Madagascar Liveaboard Diving
Madagascar is just opening for Liveaboard cruises, and the amazing Nosy B area offers some untouched reefs with passing whale sharks and migrating Humpback whales in the season.
For many people, Madagascar is synonymous with well-established ecotourism, incredible landscapes and fascinating endemic creatures. The unique baobab trees, the otherworldly Tsingy stone forest and the famous lemurs are what Madagascar is most well known for. But this African nation, the fourth largest island in the world, is also home to the third largest coral reef system in the world, located off the southwest coast of the country.
Along with many endemic species, there are many whales and dolphins to be seen in the waters around Madagascar. Humpback whales migrate through these the surrounding waters for four months each year and calve. Over 50 shark species can be found here, including both hammerheads and whale sharks. The coral reefs are untouched by mass tourism and have over 300 different species of corals.
Liveaboards are now enabling divers to reach remote and spectacular dive sites. Madagascar will soon be on the diving must-visit list. With pristine waters and the opportunity to dive with whale sharks, manta rays and hammerheads, this will surely become a favourite dive destination.
Take a look at the Liveaboard Cruise options below.
Madagascar Liveaboard Diving - 5 LIVEABOARDS
Sesame Liveaboard in Madagascar is a 15.6m Trimaran offering superb stability while cruising around Madagascar. She can accommodate six guests in three cabins with three bathrooms on board. There is space to relax inside or outside with comfortable seating and tables, plus a sun lounging area and kitchen. She has a zodiac for beach visits, and kayaks and snorkelling equipment for use during cruises. She is predominantly a sailing vessel with snorkelling and island trips. Divers could be accommodated with prior notice by request.Book Now
Maki Liveaboard in Madagascar is a 14m fully renovated wooden motor Catamaran cruising the Nosy Be area since 2013. She has four cabins which are either double or twin, and two of these have en suite bathrooms. The front deck has a shaded area and plenty of space to relax and enjoy the views. The crew are friendly and helpful, and one of the reasons there are many return guests the chef prepares delicious meals during the cruise.Book Now
Cattitude Liveaboard in Madagascar is a 14.5m Catamaran constructed in 2016. She has a motor to ensure a fast transfer between the dive sites and islands. There is accommodation for six guests on board in 2 double bed cabins and two single cabins each with an ensuite bathroom. There is a sundeck, indoor saloon and meals are freshly prepared by the chef onboard. Cruises are not strictly scheduled but can be optioned to suit guests needs.Book Now
The volcanic island of Nosy Be is the largest in the archipelago off the northwest coast of Madagascar and is known as a top dive destination for divers wanting a unique experience. The sites offer colourful reefs with a high volume of marine life. Larger pelagic request the water but divers can also find good macro life in addition to this.
Nosy Tanikely is a small marine reserve island to the south with fabulous snorkelling. To the west is Nosy Iranja a breeding ground for hawksbill turtles.
There are also seasonal itineraries to the Radames and Mitsio islands south and north of the island. The islands are similar; Mitsio is rockier where Radomes has many beaches. They are excellent places for spotting large pelagics with mantas and sharks around. Nosy Be is more famous for the whale sharks and humpback whales.
Madagascar is a relatively remote and quiet destination with as yet undiscovered reefs, an ideal destination.
Best Places to Dive in Madagascar
In Madagascar, the best diving is considered to be around the Nosy Be island and surrounding islets of the west coast. This is the most developed area for tourism and the best place sightings of the whale sharks. There are also locations called Manta Point and Shark Point for obvious reasons and a small cluster of shipwrecks.
The humpback whales migration route includes Nosy Be and often after the mating is completed the calves can beset with their mothers in the surrounding waters.
The outlying islands are very different to Nosy Be and can be reached by liveaboards. The tiny islets are great for swimming with sharks and turtles.
The Radames Archipelago is a hard coral reef that is relatively untouched where manta ray sightings are commonplace due to the cleaning stations.
The Mitsio Archipelago only has one inhabited island and is famous for the topography with interesting rock formations in the turquoise waters. The volcanic formations form steep walls, tunnels and reefs with huge shoals of fish, sharks and manta rays.
Best Dive Sites in Madagascar
A marine reserve with colourful shallow reef down and excellent visibility for all divers and snorkelers. A huge diversity of Indian Ocean fish can be found here along with many hawksbill turtles. Stingrays, barracuda, tuna, morays, lionfish, groupers, frogfish and so much more can be found here. Hard and soft corals along with barrel sponges, tube sponges and gorgonian sea fans make up the reef.
The Four Brothers
The fantastic dive site had four rock domes constructed of basalt that reach 90m. In the Mitsio Islands, there are many overhangs caves and stunning rock formations on the surface that are home to birdlife. Underwater the cliffs continue down to the seabed. Stingrays, lobsters, crocodile and unicorn fish are found around the structure.
Wrecks of Zaida & Mitsio
There are a set of Malagasy fishing vessels and a post-war cargo ship that were scuttled in 2006 to create artificial reefs that sit at 27m of depth. They are now the focus of large schools of fish with snappers, sardines and barracuda flocking around them. On the wrecks are lionfish, moray eels, lizard fish and groupers. Batfish hang around the vessels which now have a soft coral coverage.
This is a reef and drop-off dive site that is renowned for the manta ray sightings from October to April each year. The cleaning station also attracts devil rays and the occasional whale shark too.
Other marine life includes groupers, snappers, crocodile fish and Napoleon wrasse. There are many juvenile species also found here and swarms of glassfish around the barrel sponges and coral reef.
Madagascar Scuba Diving Highlights
- Common sightings - Barracuda, grey reef sharks, leopard sharks, turtles
- Special sightings - Whale sharks, humpback whales, manta rays
- Topography - Reefs, caves, walls, wrecks
- Visibility - Can vary between 5 and 30m
- General information - Divers are recommended to have an advanced certification with 30 logged dives
- Onboard options - Island visits to see terrestrial wildlife
Best Time to Go
Madagascar is a destination with changing seasons.
May to December are a popular time to visit. October to December is when whale sharks are present in the Nosy Be area. During July to October, there are migrating humpback whales coming to mate and give birth. Manta ray peak time is May to August.
The rainy season is December to April, with cyclones January to March this time should be avoided.
Water temperature is around 28 C, but this cools to 25 C July to September, so a 3mm shorty for most of the year is sufficient, but a long 5mm may be required in those months.
How to Get There
Direct flights to the capital of Madagascar, Antananarivo, are available from several European cities plus Istanbul and some African countries. The liveaboards depart from the Nosy Be area which can be reached by a domestic flight.
Local time vs GMT
What to pack
Food and drink
Malagasy Ariary (MGA)
A visa is required for all nationalities
Malagasy and French
Antananarivo (TNR), Nosy Be (NOS)
Traditional beliefs and Christian
Beach apparel, light jacket, sunscreen, hat, insect repellent,
20 - 27 C daytime, 10 - 17 C evenings
Rice, beef, pork, beans, vegetables with French, Indian, African and Arab influences