Madagascar Island – Land of the Lemurs is in big trouble. For generations , the practice of slashing and burning forest land has been an accepted way for impoverished locals to create farmland and feed their families. But this practice has decimated Madagascar’s interior forests, and the tropical rainforest is quickly disappearing. The resulting loss of habitat threatens many of Madagascar’s unique wildlife species, and some are already gone.
Fourth-largest island in the world? That’simpressive to start with. But now consider that a hefty 5% of the world’s species liveon this Indian Ocean island, off Africa’seast coast—and nearly 75% of those specieslive nowhere else. That’s why Madagascaris such a vital destination for anynature lover.You’ll see the glorious yellow comet mothwith its 20cm (8-in.) tail, the sticky-pawed tomato frog, neon-green day geckoes , petite chameleons less than an inch long,spiny insect-gobbling tenrecs, and leathery-winged flying foxes. Though Madagascar has only 258 bird species, nearly half of them are also unique to the island, including the pheasantlike ground birds known as couias. The only amphibians here are frogs—but there are 300 species of them, nearly all endemic.
Madagascar has cornered the market on lemurs; no other country has any lemurs whatsoever. In Madagascar, though, lemurs seem to drip from the trees, both in the rainforest and the western dry forest. They come in all shapes and color and sizes, resembling pandas, raccoons, monkeys, rats, bats, whatever you can imagine. It’s truly mind boggling.
But like many other undeveloped countries, Madagascar has seen wide deforestation and the ravages of slash-and-burn agriculture (coffee, sugar cane, and vanilla are its main exports). The interior’s dense woods have mostly been leveled, and the tropical rainforest areas are rapidly following suit. With their habitats reduced, those one-of-kind species are increasingly endangered. Several species have already been lost due to human depredation—pygmy hippos, the stately elephant bird, giant tortoises, and lemurs. Now here’s the good news: President Marc Ravalomanana has been turning the tide with new aggressive conservation programs. By investing half of park entrance fees back into local communities, he’s giving natives a direct economic incentive to protect the environment, to attract eco-tourism revenues. The world watches hopefully. Andasibe-Mantadia National Park, a3-hour drive from the country’s capital Antananarivo, is the most accessible wildlife preserve, known especially for the black-and-white lemur called the indri, whose cry sounds uncannily like a whale song. Farther south along Route 7 lies the country’s most developed rainforest park, Ranomafana (60km/37 miles from Fianarantosa), a romantic terrain of rocky slopes, waterfalls, and moss-draped trees. Continue south for L’Isalo National Park, where you can hike around tapia forests, narrow canyons, and sheer sandstone crags. On the east coast near Morondava you can gape at the Avenue of the Baobabs, a remarkable collection of those upside-down tropical trees, another of Madagascar’s specialties. [Article source : Frommers]
Even if you’re normally a go-it-alone traveler, it’s advisable to take an organized tour to Madagascar, especially if you want to move around the countryside. Local roads are spotty at best, and booking hotels can be a gamble. You’ll need local guides, anyway , how else will you tell all the different lemurs apart?