Gerald Durrell likened Madagascar to “a badly presented omelette”, observing that “like all the best omelettes, well or badly presented, it is stuffed with goodies”. He wasn’t wrong. The world’s fourth-largest island packs a huge ecological punch: 80 per cent of its flora and fauna is endemic, from lumbering, goggle-eyed chameleons to giant jumping rats and lolloping lemurs, and most of it is harmless and easy to view up close. Often overlooked in favour of higher-end destinations, such as the Seychelles and Mauritius, Madagascar is a great option for an adventurous Indian Ocean break; the terrain is incredible, the pace of life mora mora (“slowly, slowly”) and cultural life revolves around a fascinating system of ancestral worship and fady (taboos).
The patchwork of misty rainforest on the island’s east coast makes for a great introduction to the country, offering guaranteed lemur sightings and coral-strewn waters. Domestic security has improved since the country’s 2009 coup – Britain has announced the reopening of its embassy in the capital, Antananarivo (known locally as “Tana”), in 2013 – but you’d still do well to check the latest advisories before you travel. Below are our suggestions for a relaxed two-week visit.
Masoala National Park
Perched in the far northeast of the island, Masoala National Park is the country’s largest protected park and most diverse primary-rainforest area, unique for its combination of forest and coast. Soaring trees with oversized buttress roots covered in creepers and orchids reach all the way down to exquisite, sandy beaches, where humpback whales appear in the water and volcanic rock formations scatter the shore. Accessed by a flight and boat trip from Tana, the national park isn’t easy to get to, but it’s undoubtedly worth the journey.