It wouldn’t be a far stretch to claim that Madagascar is one of the world’s most unique places. Everything about it screams extraordinary – the landscapes are awe-inspiring, the reefs are vibrant, and the wildlife is wonderfully bizarre. Madagascar may sit a mere 310 miles from Africa, but ecologically speaking it couldn’t be more different. Over 88 million years ago, Madagascar split from the Indian subcontinent. As India started its northward drift, Madagascar settled along the southeastern coast Africa, where it can still be found today.
Madagascar has the perfect characteristics for developing incredibly weird flora and fauna. It’s the fourth largest island on earth offering diverse terrain for habitats, and its isolation has allowed for a very special type of evolution to occur: island biogeography. Biogeography is the study of where species live and how they came to live there. In the case of islands, biogeography often results in a very odd assemblage of animals that have evolved in isolation from the rest of the world. Normally plants and animals travel between regions, searching for more suitable habitat. On islands there is nowhere to go – they are trapped and must evolve to suit the habitat that’s available to them. Also, islands have finite amounts of resources, and those who can best evolve weird traits to compete for them will thrive. Every tiny niche in the ecosystem will be exploited, with species evolving to specialize in the strangest set of circumstances. Over time, weirder and weirder animals have evolved from the original ones stranded on Madagascar millions of years ago.
Today Madagascar is covered by leaping lemurs, psychedelic chameleons, geckos that look like leaves, snakes with unicorn horns, mammals that look like a kangaroo mated with an otter, and insects that look straight out of a Dr. Seuss book. This island is bursting with a magic that has been perfected over eons – wonderful, weird, and perfect for adventurous travelers.