Uncovering Madagascar earth’s oldest island by foot or pack raft
Uncovering Madagascar is the ultimate destination for nature lovers, because the world’s oldest island is home to one of the most unusual landscapes.
Madagascar offers once-in-a-lifetime experiences bespoke to each traveller. Ultimately, it is a biodiversity hotspot! With over 90% of all its plant and animal species found nowhere else on earth! Exploring this wild island you will encounter humming rainforests and mangroves, soaring mountains, and white sandy beaches with translucent, turquoise waters.
Across the island highlights include discovering the Spiny Forests of the Mandrare Valley, home to inquisitive groups of ring-tailed lemurs, native cuckoos, and impressive ancestral tombs of the local Antandroy tribe.
The wildlife-rich Andasibe-Mantadia National Park with over 100 species of birds and chameleons; and beachside eco-lodges with views of humpback whales from the tranquil tropical islands of the Nosy Mitsio Archipelago.
Guests will be introduced to the customs and culture of some of Madagascar’s 18 tribes from knowledgeable local guides. In addition they will invite you to observe initiatives such as the Stitch project, which provides women from the local community with sustainable livelihoods by training them in embroidery, English and business skills.
Adventure across Madagascar by foot, or pack raft and uncover Earth’s oldest island, Madagascar:
- Northern Madagascar Highlights
- Madagascar’s Great South Highlights
Northern Madagascar Highlights
Exploring the volcanic massif and mountain forests of Montagne d’Ambre National Park, is one of Madagascar’s best examples of ecotourism. The Park is renowned for its orchids, crocodiles and lemurs. You can find the Island’s finest grottoes at Anjohibe along with the Ankarafantsika Nature Reserve.
Toamasina on the northeast coast, is the country’s main port and provincial capital. It is an 8-hour drive from Antananarivo and, like the capital it has several busy markets, including the Bazaar Be. 11km North of the town are the Ivolina Gardens, containing every kind of vegetable species from the eastern forests.
Antseranana is a cosmopolitan seaport overlooking a beautiful gulf at the northern most tip of the island. There are many lakes, waterfalls, and grottoes in the rainforests above the port.
There is an awesome sandy beach at Ramena, but sharks may pose a problem.
Guests will be able to immerse themselves in the surrounding nature at the secluded Nature Lodge with 12 wooden bungalows and spectacular view. Also, is the Iharana Bush Camp, where you can drink up views staying on the edge of a lake.
Total relaxation at the Constance Tsarabanjina, a stunning ecological resort on a private island in the north-western part of Madagascar.
Guests can feast on fresh seafood and Malagasy specialties in the sand floored restaurant, enjoy a relaxing treatment at the spa, and discover the island’s unique biodiversity with a guided nature walk or a private cruise.
Madagascar’s Great South Highlights
The arid south is noted for its many remarkable species of cactus and baobab-like plants. And, also for the highly developed funerary art of its inhabitants, past and present.
The Mantadia Lodge, with exclusive bungalows nestled on top of a hill and overlooking the canopy of the wildlife-rich Andasibe-Mantadia National Park. A naturalist’s goldmine, the park is home to more than a dozen unique lemur species, several types of chameleon and some of Madagascar’s many orchids.
The Rainforest Lodge on Manafiafy Beach, an eco-hotel with thatched roofed chalets, set in a sandy bay fringed with forest-covered mountains and a wildlife-rich network of mangroves. Night walks and kayak excursions in the coastal rainforest and mangroves will reveal lemurs, birds, geckos and chameleon. Finally, at the end of the day guests can relax in front of the lodge’s fire pit whilst dining on local food.
Islands, wildlife and tribes of Madagascar Highlights
Visitors to Madagascar often remark on the welcoming nature of the people. However, some unprepared Westerners may be irritated by their relaxed attitude to time. But you are on vacation, so what’s the rush?
This is Madagascars most important holiday resort. Both, an island of exotic perfume plants such as ylang-ylang, vanilla, and patchouli which are grown here, as well as a natural aquatic museum.
Researchers from the Madagascar Whale Shark Project (MWSP) have identified over 400 individual whale sharks off Nosy Be. Stella Diamant, founder said, “It’s exciting to finally have evidence that, as we suspected, Madagascar is in fact a world hotspot for whale sharks.”
All of the identified stars were juveniles, measuring between 3 metres in length. “Nosy Be is an important feeding area for these growing stars. 98% of the sharks are seen while feeding on small fish at the surface. And, some of the sharks are moving through the area quickly. But, others seems to return every year to take advantage of the seafood buffet,” said Diamant.
As a result, Nosy Be has become a popular marine tourism destination due to the presence of whale sharks, whales, manta rays, and other marine megafauna species.
The island lies off the east coast north of Toamasina. Its dense vegetation and the difficulty of navigating the lagoons which surround it made it an ideal base for pirates, and, later a colony of convicts. There are many clove plantations and several historic sites in the vicinity.
Most of Madagascars wildlife and plants are not found anywhere else, except in the nearby Comoros Islands. Primates, lemurs are the best example of such native animals.
However, IUCN Red List reports that 98% of Lemurs are Threatened With Extinction. 33 lemur species are critically endangered and 103 of the 107 species are threatened with extinction. The primary threats to lemurs include illegal logging, slash-and-burn agriculture, hunting and the pet trade.
“One of the most important tools for the conservation of Madagascar’s wonderful lemurs is ecotourism,” said Russ Mittermeier, chief conservation officer, (GWC). “This has worked very well over the past few decades, providing income to local people, developing strong village-based guide associations, and encouraging the creation of local community reserves.
Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC) is prioritizing supporting ecotourism efforts throughout Madagascar, and especially in the eastern rainforest region. Beyond the recent pandemic, GWC is supporting the association’s work in Madagascar’s eastern rainforest where the indri and diademed sifaka—two of the largest lemur species—live, along with 10 other lemur species. While, the Association des Guides d’Andasibe is developing community reserves and anti-poaching efforts.
Outside of working in the field, conservationists have also been raising awareness about lemurs and their precarious position as the most endangered group of mammals in the world. Groupe d’Etude et de Recherche sur les Primates de Madagascar(GERP) leads the World Lemur Festival each year. The festival promotes ecotourism, lemur conservation, education about lemurs, and lemur appreciation. It began in 2014 and is now celebrated all over the world. Each year in Madagascar the festival includes student parades to celebrate lemurs.
“For Madagascar, lemurs are our goose laying the golden eggs,” said Jonah Ratsimbazafy, president of the (GERP). “They provide jobs for thousands of people and happiness for nature lovers. Saving lemurs means also saving people. I believe in lemurotherapy, so together do not let our therapy be vanished to extinction.”
Madagascar was a favourite base for sea pirates in the 16 and 1700’s, including the famous Captain William Kidd. Later, it unfortunately became a haven for slave traders. In the early 1800’s most of Madagascar became part of the local Merina Kingdom. It however fell to the French in 1896, and all of Madagascar became a French colony. Madagascar gained its independence in 1960 and was known as Malagasy Republic until 1975, when it became Madagascar.
The people belong to two main groups – black African and Indonesian. The Africans live in the coastal groups, while the Indonesians live in the central and south-central highlands.
Respect should be paid to the many local taboos (fady) but they do vary from region to region. It remains the practice in some regions to invite an ancestor to a village celebration, disinterring the body so that the ancestor may attend physically. Later, they reinter the body with new shrouds. This traditional observance amply demonstrates the continuing hold of traditional beliefs. And, visitors invited to such an occasion should consider it a great honour!