Madagascar is an unpolished ecological jewel, set in the Indian Ocean off the south east coast of Africa. At 1,000 miles in length it is the fourth largest island in the world. Cut off for almost 90 million years, it is the oldest. The island is 250 miles from Africa, across the Mozambique Channel. As a result this spectacular country has evolved its own unique ecosystem and character in splendid isolation from the rest of the world.
The protected reserves have animals, birds, reptiles, insects and plant life seen nowhere else on earth. The rainforests, deserts, mangrove swamps and mountains continue to support a staggering 200,000 species. One of the extraordinary attractions of Madagascar is that most of these species are found only here. As a result of this astonishing diversity and an infrastructure that can only be described as challenging, holidays to Madagascar can become genuine adventures. They can be as exciting, unusual and varied as you wish.
Lemurs are the most famous inhabitants and they are found almost nowhere else in the world. Madagascar boasts over 100 species, most of which live only in specific habitats spread all over the island. Lemurs are mainly tree dwellers, effortless climbers and almost supernatural jumpers. They can be seen in most parts of the island and walking the different types of forest to find them, by day and night with an experienced guide, is a very special experience.
Holidays in Madagascar begin in the capital Antananarivo, known locally as Tana, in the centre of this country of 22 million people. It is a sprawling, busy city of over 5 million in some need of modernisation. Stay in a charming boutique hotel in preparation for your onward journey via a good network of domestic flights.
There is a superb range of national parks from which to choose. To the east of Tana for example there is the pristine rainforests of Andasibe and Mantadia. Here the national parks are among the most famous and popular in the country. Trekking in these luxuriant rainforests is a wonderful experience in itself, and can also be a wet one so take your rain gear. The paths are clear but you will enjoy scrambling a little to see the stars of Andasibe - the Indri. These are the largest of all the lemurs, with a highly distinctive long, wailing call warning other troops to keep their distance. If lemurs, insects and reptiles are not your thing, this is also a birdwatcher’s and botanist’s paradise.
For a complete change you can take the popular RN7 road trip. It takes you from the capital Antananarivo to Anakao, a lovely, peaceful resort on the south west coast, on a brilliant two week tour of some 500 miles. You will see a wide variety of lemur species all the way. Before flying back to Tana, conclude your holiday on a magnificent mile long beach beside the dazzling crystal clear ocean.
As well as lemurs and its incredible bio-diversity, Madagascar is most famous for boabab trees. These strange, massive tuba shaped trees with peculiar stunted branches live for hundreds of years, even in the driest of landscapes. They can be seen in various places but no more so than in famous Baobab Alley, on the west coast near Morondava. Madagascar holidays are never complete without the memory of boababs against the setting sun.
On the southern tip of the country at Berenty and the Mandare River reserves, see friendly Ring Tailed and beautiful, dancing Sifaka lemurs. Wade across the river with the local Malagasy herders and their zebu cattle to reach the best viewing locations. Here you will see both dry spiny and contrasting lush gallery forest, and large roadside villages with vibrant, colourful markets. Away from the towns, the Malagasy people all over the country live their lives much as they have done for generations.
In the north lies the magnificent Montagne de Ambre and Ankarana National Parks. Here the terrain is pristine montane rain forest and volcanic massif. For birders, many of the country’s most beautiful and exotic species are endemic here. You can climb the Great Tsingy of Ankarana. The spikey tops of these towering, eroded islands of limestone offer breathtaking views.
For even more fabulous tsingys, go west to the Beharama National Park - a World Heritage Site. A brilliant system of pathways, steps and ladders and bridges have been put in place to facilitate access to this awe-inspiring phenomenon.
After completing your lemur safari, relax on one of Madagascar's glorious turquoise beaches - such as Anjajavy, where sifakas dance across the lawns, or Ile St Marie on the east coast, where whales breed from July to September. In the northwest you will find the islands of Nosy Be. Here the white sandy beaches and clear warm sea are perfect for water sports of every kind. The ‘big island’ of Nosy Be and its main town Hell-Ville, is the jumping off point for other islands, including beautiful and luxurious Tsarabanjina island.
Wherever you go on your holiday to Madagascar, you will experience incredible diversity and vibrant wildlife on an adventure of a lifetime.