Madagascar's teeming fertile forests and geographical isolation have served to preserve and propagate 'nature's design laboratory' in a mix found nowhere else on earth. Sadly, this astounding diversity is threatened by aggressive deforestation.
Still, for now, Madagascar's forests are a shimmering, seething mass of a trillion stems and dripping leaves and slithering, jumping, quirky creatures out of nature's bag of tricks: lemurs, chameleons, periwinkles and baobabs, aloes, geckoes, sifakas and octopus trees.
You needn't totally forget about notions of idyllic tropical islands, but there's more to do here than lazing on a sandy beach and dipping into crystalline waters to peek at coral reefs now and again. Cut off from the African mainland for millions of years, Madagascar's forests are a naturalist's damp dream; they've preserved oddities and developed specialisations found nowhere else on earth, and you can get among them in a spectacular collection of accessible national parks.
With fascinating tribal cultures and ceremonies and an intriguing assortment of fady (local taboos) thrown in to perplex visitors, Madagascar makes for a truly rewarding experience.
Facts for the traveller
Money & Costs
Off the beaten track