Madagascar is not a typical children’s travel destination, but if you have adventurous school-aged children (we don’t recommend taking kids under nine years old) it can be a fun, family friendly destination. From the weird and wild scenery and animals, to the beautiful beach resorts that have long been popular with vacationing families from France, here are 15 ideas of what to do in Madagascar with the family.
1. Look for lemurs in Isalo National Park
One of Madagascar’s most popular parks for good reason, Islao National Park is home to wild scenery and ringtail, brown and sifaka lemurs. Take a private guided trek that is as long or short as you wish.
2. Beach time in Nosy Be
Nosy Be, an island off the northern tip of Madagascar, has long been a favorite vacation location with French families. There are a number of resorts and smaller guesthouses. It is the most family friendly spot in Madagascar.
3. Hike the Petit Tsingy
Tsingy are cool rock formations and you can check out the Petit Tsingy with kids — unlike the larger Grand Tsingy, the trail to see these rocks is not as difficult and can be tackled by older children. Watch for lemurs on the way.
4. Andasibe-Mantadia National Park
This is a great park to bring the kids as it has a visitors center geared towards helping kids learn about conservation. It’s also home to the indri, which is a lemur species found only in this park.
5. Ranomafana National Parks
You can look out for Madagascar’s cool wildlife (like the chameleon pictured here) on a short guided trek in this park that is also known for its rainforest. Stop off at the visitors center to see a child friendly exhibit on Madagascar’s biodiversity.
6. Get an adrenaline buzz in Diego Suarez
Head up north to the town of Diego Suarez if you’re traveling with teenagers as there are plenty of adventure activities to be had up here — from guided ATV tours, to mountain biking, to kite surfing.
7. Snorkel the Emerald Sea
If you’re already in the Diego area, you can also do a snorkeling trip in the Emerald Sea, which lives up to its name. The snorkeling here is easy entry — you can wade in to see the fish and still be anchored by a sandbar, making it safe for kids.
8. Camp on the beach
Another family friendly activity in northern Madagascar is a camping trip to Nosa Hara, the country’s newest national park. You’ll get to sleep on the beach and go kayaking and rock climbing.
9. See the capital
Everyone passes through the capital of Antananarivo, where the only international airport is, so take a few days and explore (you probably have to go there anyway!)
10. Stroll Baobab Alley
Madagascar’s most recognized site is Ave de Baobab outside Morondava on the west coast. The area can be accessed via airplane, and any child will remember this memorable walk through majestic trees.
11. See Lemur Island
Take the family to Lemur Island to see four kinds of lemur, which are endemic to Madagascar. On the island you’ll find bamboo lemur, black and white ruffed lemur, brown lemur and one sifaka.
12. Ile Saint Marie
On the East Coast, this island is another favorite beach location for French families on holiday. It’s definitely worth exploring.
13. Whale Watching
In June you can see humpback whales in the channel between Ile Ste Marie and the mainland of Madagascar. The channel is sheltered so it attracts mothers and calves.
14. Get on the water
In Eastern Madagascar, dugout canoes are the primary mode of transport in certain places, but doing a guided trip in one is an experience the kids won’t soon forget.
15. Sleep in the trees
Try staying in treehouse lodging (offered in various places around the country) to let your children play Robinson Crusoe in the clouds.
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This article was originally published on April 3, 2015.