Islands of Africa: Madagascar

Islands of Africa: Madagascar
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If Madagascar can make David Attenborough effusive by his normally measured standards then it has to be pretty special. And so it is, as one of the most unique places on earth. Some 5% of the world’s flora and fauna is found on this island and of that percentage, 90% is found only here. Significant figures especially when considering how small the island is.  

Scenes from the film Madagascar are overshadowed by the reality of the place. With avenues of baobab trees and lemurs leaping sideways and belly first, Madagascar is a fantasy destination that defies imitation.   

It even has a forest that is made of stone. Limestone spikes form the Tsingy de Bemaraha park and it helps to know that tsingy means “where one cannot walk barefoot”. It creates an impenetrable barrier to any living thing that can’t tackle rock. Species are still being uncovered in this surreal landscape. A refuge that locks in as much as it locks out, the stones look like prehistoric uneven-edged axes, albeit on a large and immovable scale. 

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The island separated from the rest of the world and it’s run-of-the-mill species 160 million years ago, making Madagascar a veritable experiment in environmental ingenuity. A survivor of the Jurassic era, chameleons are the hologram of the animal kingdom.  

Madagascar has 40 types of the responsive reptile with skin that resembles a precious jewel. Lemurs have captured the world’s imagination even more than the chameleon, and with more than 70 species in Madagascar, it’s not likely you’ll get bored of the curious tree-dweller. Sadly, all the lemurs are endangered, from the ones who live in bamboo to the Aye Aye that finds its food in the same way as a woodpecker would. Madagascar has more to offer than cute creatures, however. The satanic leaf-tailed gecko is a red beast with a spiked devil head that renders the locals fearful.  

In Madagascar the natural world is staggering but not at the expense of beaches and cuisine. A history of trade and migration has made Madagascar a bastion of fusion food bettered by an abundance of pristine produce, from vanilla and cocoa to rum and wine.  

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