The tropical island of Madagascar lies off the coast of Africa. With its amazing variety of unique animals and plants, which cannot be seen in any other part of the world, it draws excited nature lovers. They visit the island just to explore the many national parks with their astonishing geological features, the wonderful animal and plant life, the delightful lemurs and the famous Baobab trees, young at 400 years and with diameters reaching 20 feet. All this and more, has made the island of Madagascar a very popular tourist destination in recent years. Discover the rich history and culture as you stroll through the capital city of Antananarivo, or the World Heritage Site of Ambohimanga. Visit the Marche Artisanale de La Digue (Artisan Craft Market) on your way to the airport, to browse among hundreds of shops selling authentic Malagasy crafts in this huge open- air market. Enjoy vast stretches of sandy beaches, go kayaking or kite surfing, snorkel with the giant turtles, go whale and shark sighting or hit the hiking trail for a tryst with nature. Madagascar has all this and more to offer. Mentioned below, are a few interesting places to see when visiting this amazing island, which some say should be termed, the eighth continent.
TSINGY DE BEMARAHA NATIONAL PARK
The word Tsingy translates as “the place where you cannot walk barefoot”. You need strong hiking boots to explore the karstic plateaus with their undulating landscape, where underground water has carved the limestone into unbelievable shapes. There are canyons, gorges, forests, lakes and even mangrove swamps, all of which provide habitats for an amazing variety of indigenous plants and animals, including 11 species of lemur. The many hiking circuits include canoeing on the river and crossing over a scary rope bridge. There are three campsites within the park which allow you to make an overnight stay. Enjoy sleeping outdoors beneath the stars.
RANOMAFANA NATIONAL PARK
This is one of Madagascar’s most easily accessible national parks and is consequently very popular with tourists. The park covers a large area of 160 square miles of primary and secondary forest, which provides the ideal habitat for the critically endangered golden bamboo lemur as well as another 11 species of lemur and several other species of indigenous wildlife. Choose any of the five well-maintained trails to hike through these beautiful forests. You could go on a four hour hike or choose a more strenuous 2 to 3 day trek. There are several campsites spread around the park where you can spend a night or two surrounded by the Malagasy jungle.
LES TROIS BAIES (THE THREE BAYS)
Located at the northernmost tip of the island near the town of Diego Suarez are the three bays, Bay of Dunes, Bay of Pigeons and the Sakalava Bay. Blue as the skies above, each bay has a lovely stretch of beach and is a very popular tourist destination. Follow a coastal path running close to the shore, to explore all the three bays on foot. Enjoy plenty of bird sightings and spectacular views. At Sakalava Bay the conditions are ideal for wind surfing and kite surfing.
Ambohimanga Hill is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the province of Antananarivo in northern Madagascar. It used to be a royal city and burial site, and later a summer palace for Malagasy royalty. The city was surrounded by an enormous protective stone wall and 14 outer gates, the largest of which had a massive stone disc that was over 130 feet in diameter and required at least 20 strong men to move it into position. Important features of the Hill include the two palaces, the sacrificial ox pit, four royal tombs, two sacred basins and the massive main gate. Explore this historical site with the help of a guide who will provide interesting details that you may otherwise miss.
ISALO NATIONAL PARK
This vast Park of 81,000 hectares is in southern Madagascar in the region of Ihorombe. Isalo encompasses a wide variety of terrains, ranging from surreal sandstone formations, a network of streams and rivers, oases with palm trees, grasslands and deep canyons. The ideal way to explore this fascinating area is by using a combination of road circuits and trekking trails which will lead you deep into the interior of the park. Discover abandoned palaces and royal tombs. Catch glimpses of a variety of plants and animals, such as lemurs, reptiles and hundreds of different species of birds. There are several waterfalls and quiet natural pools to have a refreshing swim. As in the other parks, there are campsites where you can spend the night.
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