Discover best of Madagascar with our Madagascar travel guide with tourism & travel information, hotels, tourist attractions, places to see, things to do, history, culture, and guides to Madagascar cities.
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Madagascar Travel Guide

Madagascar Overview

Madagascar, the world's fourth largest island, actually separated all the way from the Indian subcontinent rather than from nearby Africa. Madagascar's long-ago separation from the rest of world has produced, much like Australia, a unique mixture of animals and plants, many of which are found nowhere else on the planet. Of its ten thousands indigenous plants, 90% are found nowhere else on earth. Since the arrival of humans to Madagascar two thousands years ago, the island has lost over 90% of its forest. The world's largest bird, the elephant bird—which was ten feet tall, flightless, and native to Madagascar—went extinct in the 17th century. Visiting Madagascar is an adventure. Truly, this is a land of weird animals. Nowhere else on earth can you find over seventy kinds of lemurs, one of which sounds like a wailing siren. This is also home to largest and smallest chameleons in the world. On the southern part of the island near Ifaty are forests of spiny twisted trees that look like octopus. In the west are baobabs shaped like bottles. Around Ranomafana are the bizarre carnivorous pitcher plants.

The people of Madagascar are also fascinating. The culture is full of magic and taboo with everything both living and nonliving believed to have spirits hiding inside them—waterfalls, rocks, caves and trees. The people in the hills live in multi-storied brick homes and dance with dead ancestors during their traditional turning-of-the-bones ceremonies. There’s also a wealth of pirate history here, massive shipwreck sites along the coasts. The cuisine too is unique and includes mofo (a sweet fritter made from rice flour, sometimes with shredded coconut), or mofo sakay (a spicy fritter made with onions, greens, chilies and tomatoes.)

Nosy Be is the island's most popular beach destination, but it's anything but a resort town full of high rises and jet skis. In fact, there's just one package resort place, solely aimed at Italians. Nosy Be is tranquil, the water dazzling and clear (without the usual seaweed that washes ashore on so many beach in eastern Africa). People tend to comment first on the air: it's sublimely perfumed with vanilla, jasmine and ylang-ylang. Secondly they rave about the sunsets. For an hour on the beach each day, nobody is doing anything except watching the sky change colors. Be warned however that this is the most expensive destination in Madagascar. Accommodation often costs double that of the mainland, but is still much cheaper than what you'd find in Europe. It's sunny year-round, with a risk of cyclones in January and February.

To learn more about the intensely fascinating ecology of Madagascar, read "Lord and lemur: Mad Scientists, Kings with Spears, and the Survival of Diversity in Madagascar" by Alison Jolly.

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