Madagascar is located off the southeastern shore of the African continent in the Indian Ocean. It is the fourth largest island in the world, after Greenland, New Guinea and Borneo. Madagascar has two distinct seasons. Its rainy and warm season runs from about November through April and its dry and cool season runs from May through October. The topography and climate varies greatly asone travels across the island. The western part of the island is generally drier and sunnier, with the landscape becoming greener and the soil becoming redder as one heads inland towards the east. The capital, Antananarivo, is situated in the center of the island and consists of many hills, with much of the housing built up on the sides of the city. The temperature is noticeably cooler than that of the western regions and as one continues east, the rainfall increases while the temperatures level out.
Its diverse ecosystem is home to a wide array of plant and animal life, with 90% of the animals and over 80% of the plants endemic to Madagascar. The most noted animal endemic to the island is the lemur. As there are no monkeys or other primates to compete with them, the lemur has continued to live throughout the island. It is estimated that over 100 species exist on Madagascar; however their population has declined drastically due to hunting and loss of habitat and many of the species are now considered endangered. Over 65% of the world’s chameleon species are also found here, along with many different kinds of frogs, geckos and lizards.
The flora of Madagascar is truly stunning and one can find over 800 species of orchid (Wikipedia) here. Six of the world’s eight baobab trees are also located here and photographers seeking unparalleled photo opps won’t be disappointed at Avenue des Baobabs near Morondava on Madagascar’s western coast.
While Madagascar is not a destination for a traditional safari, it has much to offer for those wishing to see flora and fauna that cannot be seen elsewhere. It has 20 national parks and six nature reserves with different species of lemur found in nearly all of them. It also is an excellent location for those wishing to combine a ‘safari’ holiday with other activities such as snorkeling, diving, kayaking and hiking. The conditions of Madagascar’s rain forests can be uncomfortable, with leeches and mosquitos in abundance, but if the necessary precautions are taken, Madagascar is highly recommended as an alternative safari destination.