Madagascar, often referred to as the “eighth continent” because of its unique ecology, is a fascinating, eye-opening, and hidden paradise, the world’s fourth largest island in the Indian Ocean off the east coast of Africa. It’s not easy to get there but my husband and I were already close, finishing our safari in Tanzania, so it wasn’t too complicated to travel there.
From Arusha, in Tanzania, we flew to Nairobi, Kenya, spent the night there, and took an international flight the next morning to Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar. The city captivated us from the very beginning – it’s so different than anything we’ve seen! Even as we descended to its airport, the scenery was very different than some of the American or European big cities.
If you want a challenge, this country is for you too. Beautiful and one of a kind with its rainforests, baobab trees, lemurs, chameleons, and white-sand beaches. We spent 11 days there. We didn’t see everything the country could offer but saw enough to say: the country really fascinated us. We saw the incredible wildlife in its national parks and special reserves and got a glimpse of the life of the friendly people who embrace the philosophy of “mora-mora” – live slowly, carefully, and don’t rush anywhere.
Madagascar is home to hundreds of endemic species of animals and plants, meaning that you cannot see these anywhere else on the Earth. At least 80% of its wildlife is endemic. 90% of its plants are native. Even though Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world and its tourism is just developing – statistics say that 78% of its population lives on less than 2 US dollars per day, the unemployment is 65%, and 35% of its people are illiterate – it’s one of the most interesting places we’ve ever been.
Madagascar has an almost non-existent infrastructure. We spent many hours driving through the Malagasy countryside – passing by well-kept rice fields – on its very bad, bumpy, full of potholes roads, trying to get from one place to the next in a decent time. Fortunately, we always had a personal driver who had his/her experience with the local conditions and successfully navigated the challenges of driving. We also had good local guides who understood the country and gave us lots of interesting information. We flew domestically quite a lot, since we visited the extreme south, the extreme north, and the middle east coast of the country, and we always needed to go back to Antananarivo to start anew from there.
We gained experiences that you could have not gotten anywhere else. We explored unique forests and rainforests, we got close and personal with lemurs, and we saw the enchanting countryside from close. Steve got a chance to practice his French. French is one of the two main languages in the country, together with Malagasy. (The country was colonized by France and gained independence only in 1960.) We tasted the Malagasy cuisine that was influenced not only by the French but also by the Indian, African, and Arabic cultures.
To get started on our travel here, check out our brief day-to-day itinerary.
Day 1: Flying from Nairobi, Kenya to Antananarivo. Driving to the hotel, getting the first impressions of the life of Antananarivo.
Day 9: Driving to Andasibe National Park in the middle East Coast of the country. Soft lemurs jumping on us on Lemur Island. Exploring the Vakona Private Reserve. Night safari at the Mitsinjo Reserve.