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Creating lifelong memories in Madagascar is accessible and abundant for travelers and visitors because the island is brimming with natural vistas, exotic animals, and vibrant cultures.
Although more famous as the setting for the hit film of the same name released in 2005, Madagascar is more than the lemurs that graced the silver screen over a decade ago (though these animals are pretty cute and deserve everyone’s care). Sadly, penguins don’t exist on the island, but—
At more than half a million square kilometers, Madagascar is an island more enormous than the whole state of California. Situated off the eastern coast of Africa, directly across Mozambique, Madagascar is covered in a wide array of natural environments, from jungle and desert to salt flats and plateaus. Its 3000 miles of coastline are home to extensive coral reef systems and some of the largest mangrove areas on its side of the Indian Ocean. Although close to Africa, Madagascar has remained relatively isolated; thus, around 90% of its wildlife is unique and can only be found within its borders, from mischievous lemurs to the majestic baobab tree.
Pristine and inviting, hidden in the twists and turns, lifelong memories are in Madagascar, waiting to be found and experienced by travelers and natives alike.
Its Colorful Peoples
The most populous ethnic majority of Madagascar, and its first inhabitants, is the Malagasy people, who traditionally have been subdivided between the highlander and coastal tribes. Their arrival happened very recently, relatively speaking, around the first millennium AD. The Malagasy’s earliest ancestors were Austronesian migrants sailing from Borneo and settling on the island’s western coast. At around 900 AD, Bantu peoples from Mozambique would arrive, intermarrying with the Austronesians, and both would become the basis for the Malagasy.
This union has made for a fascinating and unique culture, mixing elements from mainland Africa with elements from faraway Southeast Asia, like a staple for rice together with African food.
Other cultural influences are from Arab traders, who taught the Malagasy Arabic script, and Portuguese sailors, who converted the first Malagasy to Christianity, followed by French colonizers, who forced their language and political systems onto the Malagasy.
The Spellbinding Sights
Due to its separation from mainland Africa and a medley of cultural influences, Madagascar boasts an astonishing diversity of natural and human attractions, earning it the nickname of the “Eighth Continent.” For many travelers and natives, the sights of Madagascar are always a sight to behold.
Here are some you should visit if you find yourself in Madagascar someday:
- Baobab Avenue, or the Alley of the Baobabs, is a stunning view of Grandidier’s baobabs along the road in the Menabe region of western Madagascar. It is set to be the country’s first national monument.
- Tsingy De Bemaraha National Park is found in the Melaky Region and is famous for its karstic plateaus formed from groundwater undercutting and gouging limestone formations, and creating forests of limestone needles.
- Isalo National Park in the Ihorombe Region is a sandstone landscape carved out by wind and water, providing an environment not dissimilar to the Mojave desert.
- Ranomafana National Park is 41,600 hectares of tropical rainforest found in the southeastern part of Madagascar. It is home to numerous rare species of plants and animals. There are also natural hot springs present in the park.
- The Rova of Antananarivo is the palace complex that served as the home to the rulers of the ancient kingdom of Imerina. The Rova is a prominent sight for visitors to the capital.
- The Andafiavaratra Palace was initially a prime minister’s residence, but it has now become a museum, housing several historical artifacts of importance to the Kingdom of Madagascar.
- Lake Anosy is a heart-shaped, artificial lake in Antananarivo. A memorial sits on an islet in the middle of the lake, honoring the dead of World War One.
Exotic Animals and Plants
Madagascar’s relative isolation from the African continent has resulted in the evolution of several unique and exotic species of animals and plants, most endemic only to the island.
Aside from the world-famous lemurs, here are some species worth your look:
- Giraffe weevils are named so because of their elongated necks. They can be found mainly in the forests of Madagascar, feeding on the leaves of trees.
- Blue couas are members of the cuckoo family and are famous for their blue feathers. They eat insects, fruits, and small reptiles.
- Panther chameleons are colorful creatures as large as a house cat. They can change color at an astonishing speed and are quite able hunters.
- Fossas are large civet-like animals in Madagascar. They hunt lemurs for food and are adept at ambushing their prey.
- The Baobabs are the most notable plant species from Madagascar. They are towering trees with a peculiar “chubby” shape and are considered sacred by some locals.
- Octopus trees are named as such because of how their branches grow into tendrils. These cactus-like plants grow in the warm southwest of the island.