Madagascar Weather, climate and geography
The Madagascar climate is hot and sub-tropical, it is colder in the mountains, while the south and west regions are particularly dry. The stunning island is ringed by golden beaches and palm trees, and has a diverse interior with plateaus, volcanoes, forests and natural reserves.
The wet season in Madagascar is also the hottest time of the year, with temperatures hitting a daily average maximum of 28º C (82º F) in December with a daily low of 17º C (63º F). July is the coolest month with daily average temperatures ranging between a 21º C (70º F) and 9º C (48º F). The daily temperature range averages around 8ºC (46º F) year-round. Indian Ocean trade winds dictate the Madagascar climate, bringing with them variations in precipitation throughout the region. For example, on both coasts, the climate is wetter towards the north but the east coast is hit by the monsoon. This region is also the most prone to sudden and violent cyclones during the hot, rainy season (December to March). In 2004 nearly 200 people were killed by the strong Cyclone Gafilo, mainly around the northeast of the country, while a further five were reportedly killed 22 in 2011.
The western side of the island is sheltered by the central highland area, which is also home to Antananarivo. This region tends to have a cooler and windier climate from May to October, with thundery showers commonplace in the intervening months.
Madagascar’s highly diverse subtropical climate means it pays to do some research before you plan a trip. Rainy season runs from December to March. This is when the rainforested eastern and northern parts of the country are battered by tropical storms brought on by cyclone season, and temperatures tend to hover around 30ºC (86ºF). Despite being rainy season up north, during this period, the central parts will be a lot drier and cooler, with temperatures around 25ºC (77ºF). The southern and western coasts are the driest parts of the country.
Dry season runs from April to October but tourist numbers don't start to swell until early May. Peak months are July and August, due to the timing of school holidays in Europe and the USA. If visiting for wildlife, September to December is also a good time to visit, as many of the snakes and lizards populating the island come out of hibernation during this time. The mountains, including Antananarivo, are dry, cool and windy during this time of year, shifting to warm and thundery from November to April. Due to the extreme storms and occasional cyclones, travelling to Madagascar between January and March is ill-advised.
To cope with the Madagascan climate, lightweights should be worn during the summer on high central plateaux and throughout the year in the north and south. Cotton and natural fibres work better in this sweaty weather. Warmer clothes are advised for during the evenings and winter in mountainous areas. Rainwear is advisable as a precaution.