Many of you might be familiar with the animated movie “Madagascar” and wondered if Madagascar the country is as beautiful as it’s depicted in the film. The answer is a resounding yes!
Madagascar, officially known as the Republic of Madagascar, is an island situated in the Indian Ocean and is part of the African continent. It is the largest island in Africa and the fourth largest island in the world.
Also known as the Eighth Continent, Red Island, and Rainbow Island, Madagascar is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts.
Here are the top 10 reasons why you should visit Madagascar.
1. Unique Flora and Fauna
Besides lemurs, Madagascar has several unique plants and wildlife that are native to the island.
According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), around 98% of mammals, 92% reptiles, 68% plants, and 41% of bird species found in Madagascar are endemic to the island and are not found anywhere else on Earth.
Madagascar is home to over 15,000 species of plants, 165 species of palm trees, and six out of eight baobab species in the world. This unqiue island is also has the world’s largest baobab tree at 30 feet.
And the Avenue of the Baobabs is an icon of Africa
Interestingly, the flora and fauna existing here have developed their own ecosystems, most of which are unique on the planet.
For instance, the island has nearly 1000 species of orchid, of which 85% are endemic, while 70–80% of the total 12,000 plant species in the country are endemic.
2. A Pirate’s Paradise
If stories of lost treasure and pirate ships with mysterious stories are your thing, then Madagascar is a treat for you!
The fact that Madagascar did not see a European presence for hundreds of years and that it has an abundance of secluded coves made it the perfect hiding spot for pirates.
The 1650–1720 period is, in fact, known as the “Golden Age of Piracy.” In the latter half of the 17th century, it is rumoured that Captain James Misson established a pirate colony in Ile Sainte-Marie, called Libertatia.
Recently famous from The Grand Tours episode “A Massive Hunt”
If you want to dive deep into this fascinating history of the island, so is Madagagascar home to the world´s only real pirate cemetery.
3. Diverse Culture and History
Apart from the picturesque landscape, Madagascar is home to diverse cultures and history.
With more than 18 ethnic groups, the Malagasy population is a melting pot of cultures that can be traced back to African, Arab, Indian, and Indonesian origins.
Today, the island has been inhabited by multiple ethnic groups with ancestral roots in Malayo-Indonesian, mixed-African, and Arab tribes.
Following the 16th century, the British and French left their mark on the local population, owing to decades of colonial rule. You can read up on the vivid history of the country here.
Other ethnic groups in Madagascar include people of French, Creole, and Comoran origins from neighbouring Comoros.
People here also speak multiple languages including French, English, and Malagasy, which is of Malayo-Polynesian origin. Malagasy French is the official language of the country.
4. Madagascar is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in all of Africa
Besides the beautiful forests and greenery, Madagascar is famous for its pristine beaches that have mostly remained undiscovered and unexplored.
Some of the most well-known beaches of the island include Nosy Iranja, Manafiafy, Nosy Be, Ile Saint Marie that are in the southern parts of the country near Fort Dauphin and Ifaty.
The car-free island of Ile Aux Nattes is definitely worth a visit.
In fact, Mitsio Islands, which is said to have one of the best beaches on the island, is known as the ‘Maldives of Madagascar’.
Madagascar has the longest seafront compared to any other country in Africa.
If you love going to beaches but don’t want to be around too many people, there is no other place like Madagascar.
The beaches of Madagascar will not only give you privacy but will enthral you with their stunning beauty, exciting wildlife, and mysterious caves.
5. Wide Variety of Adorable Lemurs
Madagascar is the only country in the world where lemurs exist in the wild. They are known to thrive in the relative isolation of the island from the main landmass of Africa.
They are found in almost all of the ecosystems of the island and are what Madagascar is probably most famous for.
If you have limited time during your trip to the this amazing island, but you still want to see Lemurs but not in a zoo, then the Lemur park outside the capital Antananarivo a good place to visit.
Interestingly, lemurs are considered sacred animals in Madagascar.
They are revered and protected by the island’s inhabitants.
In 2012, there were roughly 103 species and subspecies of lemurs in Madagascar, all of which were classified as rare, vulnerable, or endangered including the black-and-white ring-tailed Lemur Catta, which is a species of lemur endemic to the island.
6. Mouthwatering Cuisine
The cuisine and food habits in Madagascar have been influenced by the cultures of Southeast Asia, China, India, and migrants from Africa and Europe and especially France.
The staple food of the Malagasy people includes rice and rich flavours of cloves, garlic, onions, ginger, coconut milk, vanilla, curry, tomatoes, and turmeric are found in almost every dish.
In addition, Zebu, a type of cattle meat, is consumed quite often, along with peanuts, bananas, green vegetables, and rum.
Some of the most popular dishes in Madagascar: lasopy, akoho, eel with pork, fish with coconut sauce, jumbo shrimps and masikita.
The Romazava is a must-try dish when you’re in Madagascar. It is the national dish of the country and is made of cubes of beef, pork, and chicken along with chopped onions, tomatoes, spinach, and crushed garlic.
Madagascar is close to the migration route of the whales, making the mammals visible from the coast twice a year.
From July to September, one can see the humpback whales from the Sainte Marie Island, and from October to December, one can see the baby whales and their mothers bask in the sun at the Nosy Be beach.
Every year, almost 1000 mink whales visit the island, usually traveling from the cold waters of the Antarctic Ocean.
Hotels around the coastline are known to offer trips for whale-watching.
Neighbouring Comoros and Moheli is also a world-class place to swim with whales, without other tourists.
If you want to maximize your chances of watching the whales, go out on a day when the waters are calm. Besides Sainte Marie Island, Nosy Be and Nosy Iranja are also popular beaches for whale-watching.
8. Isalo — The Grand Canyon of Madagascar
Isalo National Park is considered Madagascar’s version of the Grand Canyon. The park spans approximately 80,000 hectares of land and is the most visited national park on the island, with at least 30,000 tourists flocking to the park annually.
A major reason to stop by this park is the unique vegetation and wildlife that you will not find anywhere else in the world.
The Isalo National Park is home to approximately 14 species of lemur, of which 7 are endemic to the island.
You can also find 77 species of birds, Sandstone Mountains that will take you back to the Jurassic era, and species of frogs that can only be seen at the Isalo National Park.
9. Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park
Other than the spectacular natural beauty, Madagascar also houses one of the world’s most famous UNESCO world Heritige sites is the: The Bemaraha Tsingy.
The Bemaraha Tsingy, or Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park, is in the Melaky region of western part of the country and is often visited on a trip combained with the famous Avenue of Babobas close to Morondava on the west coast of the island.
It is among Madagascar’s oldest national and is famous for its limestone formations that cover an area of 72,300 hectares.
The word “tsingy” in the Malagasy language means “where one cannot walk barefoot,” which results from the park’s landscape being covered by pointed limestone structures.
The Bemaraha Tsingy was built in 1927. It houses 90 species of birds, 10 species of lemurs, and 8 species of reptiles.
The park also houses several dry forests, with over 85% of all flora and fauna endemic to the area.
10. Madagascar Is A Very Cheap Holiday Destination
Whenever someone mentions Africa, Madagascar would not usually come to mind.
Being a relatively unknown country and isolated from the mainland African continent, not many people regard Madagascar as a tourist destination despite its stunningly diverse landscape.
However, Madagascar’s low influx of tourists and as it is an underdeveloped country, it is quite the affordable holiday destination for anyone wanting to venture into the unknown.
Today, one Malagasy ariary, which is the official currency of Madagascar, equals 0.00027 US dollars, making it one of the cheapest and most inexpensive tourist spots in the world.
Those of you wanting to travel on a budget should have Madagascar at the top of your bucket list, even tho the flights from Europe and the west if often a bit pricey, do to limited flights.
Other Interesting Facts About Madagascar
Largest Producer of Vanilla
Madagascar produces the largest quantity of Vanilla anywhere in the world.
Vanilla also happens to be one of the world’s most popular spices, with two-thirds of the world’s annual vanilla produce coming from the island every year.
No Venomous Snakes In Madagascar
Over 90 species of snakes live on the island of Madagascar, and none of them is venomous. In addition so are there no cobras, pythons, vipers, or adders on the island
Bare-Fist Combat Sport
Part of the local culture, Moraingy is a bare-fisted combat sport. Seemingly brutal, this bare-knuckled boxing is an official spectator sport in Madagascar that involves no weapons or armor.
If you are someone who likes to visit places that are yet to be explored, then Madagascar is the perfect destination for you.
Not only does the island boast of a vivid landscape, great weather, and astounding flora and fauna, but it is also one of the safest and most affordable travel destinations in the world.
Wany to know more about Madagascar before you are planning a trip here? Be sure to read this travel guide, which offers all information about, prices, transportation, food, money etc.