Madagascar: a rarely visited country that has an exotic hold over the imagination, conjuring up a land of wild nature: plains of baobab trees, armies of lemurs, unique animals, lush rainforests, and white sand beaches.
It’s not an easy destination to get to, which makes it the perfect spot for an epic, once-in-a-lifetime adventure. I traveled there on Intrepid Travel’s 16-day Experience Madagascar trip earlier this year, and found many reasons why people should visit this entrancing island.
Here are 8 of them:
You’ll find landscapes unlike anywhere else on earth
Madagascar boasts mind-blowing landscapes that vary across the country. From lush rainforests and arid plains to pristine beaches and sweeping canyons and gorges, you’ll be in awe of the country’s distinct beauty everywhere you look.
When in Isalo National Park with my group, I trekked through each of these landscapes until discovering two secret waterfalls deep within a rainforest-coated gorge.
Madagascar is an extremely budget-friendly destination (once you’re there)
Though getting to the country is expensive, once you are there, everything is incredibly cheap. Your money goes a long, long way in Madagascar. Most of your meals won’t cost more than $4 USD — and it’s even less outside of the tourist areas.
I had a full meal of rice, beans, pork, and vegetables for less than $2 USD at a little restaurant near Ramonafana. Don’t miss the markets locals go to either — I was able to find delicious spring rolls for just 3 cents each!
The wildlife in Madagascar is unique to the country
Because of its geographic isolation, approximately 90% or more of the species found on Madagascar are endemic to the country, meaning you won’t find them anywhere else on the planet. With the help of my local guide, I saw hundreds of birds, lemurs, insects, chameleons, and mammals that I will probably never see again!
The beaches are pristine
With 5,000 km (3,100 miles) of coastline and very few tourists, Madagascar is home to some of the world’s most beautiful beaches.
Don’t miss Île Sainte Marie, a cool island off the eastern coast full of little coves, white sand beaches, delicious seafood, and a laid-back, Caribbean-like atmosphere. It’s also a great place to go snorkeling and whale watch!
There are over 100 species of lemurs on the island of Madagascar
In addition to the thousands of unique species on Madagascar, it’s the only place you’ll find over 100 species of lemurs in their natural habitat.
The country is well known for these mammals that have a variety of interesting behaviors, from crying out like a whale (the indri) to leaping across the forest like a ballet dancer (the sifaka). Being within inches of lemurs hanging out in trees, having one land on my head, and listening to them howl are experiences I’ll never forget.
There’s a ton of exceptional national parks
From hiking and trekking through canyons to swimming under waterfalls to gazing at lemurs in rainforests, Madagascar’s national parks will cater to any nature fanatic’s wildest dreams. Some notable parks include Isalo, Ramonafana, Tsingy, and Andasibe-Mantadia, among many others!
The sunsets are unreal
There’s truly nothing like the sunsets you’ll experience on the African continent, and Madagascar might have some of the best.
I’ve never seen colors quite like those I saw over Antananarivo, Madagascar’s capital, and while on Île Sainte Marie. The pink, purple, yellow, and orange hues that paint the sky each night will stay with you forever.
Madagascar gets very few tourists
Located off the eastern coast of Africa, this island, nearly the size of France and the third largest in the world, has a population of over 20 million but sees only about 325,000 tourists a year.
This means you’ll have a lot of the country’s beauty all to yourself – especially because Intrepid takes you to lesser-known spots.
Madagascar provides a never-ending list of incredible experiences. Despite the years of environmental degradation (which remains a serious problem), you can still see a lot of wonderful native plants and exotic animals that are indigenous to the island.
Though Madagascar’s quite a journey to get to, these highlights will give you an idea of what to expect from what’s likely to be an adventure that’s well deserving of a spot at the top of your bucket list.