Madagascar, the fourth-largest island in the world, is set 400 kilometres off the east coast of Africa, entirely surrounded by the invitingly warm tropical Indian Ocean. This beautiful island offers you unique and exciting holidays ranging from lemur tours and dhow trips to relaxing beach stays.
Madagascar includes several much smaller islands. A central chain of high mountains, the Hauts Plateaux, occupies more than half of the main island and is responsible for the marked differences – ethnically, climatically and scenically – between the east and west coasts. The narrow strip of lowlands on the east coast is largely covered by dense rainforests, whereas the broader west-coast landscape, once covered by dry deciduous forests, is now mostly savannah. The east coast receives the monsoon and, on both coasts, the climate is wetter towards the north. The southern tip of the island is semi-desert, with great forests of cactus-like plants. Madagascar is a strange place with strange animals, including the lemurs, which are found nowhere else on earth.
The capital, Antananarivo, sits high up in the Hauts Plateaux near the island’s centre. The Zoma Market is a major attraction every day but more particularly on Fridays. The Place de l’Indépendence, the heart of Tana, is where the banks and good shops are located.
Much of Madagascar’s flora and fauna is unique to the island. There are 3000 endemic species of butterfly; the many endemic species of lemurs that fill the niches occupied elsewhere by animals as varied as raccoons, monkeys, marmots, bushbabies and sloths; there is a similar diversity of reptiles, amphibians and birds (especially ducks), and also at all levels of plant life.
Endemic wildlife and spectacular rainforest are the attractions in Parc National d’Andasibe-Mantadia. Whale watching can be done on Ile Sainte Marie from July to September while lazing on glorious beaches. The land is poor but the scenery is beautiful with great baobab trees and flowering bushes are everywhere, even around isolated farms in the rice fields near Tana.
Nosy Be is the largest of the islands off the north-west tip of Madagascar, and with its palm-fringed beaches and splendid coral reefs, offers an appealing and utterly relaxing holiday locale. Beyond are the crater lakes and the panoramic views from the foot of Mt. Passot, while a boat trip to Nosy Komba Island brings you to the Black Lemur Sanctuary, habitat of one of 30 species of the charming lemur, unique to Madagascar.
Madagascar is now a multiparty republic. The majority of the people are Malagasy, with cultural and historical ties both to Africa and Asia.