Madagascar … where all the cool creatures live

Africa, Madagascar — By on October 27, 2013 11:48 PM


Dancing lemurs, colorful chameleons, hump back cattle (zebu) are just a few of the crazy cool creatures that call Madagascar home.

Nowhere else on earth (aside from a zoo) will you find a single lemur or it’s predator the carnivourous fossa.

Nowhere else on earth can you hold the world’s smallest chameleon in the palm of your hand.

World’s Smallest Chameleon

In fact, nowhere else on earth will you find 90% of the wildlife that live in Madagascar as these creatures are endemic to the island.

THE COOL CREATURES that reside in Madagascar were one of the many reasons I had been dying to explore the world’s forth largest island for so long. During my adventure in Madagascar I would discover a country with a mix of people, culture and ecology unlike anywhere else in the world.

Over 300 species of birds have been spotted on the island, of which 60% are endemic.

Giant Coua

bird on the banks of the Tsiribihina river

Mada is home to 2/3 of the world’s chameleon species including the smallest known and maybe be origin of all chameleons.

Cool Chameleon  on the Tsiribihina river

Zebu

Zebu

There are 103 species of Lemurs in Madagascar that are all endemic to the island.

Lemur

Lemur

Bamboo Lemur

White Ruffed Lemur

THE PLANTS

More than 80% of Madagascar’s 14,883 plant species are found nowhere else in the world.

Madagascar is home to 170 palm species, which astonishingly is three times as many you will find on the entire mainland of Africa! 165 of these palm species are endemic to the island.

Traveler’s Palm

Six of the world’s eight bayobob tree species are rooted in Madagascar and nowhere else on earth.

Bayobob Trees

There are two very different theories as to why Madagascar is such a biodiversity hotspot.

Noah & the Ark. Madagascar is predominately a Christian nation, and many Malagasy people believe the biblical story of God instructing Noah to brink into the ark two of all living creatures. They also believe when the great flood ended, Noah and his ark full of creatures hit land on their island.

Geography/Geology/Climate/Evolution. Scientists say Madagascar split from India around 88 million years ago, allowing native plants and animals to evolve in relative isolation.

Malagasy boys

THE PEOPLE

The Malagasy, who share the island with all of the weird and wonderful creatures, are also quite unique. Despite being just 400km from the east coast of Africa, Madagascar was only settled sometime between 300BC and 500AD. The island was first inhabited by Indo-Malayans who came by boat from Boreno. Malagasy people look different than their closest African neighbors, the faces and the rice fields you encounter across the island often leave you thinking you are in Southeast Asia. Malagasy and French are the official languages of the country.

The population of Madagascar is estimated to be just over 22 million, 90% of whom live on less than $2 per day. Poverty is rampant across the island and the continued political instability since the coup of 2009 has left the people without leadership and aid.

THE PEOPLE’S EFFECT ON THE ECOSYSTEM

Hunting and the destruction of the natural habitat has driven many of Madagascar’s species to extinction. The elephant bird can only be seen as skeleton bones and many giant lemurs are no longer in existence.

Madagascar has lost 90% of its original forest since man arrived some 2350 years ago. Most of the forest has been lost due to a traditional slash-and-burn agricultural practice that was imported by the island’s earliest settlers. Today local farmers continue to slash-and-burn for its cultural associations with good health and prosperity.

Tourism has not affected the islands natural ecosystem or culture as it has in other more visited parts of the world. Tourism is very underdeveloped despite its high potential thanks to the islands cool creatures, plants, beautiful beaches and landscapes. I encountered very few tourists on my trip, I suspect due to the expense and lack of infractructure making it difficult to get to and around the island.

Madagascar is by far the coolest, wildest and least developed, rawly beautiful country I have yet to explore and is also one of my favorite adventures! There really is nowhere else on earth like Mada.

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2 Comments

  1. Abbe says:

    Kelly, I met you years ago at the Book Passages travel workshop …and continue to follow your posts 🙂

    I was heading off on my 5+ yr travel adventures at the time, which eventually lead me back to school, and now I am a Peace Corps volunteer in Benin.

    Anyway, my top priority before leaving Africa is to visit Madagascar! I was just writing to ask if you had any more detailed scoop, priority of places to go, flying or driving, amount of time to spend in places, best guidebook, any local outfitter you’d recommend, etc. I’m happy to mix it up, nature, local culture, even the luxury beach/snorkel/scuba tourist areas in the north.

    Many thanks, take care, best to you – Abbe

  2. Kelly says:

    Hi Abbe! Great to hear from you and thanks so much for following my blog 🙂 So excited for you that you plan to visit Madagascar, such an incredible place! I plan to write several more posts about my Mada experiences over the month I spent on the island … but I am bit slow with my updates so I will also send you an email answering your questions. Happy to help!

    Happy Trails! Kelly

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