Madagascar, 400 km off the East coast of Africa, is the world’s fourth largest island (excluding Australia), a fragment of Gondwanaland left behind when the ancient landmass split to form the continents of Africa, India and Australia; it stretches 1,600 km from north to south and is 650 km across at its widest point.
The most astonishing thing about the island is not its size however, but its flora and fauna, which are found nowhere else in the world. David Attenborough referred to the island as "natures design laboratory", because of the many unique creatures and vegetation, some of quite a primitive nature, which are found here. The terrain varies from tropical rainforest to desert, from high stony plateaus to lush green islands with many amazing geological and geographical formations throughout. Madagascar has a whole range of unique animals and plants, which have evolved here separated from the rest of the world.
The most notable are the lemurs of which around 120 species and sub species are described. We will visit a number of their known habitats and search both day and night, so that, with just a little luck we will see a fair number of these pro-simian primates. For the bird fancier there are over 250 species of which 106 are endemic, whilst for lovers of reptiles most of the world’s chameleons are found here, in fact, the country is nearly as well known for its chameleon population as for its lemurs.
The flora has its own peculiarities, the vegetation varying greatly by climatic region - thorny scrub in the south-west, tropical rainforest along the east coast, heath-land and moss forests on the central plateau and savannahs in the western lowlands. The two best-known examples of these unusual plants are the fan shaped Ravinala, known as the Traveller’s Palm, and the Baobab of which there are 10 different species. We will see many examples of these throughout while in the tropical forests we will see trees lush with ferns, fungi, mosses and orchids.
Most of this unique flora and fauna, together with some now extinct species, were here when the first humans arrived some 1,500 to 2,000 years ago. The first inhabitants were Malay-Polynesians who crossed the Indian Ocean in large canoes from Indonesia and South East Asia. These early settlers mixed with later arrivals, African, Arab, Indian and Portuguese traders and French colonials have formed the current 18 official tribes, which are collectively termed the Malagasy.
French is the official language and is spoken in all but the remotest areas. The country is very poor however everywhere things are improving – new roads, airports and other infrastructure is being built. The country is in great need of foreign currency as part of this income can be used to help preserve what remains of the Island’s natural wonders.
They export vanilla, precious gems, rice and beef. For the traveller, Madagascar offers the best of both worlds. You’ll have the opportunity to see how the locals live and learn about their culture.
You’ll also have the opportunity to stay in wonderful hotels and eat great food – a legacy of the French. For those looking for something different, this is really it!
- Many species of lemurs and chameleons in the wild
- Sunset at the iconic Avenue of the Baobabs, Morondava
- Beachside stay in Anakao by the sea
- The many villages and their shy but friendly Malagasy people
- Trekking through the Big Tsingy – nature at her best
- National parks including Tsimamanpetsotsa, Isalo and Andisabe