Those who head for Madagascar in search of the unusual and exotic are rarely disappointed. This giant laboratory of evolutionary theory has been a separate land mass for more than 130 million years, predating the era of mammals and the existence of the African continent, and long enough to have given rise to an astonishing array of unique flora and fauna. Many of its native species are frankly bizarre, from immaculately camouflaged geckos to luridly coloured chameleons and frogs. Stars of this show, and the creatures that everyone wants to see, are the beady-eyed, cuddly-looking, acrobatic lemurs that evolved on the islands. 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 rather than African, 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. . .

(continued on p. 309)

Links we like

WBUR’s Madagascar Beautifully assembled by the Boston University media channel, this special feature on the island’s rich biodiversity and culture has great articles, photos, audio and video.

Madagascar National Parks A wealth of practicalities to help you plan a widlife and nature tour.

Office National du Tourisme de Madagascar Official visitor information.

Wild Madagascar Attractive site presenting a mass of information, mostly relating to flora, fauna and habitats.

This page last edited 9 June 2011 © Richard Trillo and Emma Gregg


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