Life around the world

Thursday, 5 November, 2015 - 17:55

Madagascar: more than just lemurs

by JonnyB

When most people think of Madagascar they think of the film series and not the country. The country of Madagascar is found off the east coast of South Africa. Perhaps others may have heard of the island, but when you ask them what they know about it, their answer usually includes the animals lemur or chameleon. This is a great shame, although not altogether unsurprising given that fewer than five thousand British tourists visited Madagascar last year and fewer than two hundred thousand people visited globally last year.

So why are people not flocking to visit The Great Red Island? On the face of it, the fact that it is not at all touristy seems at odds with its white sand beaches and thick rainforests teeming with wildlife. Other places with similar climates, like many countries in South America and South Asia, receive millions of tourists each year. Part of the problem lies in the fact that Madagascar is a developing country, in fact one of the poorest non-conflict zones in the world, and so has precious little money to spend on services such as transport and tourist accommodation.

The most common way of getting around in Madagascar is in a taxi-brousse (old minibuses packed full of people and sometimes animals!) which is not the most comfortable way of travelling!

It is also very difficult to plan a trip to Madagascar in advance because few hotels have an online presence, internal flights take place only three or four times a week and the transport network is chaotic and unreliable. We once had to unexpectedly stay the night somewhere as our taxi-brousse never arrived!

However, believe it or not, this is exactly what makes Madagascar such a special and rewarding place to visit. With the inability to plan too far ahead, every day is an adventure and you rely far more on the advice of fellow travellers and locals than you do on the guide book. This freedom allows you to see what Madagascar really has to offer from seeing the fire-resistant Baobab trees at sunset in the east, to going spearfishing and humpback whale-watching on Saint-Marie Island on the west coast. From jungle treks, to village teaching placements, from nature parks to deep sea diving, The Great Red Island has it all – and you could be one of the few to discover it for what it really is. 

Note from editor: The photo shows the baobab trees that JonnyB mentions. On our Kids website there's a song about lemurs, in case you're not familiar with which animal it is. 

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