Ring-tailed lemur © Heinonlein
A land unlike any other, Madagascar is an enticing destination for those who find its lack of modern conveniences, tourist infrastructure and efficient transport system an interesting challenge rather than a problem. Despite its sometimes volatile political situation and comparative remoteness, Madagascar continues to draw adventurers from all over the globe.
The fourth largest island in the world, Madagascar is one of the most bio-diverse countries on earth, home to thousands of species of plant and animal life of which about 80 percent cannot be found anywhere else on the planet. Situated off the east coast of Africa, Madagascar is very different from its African neighbour, and its uniqueness in the world has led some to class it as the Eighth Continent.
Madagascar is world famous for its lemurs, of which there are about 50 different types, ranging from the unusual to the utterly bizarre. Lemurs are endemic to the island and generally resemble a cross between a monkey and a squirrel; but lemurs are not the only curious creatures inhabiting this exotic realm. Dwarf chameleons, tomato frogs, giant jumping rats and hedgehog-like tenrecs are among the host of peculiar indigenous fauna; while the country's isolation has enabled the development of plants with remarkable shapes, such as the swollen Baobab, Madagascar's national tree. Wilderness areas such as Isalo National Park and Tsingy Nature Reserve are wonderful places to discover Madagascar's exotic fauna, flora and striking geological features.
Besides this natural wonderland, Madagascar also has its share of beautiful beaches and coral reefs, such as those found on the cluster of islands off the northeast coast. Best known is Nossi Bé, while Ile Ste-Marie off the east coast, and Toliara in the south, are also major attractions for divers, snorkelers and sunbathers. The bustling capital, and first and last stop for visitors arriving by air, is Antananarivo, or 'Tana', which has a distinctly French flavour and is an excellent place to shop for Malagasy arts and crafts. Go looking for the unexpected in Madagascar and you will find an undeniably fascinating destination that makes for a refreshingly different sort of holiday under the tropical sunshine.