If you decide to travel to Madagascar, you should add Morondava to your Madagascar itinerary. Morondava is a sunny laid-back town on the coast of West Madagascar with a beautiful beach, waving palm trees, cosy wooden clapboard houses, small shops and restaurants and lots of bike rickshaws to take you around and experience all the things to do in Morondava, but most important it is the gateway to the famous Madagascar Baobab Avenue.
Most accommodations, bars and restaurants can be found on Nosy Kely, a peninsula of Morondava. Here you will also find the tropical white sandy beaches of Morondava; a perfect place to relax after an adventurous Madagascar trip. Apart from that, Morondava is a famous tourist destination in Madagascar because of the famous Avenue of the Baobabs (Allée des Baobabs. It’s also an ideal base for excursions to Tsingy de Bemahara or Kirindy Forest and a great starting point to travel along the National Highway 7 or for an adventurous West Madagascar road trip along the coast to Tulear.
If you are planning a trip to Madagascar then make sure to add Morondava to your itinerary, surely one of the best places to visit in Madagascar. For a complete 2-week Madagascar itinerary including all the best places to visit click on the link.
Award winning travel photographer Kim Paffen traveled to Madagascar. For Traveltomtom she already wrote a complete travel guide full of North Madagascar tips + itinerary, the best things to do in Nosy Be and other Africa travel blogs like a Uganda Travel Guide and Mountain Gorilla trekking in Uganda. In this Morondava travel blog she will share the 7 best things to do in Morondava along with some Madagascar travel tips on where to stay in Morondava and how to travel to Morondava.
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1. Avenue of the Baobabs Madagascar
Of course the number 1 thing to do in Morondava is to visit the Avenue of the Baobabs in Madagascar. Unmistakably the number one reason to travel to Morondava. Click here for a a complete guide about everything you need to know when visiting the Madagascar Baobabs.
In this complete guide about the avenue of the Baobabs in Morondava I will tell you everything about best time to go, where to take pictures, sunrise, stargazing, sunset and more Madagascar Baobab tips.
2. Visit the twisted Baobabs in Love
Not far from Avenue of the Baobabs (about 7km) you will find two special baobabs that are ‘in love’. The Baobabs in Love, also known as ‘Baobab de Amoureux’, have become twisted to each other as they grew, like two lovers. Taking a picture in front of the Baobabs in Love is one of the most romantic things to do in Morondova.
The ‘Adansonia za’ is endemic to Madagascar and one of the most common Baobabs in Madagascar. On your way from Morondava to Baobab de Amoureux and back you will see many of these baobab species. However, the ‘Baobabs in Love’ are unique in this species.
Apart from the iconic Avenue of the Baobab there are several other spots along the way that are worth stopping the car to take a photo and enjoy the views.
3. Experience Betania (Vezo) fishing village by pirogue
Get in a local ‘pirogue’ (a dugout canoe) to explore Canal Hellot. You will enjoy the mangroves with different species of fish migratory birds and hardworking locals along the water repairing their pirogues or transporting their catches of the day. Definitely one of my Morondava travel tips to write down.
In Madagascar mangroves are primarily found along the Western coast. Locals use the trees for food, fuel, building materials and they even burn them to make lime clay. The mangroves in Madagascar are included in the World Wildlife Fund’s Global 200 list of most outstanding Eco regions and therefore only already a place you can’t miss when you travel to Morondava.
After crossing the coastal lagoon you will finish in Betania, a remote but lively and colourful Malagasy fisherman village.
I found it very interesting to see and learn about the ‘Vezo’ culture. In Malagasy language ‘Vezo’ literally means ‘the people who fish’, but the real definition is ‘to live with the sea’.
Vezo people are well known for their sea nomadic lifestyle and live in the coastal villages of southwest Madagascar.
Their daily activities have everything to do with fishing and selling their fish. I could sit on the white sandy beach for hours watching this lively scene and interact with the locals.
A valuable Madagascar travel tip is to bring some sweets for the children! When they see a ‘vazaha’ (a white person) they ask for sweets; their smiles will be priceless.
Madagascar is not only about wildlife and pristine beaches. The people of this country will make your trip to Madagascar an even more memorable one. When visiting Morondava I highly recommend you to visit this village, a great cultural thing to do in Morondava.
4. Spot endemic wildlife in Kirindy Forest Reserve
Kirindy (also known as Swiss Forest) is a privately managed and critically endangered dry forest reserve that has one of the highest densities of primates in the world. ‘Kirindy’ literally means ‘a dense forest with wild animals’. It’s the best Western Reserve for spotting Madagascar’s endemic dry forest species in terms of plants, animals and birds. It’s also the best place to spot the Fossa, Madagascar’s largest cat-like land carnivore that looks like a giant mongoose and is able to jump into trees.
Multiple reasons to add the Kirindy Forest Reserve to your list of things to do in Morondava!
Kirindy Reserve also hosts a range of other rare animal species including the Labord's chameleon, the endangered Malagasy giant jumping rat that hops like a kangaroo, the narrow-striped mongoose and 8 different lemur species.
Kirindy Forest Reserve lies about 50 km north of Morondava. It takes around two hours to get there by car. Due to heavy rains in the rainy season, this place isn’t always accessible from January till March. Most tourists visit Kirindy for only one night and plan a morning- and evening walk. For many tourists the nocturnal walk is the highlight of a visit to Kirindy, since night walks are allowed inside this private reserve. Since in most other national parks of Madagascar it’s not allowed to do night walks inside the park, visiting Kirindy Forest Reserve close to Morondava is listed as one of the best things to do in Madagascar.
The best way to experience Kirindy and my secret Morondava travel tip is to stay inside the reserve in the very basic Kirindy Forest Lodge. Because this lodge was fully booked we stayed in Relais du Kirindy, outside the Kirindy reserve. It’s a better lodge, but it will not give you the experience of staying inside the reserve in the middle of nature.
We did a (very) short evening walk and a morning hike to explore this interesting forest. Although Kirindy is a dry forest, our evening walk turned out to be a wet one. Since we had heavy rains on that particular night, we saw less nocturnal wildlife as usual and it was raining too hard to photograph the Kirindy wildlife high up in the trees.
Nevertheless I was blessed our knowledgeable guide spotted different mouse lemurs, the smallest primates in the world; another 2 species of lemurs to add to my spotted primates list. Taking photos of the unique wildlife was one of the reasons to travel to Madagascar.
The early morning walks in Kirindy Forest are especially productive for spotting the Fossa. It happens to be one of the most difficult animals to spot, but we were lucky to see this cat-like predator! You have a fair chance to see a Fossa if you travel to Kirindy Reserve, because there are a few Fossa’s that visit the only camp in the reserve quite often and hang around the chicken stalls. Therefore they are pretty habituated to human presence.
Apart from the Fossa we also spotted different lemurs during our morning walk, like the red-fronted brown lemur, the red-tailed sportive lemur and the Verreaux’s Sifaka also known as the white Sifaka. It’s great to watch them jump around from tree to tree, foraging for food or relaxing high up in the trees. Spotting all this wildlife in the Kirindy Forest Reserve definitely os one of the best things to do in Morondava and made me really happy.
It’s amazing to see how comfortable they hang on the branches of the trees.
Kirindy forest also boasts more than 60 bird species! We had a few bird-sightings of for example the Malagasy Paradise flycatcher and the Madagascan magpie-robin.
About 500 meters from Kirindy you will find the village of Beroboka Sud Bemanonga. Make a short stop in this village to visit the sacred black baobab and the local market. This huge baobab is fenced, and you are expected to take off your shoes when you enter the area of the sacred baobab tree.
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5. Explore the Limestone Pinnacles of Tsingy de Bemaraha
From Kirindy Forest Reserve it’s possible to continue to Bekopaka to visit the national park of Tsingy de Bemaraha. It’s Madagascar’s largest reserve and classified as on one of the UNESCO world wonders, another reason to travel to Morondava. It takes some effort to get there because you first need to pass through the forest of Kirindy and cross the Tsiribihina River (ferry crossing). In total this will take you around 6 to 8 hours on a dirt and rough road. We didn’t visit Tsingy de Bemaraha because we’d already visited the Tsingy in Ankarana Special Reserve, which you can read in my Northern Madagascar travel blog.
We had to make some choices but if you have enough time I definitely recommend visiting Tsingy de Bemaraha and stay for 2 full days. These limestone pinnacles are very impressive and you will return with some epic photos of the hanging bridge at the great Tsingy and some sightings of different lemur species, including the all-white Deckens sifaka or the rare stump-tailed chameleon (Brookesia Perarmata).
On your way to Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park you will also find a great spot covered by baobabs, the ‘Baobab forest’. When you pass that area, you will notice how organized they are planted due to the symmetric distance between the baobab trees. Take a break to appreciate the breath-taking view.
A trip to Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park is a great reason to visit Morondava, because it’s the ideal starting point for visiting one of the most beautiful national parks of Madagascar. The Tsingy is located about 200km north of Morondava. Keep in mind that you need two full days of traveling to and from the Tsingy. If you travel to Madagascar this is something to keep in mind, because traveling around takes time, a lot of time!
6. Enjoy relaxing time Morondava Beach
Morondava – and more specific Nosy Kely – is the perfect place to built-in a few days of relaxing time on the white sandy beach or to hire a canoe or SUP-board to enjoy the blue waters along the coast. Morondava beach is a very lively meeting place for locals.
You can find local fishermen carrying fish in their pirogue, women selling scarfs or watch children play different kinds of sports. It’s also a beautiful spot to watch the sunset.
If you are done chilling at the beach, you can also hire a bike rickshaw to take you along ‘Rue De L’independence’ to Centre-Ville or go by foot to enjoy your lunch or dinner in one of the restaurants. If you visit Morondava you will see it is a very laid-back town, so just go with that flow and relax!
7. Madagascar road trip along National Highway 7
Morondava is a great starting point (or ending point) to explore the highlights of the National Highway 7 (RN7) or for an adventurous West Madagascar (sandy) road trip along the coast to (or from) Tulear.
It all depends on what you want to see and how many days you have to visit Madagascar. We started with a road trip in North Madagascar, flew to Morondava and started our second road trip from West to South Madagascar along most of the RN7 highlights. On our Madagascar road trip we visited for example Antsirabe, Ambositra, Ranomafana, Fianarantsoa (Lake Sahambavy), Anja Reserve, Zombitse National Park and Isalo National Park.
We ended our Madagascar road trip in Tulear at the South Western coast of Madagascar, from where we flew back to Antananarivo, the capital city of Madagascar.
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How to travel to Morondava?
There are several ways to get to Morondava. The best way to travel to Morondava depends on your Madagascar itinerary. We started our 3,5 week Madagascar trip in North Madagascar and booked a domestic flight with Madagascar’s local airliner Tsaradia, from Diego-Suarez via Antananarivo to Morondava. Since flying within the country can be a huge time saver, we decided to book several domestic flights in Madagascar.
Most of the domestic flights are connected with Antananarivo, Madagascar’s capital. For most tourists Antananarivo is the starting point of their Madagascar road trip. By car it will take you 9-12 hours to get from Tana to Morondava; including stops about 2 days. The domestic flight will take you to Morondava Aiport in 1 hour. It’s very easy to get from the airport in Morondava to Nosy Kely. Compared to North Madagascar the roads are paved and in quite good condition.
Where to stay in Morondava?
I highly recommend Chez Maggie when you travel to Morondava. During my visit in Western Madagascar I stayed at Chez Maggie for 2 nights and 1 night in Relais du Kirindy near Kirindy Forest.
Chez Maggie is a small and cosy property in a comfortable garden setting, located directly on the beach in Nosy Kely. You can even watch the sunset at Morondava Beach from their lounge sets in the back of their garden.
From the garden you can also access the white sandy beach.
Chez Maggie offers 12 original rooms in 8 different types, which vary in size and budget. They have for example two beautiful private round chalets and a room that looks like a boathouse! To get the best rooms - the two chalets on the property - it’s strongly advised to book in advance. But even the more basic rooms are a nice place to stay in Morondova.
Chez Maggie is very charming and offers everything you need. They have a pool area with sun loungers, access to the lively beach, air-conditioned rooms with mosquito nets and they serve delicious food at their own ‘Le Masoandro’ bar & restaurant. You can enjoy freshly prepared seafood or Zebu steak with a glass of wine or a cocktail, under the straw roof of the restaurant with views of their nicely decorated garden.
Gary, the owner of this place, is very friendly and has a lot of knowledge of traveling in Madagascar. He made sure we had everything we needed.
Remote River Expeditions
Apart from running Chez Maggie with his Malagasy wife Baholy, Gary is also the owner of Remote River Expeditions, the company who operated our Madagascar itinerary from West to South Madagascar along the highlights of the RN7 and of course our trip and excursions in and around Morondava. If you are planning a trip to West Madagascar, I highly recommend staying at Chez Maggie.
Planning your trip to Morondava
Chez Maggie and Remote River Expeditions can also arrange several excursions or trips to Kirindy Forest Reserve and Tsingy de Bemahara. They can arrange your complete trip from a 4WD with guide to park visits including knowledgeable guides and hotel stays. If you’re looking for a Western Madagascar or Morondava tour package I would recommend getting in touch with Remote River Expeditions. They will make sure you will not miss the best things to do in Morondava and Western Madagascar.
In case this Madagascar travel blog with Morondava travel tips was helpful for planning your trip to Morondava please help me in return by sharing the link of this article on Internet. Every share on Facebook, tweet on Twitter or pin on Pinterest is much appreciated.
For more info and everything you need to know about the Avenue of the Baobabs in Madagascar, click here. Also don’t forget to check out my North Madagascar travel tips with tips and itineraries or when you visit Nosy Be click on the link for the best things to do. The Ultimate Madagascar Travel Blog can be found in this link, including a 2-week itinerary along the most beautiful places to visit in Madagascar.
In case you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to Kim on her Instagram account @ourplanetinmylens.