the magnificent fossa all engage in courtship, mating, and spawning.