Forget the frivolities of Hollywood, Madagascar is like nowhere else on earth. In fact, all things considered, hardly qualifies as part of Africa: the two are separated by hundreds of miles of sea and 165 million years of evolution – long enough for plants and animals of Madagascar to become some of the strangest forms on the planet. Nowhere else can see over 70 varieties of lemurs, including one that sounds like a police siren, chameleons largest and smallest of the world, and the last on hold elephant bird, the largest bird ever ever. About Ifaty south of Madagascar, you will see the forests of gnarled and thorny “pop” trees and in the west, marvel at the bottle-shaped baobab trees, especially in the Avenue du Boabab near Morondava.

And be on the look out for the carnivorous pitcher plant found around Ranomafana, more than 60 varieties of them. Not for nothing is considered priority.And Madagascar’s world number one conservation people are no less interesting: arriving here about 2000 years ago along the Indian Ocean trade routes, growing rice in paddies terraces, and speak a language that has more in common with its origins in Southeast Asia than Africa. Their culture is full of taboos and magic, caves, waterfalls, imbue animals and even some physical objects with supernatural attributes. Mountain people live in traditional brick houses with carved balconies several stories, and in some areas, dance with their dead ancestors in the ‘turning of the bones of the ceremony.

Throw in a little history of pirates, the coast full of shipwrecks, great cuisine, some of the world’s longest name place, and people unfailingly polite and friendly, and enjoy a refreshing take on excess “only” tag.

The small town of Ankify is the main port for ships and ferries between the coast of Madagascar and Nosy Be. If you make the journey from Nosy Be too late, and can not find a minibus to Diego Suarez, will have to spend the night. The last taxi leaves brousse Diego around 11, since no one wants to drive at night.

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