Baie d’Antongil and the channel separating Ile Sainte Marie from the mainland are considered among the best whale watching sites and breeding grounds in the region.
Each year between July and September, one of nature’s most fascinating migrations can be observed just south of Maroantsetra at Baie d’Antongil. Hundreds of humpback whales (Megaptera Novaeangliae) tummel in the coastline of Madagascar during their annual Indian Ocean migration, making their way from nutrient-rich Antarctic waters northward to the warmer waters around Baie d’Antongil. Here they spend the winter months looking for mates, breeding and birthing before returning to Antarctica. The whales swim past Fort Dauphin and Ile Sainte Marie en route to Baie d’Antongil, where they are often sighted.
It is estimated that close to 1000 whales visit Madagascar each season, with up to several hundred of these in Baie d’Antongil at any given time. Most hotels along Ile St Marie offer boat trips to see these magnificent giants in the ocean.
Humpbacks also pass Ifaty and other areas on the western coast of Madagascar when swimming up the Mozambique Channel. The best time to observe the humpbacks is between early July and mid-September. Migration times may vary from year to year. Sometimes it is possible to see whales as early as mid- to late June, or as late as October.
Try going out on a day when the water is calm to maximise your chances of observing these creatures and their acrobatics – although the conditions in the bay may vary widely, so the water may be calm in one area and rough in another. You can also organise your trip through the office of Parc National Masoala in Maroantsetra to ensure that you go out with experienced and trained guides and reliable boat operators.