Madagascar...the name just rolls off your tongue in a series of delicious syllables. It evokes visions of lush greenery, jade hued seas, and swirls of colorful textiles. If the allure of a new destination wasn’t enough to set your wanderlust on high alert, we have a few other reasons why you should make Madagascar your must-see spot for 2017.
1. With 250,000 endemic species and unearthly landscapes, it’s no wonder this island is nicknamed the eight continent. A region this unique deserves a trip all its own, but thanks to daily flights into Johannesburg, you can also pair it with a traditional safari getaway or time in Cape Town.
2. It’s the only place in the world to see countless incredible animals – think sifaka lemurs, tomato frogs, leaf-tailed geckos, and chameleons so tiny they fit on your fingernail!
3. Thickets of spiny trees, jagged stone ‘forests’, sky high baobabs, sweeping grasslands, and high plateaus – Madagascar has no end to spectacular scenery. In a single day you can pass through a dozen different ecosystems, each vastly different from one another.
4. After a long day of exploring the rainforest, is there a better way to unwind than beachside? With white sand beaches, gently lapping waves, and pirogues (traditional wooden boats) bobbing along the shore, Madagascar is no slouch in the beach department.
5. As a former trade hub between Africa and Asia, Madagascar boasts a suite of cultural diversity that’s sure to impress. Whether you prefer vibrant song and dance, or perusing market stalls bursting with local goods, the Malagasy people will welcome you into their world with open arms. Known for artisanal silk, delicate embroidery, hand-woven baskets and hats, and detailed wooden carvings, Madagascar is a great cultural destination.
6. Trying new foods is one of the best parts of a new destination, and Madagascar doesn’t disappoint. Tantalize your taste buds with slow-cooked pork, spiced rice, lemon and mango chutney, fresh seafood, juicy homegrown fruits, Malagasy curries, savory fritters, and locally produced rum. With influences from France, China, India, and the Arabian Peninsula, Madagascar’s culinary delights are unexpected and truly delicious.
7. An untouched paradise of coral reefs fringe the island’s coastlines, making it a true hidden gem in the world of scuba diving. Alongside teems of colorful fish, divers can also find sea turtles, dolphins, manta rays, whale sharks, grey reef sharks, and countless more. Madagascar's signature flair for biodiversity definitely extends into its ocean. Devoid of mass tourism and well-preserved, these reefs feel like a world all your own. A must-do for any avid diver!
8. Ecotourism is the way of the future, and Madagascar has done a beautiful job blending sustainability with top notch experiences. With trendy eco-resorts, luxe beachside cottages, and tranquil rainforest camps, there is something for everyone. The UN has named 2017 the Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, and we can't think of a destination that better embodies this than Madagascar.
Images from Bloomberg, Constance Tsarabanjina, Shannon Benson, Miavana, Will Burrard-Lucas, and Google.