Explore Product Manager Daniela Pontis recently visited Madagascar and came back in awe of everything she saw and experienced while on this unique island.
"Having travelled extensively in Africa, I got used to meeting all sort of weird and wonderful creatures; every encounter in the wild has something very special about it.
However, it is hard for any conservationist and wildlife lover to imagine a place as evocative as Madagascar, home to an unsurpassable variety of species endemic to this fascinating island.
Thanks to its isolation, the flora and fauna of Madagascar has evolved undisturbed; to every visitor the island appears like a continent in its own right. It’s a world apart which throughout the years has captured the imagination of many travellers, including personalities such as Sir David Attenborough, who was among the first to show this captivating country and its creatures to the world 50 years ago.
Today Madagascar still offers the reward of hundreds of species of amphibians, birds and reptiles found nowhere else on the planet, endemic plants and of course, the lemurs which, in the absence of other primates, have become the undisputed kings of the rainforest.
Often the main reason for people to visit the country, there is no doubt that lemurs are incredibly charming and the feeling of walking through the rainforest to track as many varieties as possible of the nearly 100 still left in the wild, is absolutely priceless.
Our journey started in one of the most iconic reserves, Andasibe. Welcomed by our friendly and knowledgeable Tour Leader Armand, we travelled from the capital city Tana through rice paddies and small mud villages to reach the forest home of the Indri lemurs, the largest living species, famous for its “teddy bear” ears and haunting call. From our accommodation beautifully integrated in the reserve, we could hear their calls echoing in the forest and from our veranda we could observe troupes of brown lemurs jumping among trees - a warm and very promising welcome; I’ve never felt so privileged!
The walks over the following days delivered beyond expectation: from indris, to bamboo lemurs, sifakas and black and white ruffed lemurs, I was blown away by the unusual wildlife I had seen from only spending a few days in the reserve. The primary forest of Mantadia had to be my highlight: as soon as we entered this lush and wonderful reserve, we spotted two fossas (rare endemic predators) mating on top of the trees, beautifully camouflaged in the forest and carefree of our presence. Two wildlife photographers, who must have patiently waited for this moment, generously shared the encounter with us. We were ecstatic and only now I do realise, incredibly lucky.
The forest was a sensation: wherever we looked there was an unusual creature or plant to be spotted. I was absolutely enchanted by the beautiful amphibians and reptiles that are found in Ranomafana and Andasibe: their vibrant colours and bizarre shapes are absolutely out of this world. The early morning walks allowed us to appreciate the variety of remarkable birds which inhabit the forest; the night walks disclosed a new fantastic world in front of our eyes, where nocturnal species of lemurs, birds and chameleons replaced the diurnal species.
Moving south, the landscape becomes drier with giant baobabs and the bizarre spiny forest replacing the lush vegetation which characterises the rainforest: here troops of ring-tailed lemurs emerging from granite rock formations with their tiny babies rewarded us once again with a close encounter.
If the wildlife of Madagascar is undoubtedly a highlight unique to this very special country, the scenery is equally remarkable: from forests and canyons to crater lakes and wonderful islands with prolific coral reefs, it has the variety of a continent and this made our road trip absolutely exhilarating.
On the island where Asia meets Africa, the people and their welcoming smiles and their waving hands accompanied us all the way through our journey.
However, the country has many challenges to face in the next decades and only through education, conservation and the support from tourism will Madagascar be able to overcome the threat of de-forestation and preserve its unique and wonderful heritage.
It is for me reassuring to think that in the modern world we live in, only a half-day journey away, such places still exist where people can be genuinely friendly and so much beauty is available to be admired. And so I like to think that, as well as being a wonderful and enriching experience, our visit can contribute to maintain this rare and fragile ecosystem for future generations."
View our holidays in Madagascar