A natural reserve the size of an entire county
A cruise to Madagascar in search of the unusual and exotic rarely disappoints. This giant, verdant laboratory of evolutionary theory has been separated from mainland Africa for long enough to have given rise to an astonishing array of endemic flora and fauna.
Many of its native species are frankly bizarre, from immaculately camouflaged geckos to luridly coloured chameleons and frogs. Stars of a holiday to Madagascar, and the creatures that everyone wants to see, are the beady-eyed, cuddly-looking, acrobatic lemurs.
Even the landscapes are somewhat weird – travel widely, and you’ll marvel at Madagascar’s strange, jagged pinnacles, lumpy hills and bulbous-trunked baobabs. Malagasy culture is highly distinctive, too. Many of the linguistic and ritual customs of the first islanders, who were Malay-Polynesian, remain today. Visitors will often hear talk of fady, meaning taboo – actions which should be avoided for fear of offending the ancestors and throwing the natural world out of balance.
Pointing at sacred objects or bathing in certain rivers, for example, are fady. Being mindful of such conventions will earn you respect and is crucial if you’re invited to a traditional ritual such as Famadihana, the Turning of the Bones.