No matter how seasoned a traveler you are, Madagascar has the ability to leave all who land on its shores in complete awe. Drifting from the mainland of India some 88 million years ago, Madagascar has evolved into one of the most exotic destinations on the globe, a unique spot where over 90% of its native plant and animal life can be found nowhere else on Earth. The people are warm and inviting to foreigners no matter where they’re originally from; Madagascar has been settled by continental Africans, Southeast Asians, and Arabs, who over time have combined to make up the Malagasy ethnic group, the most dominant ethnic group on the island. People here are willing to help in any situation, no matter if it’s roadside bicycle repairs or just helpful directions.
Cycling the island nation can often feel like you’re on a different planet as you meander your way through national parks filled with alien-like baobab trees, endemic spiny forests, and lush jungles where lemurs swing overhead. The three main regions of the island are: the rainforests to the north, the heavily populated interior highlands, and the southern dry savannah. The capital city of Antananarivo sits almost in the geographic center of the island and is usually your port of entry into Madagascar, unless you’ve come by boat. The natural sights are not hard to see once you leave Antananarivo; not far south of the capital are the crater lakes of Andraikiba and Tritriva, which have mystified travelers and locals alike. Crystal clear lakes are common in the interior highlands, as are emerald green rice paddies and natural hot springs. The roads in Madagascar can be a challenge at times so you always need to be prepared for a bit of a rougher ride than you might be accustomed to.
Heading south from the central highlands you cross over into the rain shadow created by the mountains of the interior, and into the hotter and most poor portion of the country. The landscape of the south again feels completely alien as the arid plateaus and limestone canyons are populated by endemic plants and animals well adapted to drought. In the opposite direction, the northern third of Madagascar is populated by dense rainforests which contains some of the highest levels of biodiversity on the planet. Finally, the coastlines of Madagascar are lined with golden sand beaches where you will find more touristy developments starting to spring up.
Madagascar is a true adventure seeker’s paradise where your preconceptions about Africa will be completely shattered. The roadways are dodgy, the scenery is surreal, and the animals are truly unique. Sadly, this may not last, as the growing population of humans is beginning to strain the natural environment of the island, so you better get your trip to Madagascar before it’s all gone.