8 REASONS TO VISIT MADAGASCAR
Madagascar is one of the world’s most unique countries – 5% of all known animal and plant species are found here alone. Weird and wonderful, Madagascar is easily one of the most exotic places you can visit. It is a kaleidoscope of landscapes – there are canyons, limestone karsts, cascading rice paddies, forests, mountains and beaches.
If you relish in adventure, it is a once-in-a-lifetime destination. Madagascar is not an ‘easy’ destination per se, but it is worth it. Here are 8 reasons to visit Madagascar.
1. The Lemurs
Madagascar is the only place in the world you can see lemurs in the wild, and it is worth it. These little creatures are agile, weird, loud and undoubtedly very cute. The black and white ring-tailed Lemur Catta species is easily the most recognised, however, the island is home to over 100 species of lemur, each captivating in their own way. Unfortunately, lemurs are endangered but there are a number of conservation projects run by the national parks to protect them.
2. The Beaches
If there is anything that most us are currently seeking on holiday, it is the chance to heal, rejuvenate and relax. Nothing quite achieves this like a beach holiday, and Madagascar has some incredible beaches. Nosy Be is Madagascar’s top beach destination and has all the ingredients for the perfect beach getaway. Expect soft white sand, bright blue waters, sunny weather, snorkeling, diving, sailing and delicious seafood. All of Madagascar’s beaches have an undeniable feeling of being untouched and unspoiled, a rare occurrence and one to treasure.
3. The Flora
Madagascar has over 15,000 plant species, of which 80% are endemic to the island. Madagascar is called the home of the Baobab, with six species of the global total nine being endemic to the island. In the semi-arid regions in the south, they form a vast forest with some of the trees reaching 30 metres (98 feet) in height and 9 metres (30 feet) in circumference.
Orchid-lovers are also in for a treat – Madagascar has over 1000 species of orchids, of which 80% are endemic. The island is also full of impressive plants and fern species. Included in this is the aptly named Traveller’s Palm which holds rainwater in the sheaths of its stems and thus provides a welcome source of water to weary travellers.
4. The Cuisine
Food is taken very seriously in Madagascar. Chinese, Indian and French influences have blended with local dishes to create an exciting and delicious cuisine. Rice is a staple and is ingrained in Malagasy eating culture. In fact, the verb to eat in Malagasy, mihinam-vary, literally translates to ‘to eat rice’. You’ll find it in broth for breakfast, or served with coconut stews and curries and anything from chicken to fish, for lunch and dinner.
Madagascar cuisine has an arsenal of aromatic flavourings – red-hot pepper paste with ginger and garlic, spicy green chili, and hot pickled fruit, such as mango, lemon, carrot or tomato. Seafood is also prominent. Even those on a budget can enjoy fresh crayfish, prawns, lobster, fish and oysters.
5. The Wildlife
The lemurs tend to take centre stage, but Madagascar is home to a huge variety of exotic and beautiful wildlife. Besides the lemurs, you should also look out for chameleons, 300 species of birdlife, and 260 species of reptiles and insects!
6. Isalo National Park
Isalo National Park is Madagascar’s equivalent of the American Grand Canyon. It covers more than 80,000 hectares and is made up of epic ochre-hued canyons, ravines, gorges, and plains. It is a fantastic adventure destination – you can go hiking, horse riding, swimming in natural pools, mountain biking and four-wheel driving.
7. The Whale-Watching
Madagascar is close to a migration route for whales making it a prime whale-watching destination. Between July and September, from the island of Sainte-Marie, you can admire a legion of humpback whales when females come to calve. From October to December, you can spot baby whales and their mothers basking in the warm waters of Nosy Be.
8. The Bemaraha de Tsingy
Another reason to visit Madagascar, is the Bemaraha de Tsingy, one of the oldest national parks in Madagascar. There is nowhere else on Earth like this ancient spot. It is a Unesco World Heritage Site where millennia of water and wind erosion have formed a spectacular geological array of serrated peaks and boulders. The park has implemented a number of ways to explore this natural wonderland – fixed-cable routes, rope ladders and bridges, and abseiling. It is also home to 90 bird species, 10 species of lemur and eight reptile species.