What an amazing experience!
Madagascar is a country like no other
The rich diversity of the terrain and wildlife means there is something new to see at every place we visited but sadly, the poverty of the people is heart-rendering – many people in the UK receive more in annual unemployment or disability benefits than the average Malagasy person will earn from hard work in a lifetime.
Millions of years of isolation have led to the evolution of a whole range of life-forms that are found nowhere else on earth. Had Charles Darwin sailed to Madagascar instead of the Galapagos, he would, surely, have discovered evolution far earlier. The island’s most famous inhabitants are its lemurs - charming off-shoots of the primate family tree, that have lifestyles as diverse as the forests they live in. There are no monkeys or apes and most lemurs have no predators -except where there are fossa in some parks and large buzzards and eagles that target the very young. Ring-tailed Lemurs live in large troops like baboons, Sportive Lemurs are solitary, the Aye-aye feeds like a woodpecker, while the Indri resembles a giant teddy bear that sings in the rainforest canopy. The current scientific register lists nearly 100 species of lemur.
Madagascar was the home of the Elephant Bird, the largest bird that ever lived, until just a few centuries ago. Catastrophic habitat loss has led to the extinction of this and many other endemic species, but there are still well over a hundred endemic birds.
Like Darwin’s Finches in the Galapagos,
there are families of birds – the Vangas
– that display a huge variety of beak
shapes to exploit different sources of food,
the Couas that peck through leaf-litter like
pheasants and the elusive Ground Rollers
that nest in burrows and haunt the darkest
recesses of the forest.
Reptiles too, abound – over 60% of
the world’s chameleons species live
on the island and nowhere else, including
the huge Parson's Chameleon, the world’s
largest at up to 60cm. Other reptiles include
the amazing Leaf-tailed Gecko whose camouflage
is near perfect, and the beautiful mottled
green and black Tree Boa. Add to this a myriad
of colourful tree frogs and a multitude of
peculiar insects and there is always something
to grab your attention.
Madagascar is a country rich in habitat diversity. There can be few places where it is possible to experience lush rainforests, rugged mountain plateau, dry forests and semi-desert spiny forests with a single tour. It is an intoxicating country that you can’t fail to fall in love with. The strange and incongruous mixture of Indonesian, Polynesian and African influences combine to produce a country unlike any other. Memories of the friendly people and unique wildlife will linger and create the overriding experience of an island lost in time.
Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world and lies in the Indian Ocean a few hundred miles off the coast of Mozambique, Africa. It is twice the area of Great Britain, and 50% bigger than France.
There are several large islands and hundreds of islets. The Hauts Plateaux, the central highlands, occupy more than half of the island and divide it both climatically and scenically. The narrow strip of lowland on the east coast is largely covered by dense rainforest, whilst the west of the island once dry deciduous forest, is now mainly savannah. The south western and southern extremes of the island are semi-desert with huge cactus-like plants (the "spiny desert").
The capital, Antananarivo, is near the centre high up in the Hauts Plateaux.