This small port on Madagascar's east coast makes up for its diminutive size with a gigantic reputation in the world of nature and biodiversity. Perched on broad Antongil Bay, the town is a jumping-off point for visits to the Masoala National Park and other nature preserves inhabited by lemurs, carnivorous plants, and other strange wildlife.
What We Love
Chameleons: Easy to spot and photograph, especially in the wetlands around the mouth of the Antainambalana River, these slow-motion creatures really do change colors. And look out for those long tongues!
Betsabetsa: Rum made from sugar cane juice is produced and sold locally in Maroantsetra and exported under brand names like Dzama Cuvée Noire Prestige.
Best Known For
Masoala National Park: Madagascar's largest nature reserve sprawls across the Masoala peninsula on the east side of Antongil Bay. The rich rainforest provides a refuge for six different lemur species, the rare serpent eagle, and the spectacular sunset moth, while offshore portions shelter coral reefs and migrating humpback whales.
Nosy Mangabe Special Reserve: This rocky, forest-covered island in the middle of Antongil Bay is "special" because it’s one of the few places on the planet where you can see the elusive aye-aye, the world's largest nocturnal primate and a truly weird looking creature.
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Who It's Best For
Wildlife Freaks: Madagascar is world renowned for its rare and endangered species, and the parks near Maroantsetra safeguard some of the rarest.
People Who Want to Visit "The End of the Earth": Because that's the overwhelming vibe in Maroantsetra and environs: far off the grid and largely undiscovered.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Don't Expect Le Cordon Bleu Cuisine: The locals might speak French (Madagascar was once a French protectorate), but that doesn't mean the restaurants serve gourmet food. Maroantsetra is painfully lacking in even halfway decent eateries.
It's Hard to Get Around: Boats are the only way to reach the national parks, explore the wetlands areas, or reach the best beaches.
Joe Yogerst is a California-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Travel + Leisure.