Overview – Cap Sainte Marie SR

Philip Briggs
Expert
By Philip Briggs

Philip is a renowned Africa expert and author of many guidebooks to African destinations, including the Insight guide to Madagascar.

Philip is a renowned Africa expert and author of the Insight Guide to Madagascar.

Philip is the author of the Insight Guide to Madagascar.

Cap Sainte Marie Special Reserve (Réserve Spéciale du Cap Sainte-Marie) is located at the southernmost point of Madagascar. The windswept headland is covered in a unique dwarf variety of dry spiny forest and a lighthouse stands out in the stark surroundings. There are two circular hikes and a 5km drive between the two. All can comfortably be covered in a half-day visit. This is the best place in Madagascar to look out for eggshell fragments from the legendary elephant bird, which became extinct about 800 years ago.

Best Time to Go August to November (Whale migration)
High Season July, August and December (The reserve never gets busy)
Size 18km² / 7mi²

Pros & Cons

  • Most southern point of Madagascar
  • Unique coastal spiny forest
  • Thousands of tortoises
  • Easy hiking trails
  • Small reserve
  • Not much wildlife
  • No accommodation in the reserve

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Wildlife

The reserve is home to thousands of radiated tortoises. This critically endangered tortoise is commonly seen in Madagascar in captivity, but otherwise sightings are increasingly rare. Another tortoise to look out for is the much smaller spider tortoise. The dry environment doesn’t support a lot of wildlife, but the small but fascinating three-eyed lizard is just one of several reptiles that thrive here against all odds. Big numbers of humpback whales with their young pass the reserve between August and November.

Scenery

The reserve is marked by its rugged coastline. On top of the cliffs stands a lighthouse, surrounded by a stark, windswept terrain. The vegetation consists of a dwarf version of spiny forest, and much of the flora is unique to Cap Sainte Marie. Below the cliffs are several caves and long white beaches.

Weather & Climate

Cap Sainte Marie has a warm semi-arid climate. It doesn’t rain very often but most precipitation falls from December to February. The exposed coastal headland location makes for windy conditions. The average daytime temperature is 30°C/86°F, but the sea breeze makes the heat quite bearable. Nighttime is considerably cooler with temperatures around 18°C/64°F.

Best Time to Visit

Cap Sainte Marie can be visited at any time. The small reserve has a few well-maintained hiking trails and the dry terrain makes for easy hiking. August to November is a special time as this is when many humpback whales migrate along this stretch of coast.

Getting There

The reserve is very off-the-beaten-track, located a full day’s drive from Taolagnaro, the nearest town with substantial traveler activity and a domestic airport. The distance from Faux Cap is 50km/30mi, and the distance from the surfing beach Lavanono is 30km/20mi. The villages at Faux Cap and Lavanono have some accommodation options.

Health & Safety

Please read our vaccinations and malaria page for Madagascar, and our general wildlife viewing safety precautions page for more info:

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Cap Sainte Marie SR Safari Reviews

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Most Helpful Expert Review
Madagascar’s Land’s End
2/5

Here on Madagascar’s southernmost tip, you’ll feel like you’ve reached one of the most remote places on Earth. It’s a long, rough, two-day drive to get here from the nearest paved road, and the security situation can be a concern....