If you have seen the DreamWorks animated film Madagascar, then you must know the name of the beautiful East African country in the Indian Ocean, Madagascar. This country is known for many things, among which are lemurs and their splendid habitats, but it has a lot more to offer than lemurs. Madagascar boasts numerous species, both plants and animals, that you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
There are also exquisite places to visit that will make your vacation or gap year fun and memorable. From the beautiful natural attractions to the man-made architectural delights splashed across the island to the irresistible cuisine and the uber-friendly locals, you will indeed find good enough reasons to travel to this beautiful island destination.
Check out 5 things to do and see in Madagascar…
#1. Discover the lemurs
If you can remember the animated film Madagascar’s main lemur characters – King Julien the ring-tailed lemur, Mort the mouse lemur, and Maurice the aye-aye – you’ll agree with me that these mammals are a lively lot. Lesser known lemurs depicted in the animation include blue-eyed black lemurs, crowned lemurs, ruffed lemurs, and black lemurs. So, if you thoroughly enjoyed that animation film, you might consider traveling to the country home of over 100 lemur species.
These are Madagascar’s ultimate animals that tourists and conservationists crave to see. And these gorgeous mammals are naturally found only on this island. But it’s not only lemurs that make this place a must-visit. About 90% of Madagascar’s biodiversity is unique to the island. Now, that’s something truly special.
Top national parks to see the country’s exclusive creatures include the Andasibe-Mantadia National Park, Ranomafana National Park, and Masoala National Park. So, a trip to any of these places will be one of many eye-opening discoveries.
#2. Meet the lovely locals with a rich culture
Contrary to the Madagascar animation film, the real island of Madagascar is full of people (almost 30 million) with a vibrant cultural heritage. The people belong to a broad group of people known as the Malagasy. Among them are also communities of Indians, Arabs, and Somalis. Malagasy people mostly practice traditional religion, which maintains close ties between the living and their ancestors; a minority of Madagascans are Christians and Muslims.
What’s more, Malagasy people are known to have very beautiful names; a lot of them are long but delightful to pronounce. For instance, a man known as Andrianatompokoindrindra is said to be the father of the Malagasy people. In addition, they have a beautiful language that you will love to hear. When you want to say hello to a Malagasy, just say “Salama.” It will light up the faces of the locals.
This island was once colonized by the French; so you’ll hear a lot of French spoken here and you’ll see many people with French names. So, if you can speak some French, it will come in handy when you interact with the locals.
#3. Taste the sumptuous meals
Madagascar boasts exquisite cuisines unique to the Malagasy people. Never look down on culinary reasons for travel. Here in Madagascar, romazava is a popular delight. It is a dish composed of green vegetables, zebu (cattle) meat, onions, and tomatoes, and is eaten together with white rice.
Romazava is the national dish of Madagascar, so how about trying out the national delight of the country? Trust me, it will be a break from your clichéd culinary habits. And you will love it. But in case you are vegetarian, you can find a version of this delicacy that accommodates your nutritional specificities. You will also find another delectable traditional Malagasy food called koba, a brown cake made of rice flour and peanuts. No doubt, your stay on this island won’t be full without savoring romazava and koba.
#4. Take a walk on the beaches
If you are a lover of islands, Madagascar won’t disappoint. This African island country has over 3000 miles of coastline, including smaller islands. Your dream of a perfect vacation on a white beach amidst coconut trees overlooking a turquoise sea will be met here. The beach at Anakao is an idyllic place with resorts. You’re sure to have a blast if you enjoy a good dive or snorkeling. Equally idyllic are the smaller islands of Nosy Be and Nosy Iranja, where some of the best Madagascan beaches are found.
#5. Discover the Avenue of Baobabs
Another thing to see in Madagascar is the Avenue of Baobabs (also known as the Alley of Baobabs). Situated in western Madagascar, you’ll be greeted by a stretch of colossal baobab trees lining a dirt road not too far from the city of Morondava. Believe me, it is breathtakingly beautiful.
You will be told that these majestic trees are about 2,800 years old! Little wonder why tourists from around the world flock here to see it. A walk or drive along this historical and monumental place will be one of your most memorable. Make sure to capture the wonder in as many shots as you can on your camera, because one can easily be trapped in a state of awe while gazing at them. Trust me, a visit here will be the crowning experience of your tour of this island.
Featured image: @the_unwise_thinker/Instagram
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A writer fascinated by humanity and diversity. He is the author of Do Not Say It’s Not Your Country.