Madagascar might be most famous of late for the animated film franchise but there’s a whole lot more than of reason to visit the place than hilarous and slightly camp Lemurs.
There are actually a lot of other reasons to travel to the fourth largest island in the world. This could include your desire to experience the place with the highest biodiversity on the planet. Or maybe you want to see the ‘aye aye’ which is an endangered species of lemur – and one very strange looking animal. So bizarre, in fact, that the BBC’s Mark Carwardine describes them as, “the kind of weird and wonderful animal that a humorous science fiction writer might dream up on a really good day.”
The name ‘lemur’ comes from the lemures which are ghosts of Roman mythology and aptly named due to their nocturnal habits, reflective eyes and the eerie wails and ghostly sounds they make. Over 100 different species of lemurs are found on Madagascar.
And while 75% of Madagascar’s species including lemurs, tenrecs and chameleons are endemic to this island it is not only the amazing and unqiue animals that attract the tourists; it is the unique limestone formations, rainforests that are only assessable by boat and the Baobabs, the trees whose trunk is used to store water and also called the monkey bread tree that today can be seen on several tours from World Expeditions. The separation of Madagascar from Africa nearly 90 million years ago has allowed the distinctive flora and fauna to flourish.
It is not only the tourists of today that were attracted to the intrigue and location that Madagascar offers. It was also the pirates who ruled the eastern coast in the late 1600’s. They used the island as their base to attack ships laden with treasure and goods enroute to Europe from India. France invaded in the 1800’s and it was not until 1960, after several uprisings that independence was gained.
Easy to reach places are not the norm here since cyclones and lack of infrastructure have either damaged or destroyed roads around the Eastern coastline. The best way to explore this area is on a small group tour or via flat bottomed boats, by zebu (a type of camel) cart or by very long treks.
One such journey can include Andringitra National Park with its unique rugged granite peaks and gneiss formations. Its diverse eco-systems range from low altitude rainforests to high mountain prairies with the greatest variety of lemurs in the Country.
The World Heritage site of Tsingy of Bernaraha is the largest reserve in Madagascar and home to the fascinating limestone plateau. Parc de Nationale de Ranomafana is known for its hot springs and abundant lemur population in this rainforest. And a spectacular and remote area that is only assessable by boat is on the Manombolo River with towering cliffs and craggy caves that line its shores.
And, when you get tired of searching for finger nail sized chameleons or nocturnal fosia head straight to the sparkling clear turquoise waters on one of the out islands of Nosy Be, Nosy Mangabe or Ile Sainte Marie.
The people of these islands and in fact from Madagascar itself are some of the most hospitable and happy people you will find anywhere. They are descendents of seafarers from the Indian Ocean and are proudly distinct from the peoples of continental Africa. Unfailingly polite, they will walk you to your destination rather than giving directions.
Marty, the zebra in the animated film ‘Madagascar’ has a memorable line that states, “I’m ten years old. My life is half over and I don’t even know if I am black with white stripes or white with black stripes.” Although there are no zebra that are native to Madagascar, don’t wait ten years to discover what wild and unique animals are endemic to this island nations and enjoy the people and place with aplomb.