Madagascar is a real travel inspiration, mainly because it is one of the wildest places I have ever seen. I remember that while driving through the western plains of the island and then traversing the jungle and tropical forest, many times I was thinking that this is how paradise must have looked like. My trip through Madagascar lasted 10 days, definitely too short. Although, I managed to see quite a lot. In this article, I will tell you about my first moments on this beautiful land that seems to be at the end of the world and is nothing like the world you know.
We all like big comparisons and Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the entire globe. In fact, in the Malagasy language, Madagascar literally means “land at the end of the world”. Are you wondering where the Malagasy language came from? Then know, that it originates from the indigenous people called Malagasy. So, the people living on this island are not Madagascarians, but Malagasy, who years ago reached the island from today’s Indonesia.
If you look at the map, you’ll see that the island lies east of the African coast and has been geographically isolated for thousands of years. That is why most species of flora and fauna that occur there are found only in Madagascar. In my opinion, it makes Madagascar a travel inspiration, especially since there are few such places in the world. For this reason, it is an island even more than other exposed to the development of civilisation and human activities. My goal is to sensitise you to the essence of preserving this wild nature in an unchanged state for as long as possible.
I remember being in this pristine scenery filled me with great gratitude and joy, that I could be part of this perfection. These emotions were so intense, that until today at the memory of this wild island my heart begins to beat faster.
The morning in Madagascar is very active. Life begins with the sunrise. Seemingly, it is no different from the morning anywhere else, apart from the scenery. We pass through the city outskirts, where the market is held every day. Stalls stacked side by side, small wooden, unstable huts, offering local products, vegetables, fruit, meat. Very often the products are put directly on the ground.
It is the end of April and people are already dressed in winter clothes. Even though the city is entirely bathed in the sun and the temperature is approaching 20°C, almost everyone has a hat on their head. Winter is beginning for Malagasy. The average winter temperature is 25°C but the evenings can be quite chilly. You should remember to take some warmer clothes with you.
The city outskirts are very crowded. We are in a city that is an agglomeration of more than a million people and yet the suburbs look more like a village. I can see a cart drawn by two oxen, called Zebu (with a characteristic pointy long antler pointing upwards), passes the street. Another carriage arrives from the opposite direction, this time pulled by a young boy who runs barefoot. People walk along the street with huge sacks that they carry on their heads, without using their hands. Theoretically normal morning and yet reality like from another world.
We leave the capital of Antananarivo and drive south on the RN7 road, soon entering the Malagasy plateau. It’s the island’s area located at an altitude above 3 280 feet above sea level. This land covers the central part of Madagascar. You can admire the rice fields stretching along and across. Rice is a component of every meal hence why Malagasy people have the highest rice consumption per capita in the world. Harvests take place up to three times a year, which is why rice fields are an inseparable and extremely colourful part of the landscape.
We also go through pineapple plantations. Often on the side road, we can see avocado trees, full of fruits ready to pick up. The end of April is also the end of the rainy season and the time of the largest vegetation on the island. Juicy green contrasts with red soil, the so-called characteristic pale soil in the equatorial climate zone, is a bit like clay, but more fertile.
It’s 1 pm, we have just got to Ambositra, the place where the art of wood carving was inscribed on the UNESCO heritage list. The whole town is inhabited by people, called Zafimaniry who have been dealing with the art of craft for generations. Zafimaniry people are one of the 18 ethnic groups living in Madagascar. I have to mention that wood is not ordinary here, it is carved from rosewood and ebony, which are extremely durable and beautiful raw materials. If you like wood, next to the workshop is a shop where you can buy beautiful wooden products.
After a visit to Ambositra, we move on, to reach the Ranomafana National Park, which is another travel inspiration. Along the way, we pass more and more fertile lands. This part of the island is the most agricultural and therefore the most colourful area. Green, red and blue mix with each other into a beautiful mosaic. Even despite the tiredness of a long ride, I can’t take my eyes off the landscape outside the window.
At the end of the day, we reach the gates of Ranomafana National Park, which in Malagasy translates as “hot water”. That is because the park has hot springs. It is the third-largest park in Madagascar, extending over a mountainous area of approximately 41,000 hectares.
This amazing rainforest is abundant in the most diverse species in the world. It is divided into a primary forest, i.e. the so-called virgin jungle, a secondary forest, i.e. one that has grown up after a fire in a pre-existing forest, and a forest of monstrous bamboo. There, you can find many species of lemurs that feed on this plant, among others. As many as 12 species of lemurs can be found throughout the park. Therefore, if you have any doubts, I am talking about animals from the well-known Madagascar movie.
We spend the night in the heart of the rainforest in the village of Ranomafana. Small houses (resort Le Grenat) were located right on the Namorana River with a view of the jungle. The only thing that divides me from the lush greenery is the bridge that is crossing the river. After 12 hours of driving, I fell over on the bed and listening to the sounds of the tropical forest I peacefully fell asleep.
Would you like to know what happened after I crossed that bridge? There is a new article coming soon. I will tell you about the day in the rainforest of Ranomafana and how I met the famous King Julian.