Not only is Madagascar rich in biodiversity, it is also rich in cultural diversity.
Who are the Malagasy people?
This island of around 20 million people forms a single nation, but there are 18 different “ethnic” groups that are named after which part of the island they live in, and are different in the way they treat their dead, in their clothes, traditional music, and in many other details of their way of life.
A really different culture
All Malagasy people speak Malagasy, but there are at least 18 regional variations that almost sound like different languages. In some places, families dig their ancestors’ corpses from their tomb to dance with them for a while, then rewrap them and inter them again. Many people still live like 100 (or even 1000!) years ago, with no electricity or running water. With a cultural tour, we hope to help you discover and understand a country that is very different from where you live… poor in material things but rich in others.
What is a cultural tour in Madagascar?
The country's diversity and still not much known history makes the discovery a cultural tour on itself. You may be visiting a cave in the Tsingy in the North of Madagascar, but in fact, you will find out that caves are the old burial places of the people of the North. Or you may be driving on a National Road to some wildlife or beach destination, but on the road you meet a procession of people going to a traditional zebu wrestling - which is actually a popular sport.
Few visitors opt for a purely cultural tour, but rather for a mix of wildlife, culture, and relaxation. However, for visitors keen to experience a culture of this diverse island, the following are classic visits that can be integrated in your tour.
Classic cultural tour visits
Antananarivo, or “Tana” for short, offers some of the best historical sites of Madagascar. The best places are the Rova of Analamanga with the Queen’s Palace and the former Prime Minister’s palace; the World Heritage Site Rova Ambohimanga and other sacred hills; a small archeological museum in the center of Tana and another one at Tsimbazaza Zoo.
The Antsirabe and Ambositra area is well known for still practicing the Famadihana ceremony, the “turning of the bones” or “returning of the dead” ceremony. Ambositra also has this amazing wood carving culture and visits in the Zafimaniry villages who are specialist are possible.
Other interesting cultural sites include the train linking Manakara and Fianarantsoa, the Ankarana caves in the North where the Antakarana people used to bury their dead. Every year, there is a music Festival on Nosy Be that includes traditional Antakarana and Sakalava processions. Belo sur Mer in the South West still has families that built shooners all out of wood. These beautiful boats will be sitting on the beach while you walk to discover the village.
Each day, it is possible to learn a new thing on the place you go.