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The world's fourth-largest island, covering an area equivalent to Texas, Madagascar lies in the Indian Ocean some 220 miles east of mainland Africa and even farther from Asia. It possesses similarly idyllic beaches to the more vaunted Indian Ocean isles of the Seychelles and Mauritius, but is less developed for tourism. This gives it the advantage of being a relatively affordable beach destination but unsuitable to those seeking slick five-star luxury, though some of the hotels on the scenic volcanically formed islet of Nosy Be and port of Fort Dauphin come close. The main attractions of Madagascar, however, are its forests and wildlife, ...

The world's fourth-largest island, covering an area equivalent to Texas, Madagascar lies in the Indian Ocean some 220 miles east of mainland Africa and even farther from Asia. It possesses similarly idyllic beaches to the more vaunted Indian Ocean isles of the Seychelles and Mauritius, but is less developed for tourism. This gives it the advantage of being a relatively affordable beach destination but unsuitable to those seeking slick five-star luxury, though some of the hotels on the scenic volcanically formed islet of Nosy Be and port of Fort Dauphin come close. The main attractions of Madagascar, however, are its forests and wildlife, which have evolved in glorious isolation over tens of millions of years, resulting in possibly the world's highest level of endemism. Most famous are the monkey-like lemurs, a full 70 species of which inhabit the island, but Madagascar also hosts around 100 unique bird species, a dazzling array of colorful chameleons, lizards, and frogs. Of literally dozens of reserves, Ranomafana and Andasibe National Park stand out for the opportunity to see a wide variety of rainforest lemurs and birds on foot, while the small Berenty Reserve is an excellent introduction to the bizarre, succulent-rich "spiny forest" of the dry south, and the deciduous forests of Ankarana surround a series of striking rock formations known locally as Tsingy.

Philip Briggs
About the Expert

Philip Briggs has written or contributed to 50-plus editions of Bradt, Insight, AA and Berlitz guidebooks to African destinations.

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Philip Briggs for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Southeastern Africa. Island in the Indian Ocean, east of Mozambique
  • Language: French, Malagasy
  • Currency: Malagasy Ariary
  • Research: Madagascar | Wikitravel
  • Weather: Daylight | Rainfall