Madagascar's exceptional capital
Few destinations can boast such a unique face beyond the postcard image of white sand, turquoise waters, and bright sun. Madagascar, crossroads of many worlds, promises an exceptional journey.
Millions of years ago, the warm waters of the Mozambique Channel broke off a large section of red earth from the continent, creating the fifth largest island in the world, here in the Indian Ocean. Of its continental roots, Madagascar has conserved its breath-taking nature, which is not easily tamed. Indeed, this beautiful island is even a sort of Noah's Ark in that it preserves endemic fauna and flora from the mainland: six species of baobab tree remain here and are now emblematic of the ‘Red Island', while Africa has only one left today. You will also find colonies of mischievous lemurs, colourful frogs, starred turtles, coelacanths, and tenrecs.
Madagascar plays with paradoxes. Here the savannah meets the rice paddies, brought by immigrants from Asia, who make up the majority on the island. To the east, the heavy rains of the Indian Ocean irrigate a lush rainforest. In the highlands, colonial buildings break with the adobe houses. Elsewhere the sugar cane, pepper, ylang-ylang, and vanilla plantations send up their scents into a spicy air; later these same aromas escape the kitchens of the island's traditional restaurants. There is indeed good reason for another of its nickname: the ‘Perfume Island'.
Madagascar is an enigmatic place. The multiculturalism, ancestor worship, and taboos perpetuated by Indonesian and African ethnic groups, as well as crafts that have become high art, all promise travellers extraordinary experiences, both surprising and intimate. You may find yourself in a bush taxi exploring an impassable ochre path that seems to lead to the end of the world, but the island is also known to seduce more than ecotourism enthusiasts. Nosy Be and its islands, with their pristine sand beaches and blue lagoons, are made for relaxation, and you'll find precious hotels and luxury resorts for modern Robinson Crusoes who love nature and open spaces.
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