The mini continent of Madagascar lies in the Indian Ocean off the south-east coast of Africa. It is truly a lost world, with relics of fauna and flora dating back to the world of dinosaurs. Every creature and plant is just a little off centre and like nothing anywhere else on earth, making it a naturalist’s paradise. The island features every kind of environment from dry desert to dense mountain forest and is home to over 70 varieties of lemur, over 120 endemic bird species and the distinctive baobab trees. It has the greatest diversity of chameleons in the world, including the world's smallest and largest and there are also a number of reptiles, mammals and plants waiting to be discovered.
What to seeThe capital Antananarivo, also known as ‘Tana’, is a bustling hill town with a number of cultural, historical and architectural sites that can be easily reached by foot. Street market stalls sell everything you can imagine from fresh fruit and meat produce to electronics, leather goods and handicrafts and the local restaurants serve fine international and gourmet cuisine. An urban oasis in Madagascar’s highland, the spa town of Antsirable has a noticeably different climate to the heat of Antananarivo and os the centre for the trading of amethyst, beryl and aquamarine gems.
Berenty Private Nature Reserve: Berenty is the most well known reserve in Madagascar and is famous for its population of ring tailed lemurs and sifakas. There is a small cultural museum with interesting exhibits about the local peoples and their customs and the forest trails are well kept and easy to explore on unguided adventures. Nocturnal walks in the spiny forest and a visit to the local sisal factory can also be arranged and are highly recommended.
Andasibe-Mantadia National Park: Surrounded by the remaining unspoilt rainforest in Madagascar, the Andasibe-Mantadia National Park is home to a variety of lemurs including the largest lemur - the indri. There are excellent opportunities for walking with a local guide and enjoying the peace and beauty of these wonderful reserves.
Isalo National Park: Isalo National Park makes an ideal hiking destination, with its spectacular sandstone rocks bisected by deep canyons and sculpted into unusual shapes. The park contains sifaka and brown and ring-tail lemur species. It is also sacred to the Bara tribe, which has used the caves in the canyon walls as burial sites for many years.
Amber Mountain National Park: The 18,200-hectare Amber Mountain National Park was created in 1958 to preserve the regions unique flora and fauna. It takes its name from the sticky amber coloured resin, which oozes from the trees and is one of the most visitor friendly reserves in Madagascar. Wide walking trails lead the way through lush rainforest, which is home to seven species of lemur and the ring-tailed mongoose. Evidence that Aye-Ayes still live here has been also been found, although there have been no sightings of the shy creatures themselves since the 1970’s.
Nosy Be: Nosy Be is a small picturesque island located off Madagascar’s north west coast. Beautiful sandy beaches, a protected coral reef, a natural lemur reserve and nearby desert islands await visitors to this region. Take a boat to Nosy Komba (lemur island), barter for spices at the local market, see sacred lakes, villages and forests or simply relax and enjoy some good swimming opportunities.
Note: Madagascar is one of the world’s poorest nations and tourism is in its infancy. Distances can be long and roads can be poor. Hotels, while sometimes not reaching western standards, are clean and comfortable.