The idea of a safari is to see rare, exotic and beautiful animals in their natural habitats. It is also to understand a bit more about how they live, what has shaped their evolution, and why they are unique. And if it is unique flora and fauna that you like then you will love Madagascar safari holidays.
There may not be the big game and fierce predators here that you’ll find on African safaris, but with over 5% of the world’s plant and animal species being found only on this one island, you can be sure of a unique and exotic wildlife experience.
Madagascar was separated from the larger Indian landmass around 88 million years ago – having previously been part of the Gondwana super-continent – and as it did so the animal and plant life were then able to evolve in a completely different way. This is why this 1,000 mile long island – the world’s fourth largest – contains so many unique plant and animal species.
Any safari is only as good as the quality of the wildlife you can glimpse. Which means that Madagascar safari holidays are truly exceptional. One of the main draws of the island is the lemurs – with over 32 species and subspecies exclusively found here, including the cheeky ring tailed lemur and enigmatic indri.
However, it’s not just lemurs that make this an unforgettable experience. There are many species of mating birds on the island, with around 130 of those being totally unique. The 100 mammal species are all exclusively found on Madagascar. It’s due to the lack of big predators that these animals were able to evolve as they did.
For fans of reptiles and amphibians, the 150 endemic frog species and many chameleon species (about 50% of the world’s total) in the rainforest areas will be equally fascinating.
Another of the major reasons why Madagascar safari holidays are so extraordinary is the sheer scale of variation in the landscape. A central spine of highlands is bordered to the south by remote deserts, to the west by low lying coastal plains and unique rock formations in Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park, and to the east by rich rainforest and magnificent Indian Ocean beaches. It is here that you even have the chance to spot some migrating whales if you visit at the right time of year.
The sparsely populated north is also home to some majestic beaches and stunning natural habitats. In short, this vast island is as varied and unusual a safari destination as you will find anywhere on earth. And with the availability of the unique floating safari down one of the country’s rivers, this really could be a safari like no other.
There are also an abundance of national parks to explore such as the world famous Andasibe-Mantadia National Park. In the south you can visit the Ranomafana and Isalo and relax by the remote coastlines of Ambola and Anakao.
The Anjajavy Private Reserve provides a stunning combination of beautiful beaches and rich rainforest within easy reach of each other. Also well worth a visit are the island of Sainte Marie and Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park.
There are around 1,000 unique orchid species to discover in Madagascar, plus thousands more of completely endemic flowering plants. It’s this that gives Madagascar its ‘Lost World’ qualities that makes it such a unique experience.
There is a range of safari experiences to enjoy based on your desires and budget. Knowledgeable local guides are available to explain the natural history of the island and help you to spot some of its most exclusive and reclusive animals.
There is also a wide range of accommodation and facilities, from the cheaper end to four-star lodges and safari accommodation. Classic drive safaris are common but trekking and rafting adventures are also available from companies like Remote River Expeditions.
One of the most noticeable things about Madagascar safari holidays is the friendliness and warm welcome from the locals. A diverse mix of ethnic groups in the different regions means that local culture, customs and traditions are as unusual and varied as the animal and plant life.
With a rich history that combines elements of Malayo-Indonesian, Arab and Indian ancestry, peoples such as the Betsimisaraka and Antaisaka have a fascinating cultural heritage, and one that developed differently to most cultures on the continent.
Local people for the most part are very welcoming and friendly and make a huge contribution to the enjoyment of Madagascar safari holidays, and coupled with the unique flora and fauna, diverse landscape and vast untouched natural habitats make it an experience you’ll never forget.
The meaning of the word ‘safari’ comes from the Swahili for ‘journey’. There couldn’t be a more appropriate word for any holiday experience on the wonderful island of Madagascar.