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.
Geography and climate
Located 500km (300 miles) off the coast of Mozambique in the Indian Ocean, Madagascar is the world’s fourth-largest island. Accompanied by several much smaller sibling isles, it is characterised by a central chain of high mountains, the Hauts Plateaux. This spiny ridge dominates the main island’s terrain and is a dividing line that marks the divide between Madagascar’s east and west sides in ethnicity, climate, and scenery. On the east coast, a skinny strip of lowlands, settled from the sixth century by Polynesian seafarers, is largely covered by dense rainforests. The broader west coast landscape, once clad in dry deciduous forests, is now mostly grasslands. On both coasts the climate is wetter towards the north although the east coast receives the monsoon. Semi-desert and forests of cactus-like scrub characterises the island’s southern tip while much of Madagascar’s flora and fauna is unique to the island. It is famous for its lemurs and bird life. Busy capital city, Antananarivo, is situated high up in the Hauts Plateaux and almost denotes the island’s geographical centre.
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 8 º C (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.
Variations in the Madagascar climate mean it pays to do some research before you plan a trip. Monsoons bring storms and cyclones to the east and north from December to March. The rainy season is November to March, and the dry season is April to October. The mountains, including Antananarivo, are warm and thundery from November to April and dry, cool and windy the rest of the year.
To cope with the Madagascar 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.