Madagascar – A Jewel of an Island

The island of Madagascar is rich in wildlife and natural beauty.

Madagascar is rich with wildlife, including 105 species of lemurs. Photo by Silvia Martin
Madagascar is rich with wildlife, including 105 species of lemurs. Photo by Silvia Martin

Mother Nature must have fallen madly in love with Madagascar. It gave it and it alone some of its most wonderful, unique treasures. With 105 species of lemurs (93 of which are sadly critically endangered) and no less than seven species of baobab (whereas only one made its way on the African continent), “endemic” is the word that describes Madagascar’s ecosystem and wildlife best.

Close to Africa yet boasting a rich Asian heritage visible in the extensive presence of rice terraces and the beautiful features of its inhabitants, the world’s fourth biggest island is assuredly a rich source of astonishment for the traveler.

Eyes sparkling with joy at the surrounding beauty, I crossed the southern part of the island repeating to myself and others “this is the most beautiful place so far.” Until I moved to the next one. It is hard to choose a favorite place in Madagascar because every single one of them is a new experience in itself, so very different from the previous. The whole island breathes diversity.

Travel in Madagascar

Away from the craziness of its capital city Antananarivo (Tana for the locals), Madagascar plunges you in the most varied of settings. There is much to do on the island. In Ifaty, you can chill in the sun on white-sand beaches and discover the neighboring villages for a change. Mada is also ideal for watching wildlife in the rainforests, trekking canyons and swimming in hidden, crystal blue waterfalls and natural pools. Ranohira is a great place for all that.

Not to mention the one activity most tourists travel for: spotting lemurs in parks such as Isalo, Ranomafana or Andasibe-Mantadia. In Madagascar, you’re never short of options. Only one prerequisite, however. You must have an open mind, be a nature lover and enjoy the off-the-beaten-track type of adventure. Mada is changing and is not yet fully equipped for mass tourism. Which makes it all the more enjoyable!

Ox cart in rural Madagascar. Photo by Silvia Martin
Ox cart in rural Madagascar. Photo by Silvia Martin

Another memorable stop for me was Fiadanana, a small, remote village, where time seems to have stopped. More than a destination, Mada is also a travel back in time. A time where modern devices have not yet come in power to revolutionize the agriculture, for instance. A place where people work hard, very hard, side by side with the zebus (the local cows) under a burning sun to provide their families with the basic ingredients. Where their existence is tightly bound to the land and the elements.

Spending a day and night in the middle of the nature, away from the maddening crowd, sampling delicious food and observing the way of life of the locals is a refreshing, rare and certainly eye-opening experience. In this magic place, the village healer knows the properties of the plants by the book. Kids will follow you around, curious to learn few words in English and discover about other places visitors call their homes. Part of your heart will stay behind, on those dusty countryside roads where the rice fields glitter in the changing light of the sun and where life has somehow never been simpler.

And then there’s the rum. Madagascar will probably never become famous for its wine export (you’d be as convinced as I am if you tasted it), but it can certainly be proud of the selection and quality of its rum. To be consumed with moderation.

Mother and child relaxing in Madagascar. Photo by Silvia Martin
Mother and child relaxing in Madagascar. Photo by Silvia Martin

If I close my eyes and think about Madagascar, I find myself in a tranquil place, feet in the Indian Ocean where the blue is boundless and the light of the sun is warm and inviting. I smell vanilla, papaya and coconut and my taste buds are carried away by the perfect cup of coffee (I’ve just woken up the restaurant owner for this and she serves it to me in her pajamas).

I hear the children, naked as they are, playing somewhere in this Paradise painting, splashing and giggling. Some women watch them or get busy braiding.

Fishermen come to say hello and the villagers from Mangily start their daily business, greeting me in French as they pass by. “Comment ça va?” “Ca va bien, et vous?” I say and dive deeper into my holiday reading. No doubt here, I am a privileged human in a very special place. Madagascar, pleased to meet you!

If You Go to Madagascar

Have lunch at Lokanga Boutique Hotel in Antananarivo to stay away from the hustle and bustle.

Have a coffee at Chez Cécile Restaurant in Ifaty. The seafood and fish are amazing.

Visit spectacular landscapes with Momo Trek – a nice way to discover a small bit of the island with expert locals.

Author Bio: Silvia Martin is a travel blogger and writer in love with the world and everything it has to offer. My holidays usually rhyme with adventure and wilderness and the farther, the better. I live in Belgium, I come from Romania, I go places.