Madagascar is the oldest island on earth and is characterised by its unique natural history. This great mass of land, in fact the fourth largest island in the world, lies off the South-East Coast of Africa and is home to 5% of the world's animal and plant species.

Tsingy de BemarahaRedruffed LemurBoat in Nosy BeMasoala National ParkBeach in IfatyEndangered Madagascar TortoisesAvenue of Baobabs

One species of particular interest is the lemur and indeed Madagascar is famous for it. There are over 50 species native to the island and living nowhere else in the world.  Baobabs are also emblematic of the island. There are only 8 species in the world and 6 of them are endemic to Madagascar.

With the abundance of animal and birdlife on the island it is not surprising there are some top class National Parks. Three of the best are Ranomafana in the South-East, Isalo and Tsingy de Bemaraha on the Western Coast.

Ranomafana means 'hot water' and is made up of rainforests, cloud forests, marshes and high plateau forests and bisected by the Namarona River which you can swim in during the summer months. The golden bamboo lemur was discovered here but also shares the space with 11 other different species of lemur.

Tsingy de Bemaraha is perhaps the most impressive of the National Parks. It is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has unique geographical features - the tsingy. These oddly named formations form a collection of 'tsingy' peaks and are perhaps better described to those having not seen them before as a forest of limestone needles.  A series of walkways, ladders and cable ropes run between the peaks and providing stunning views. There is an abundance of flora, fauna which is home to the red-fronted and brown lemurs as well as chameleons and collared iguanids.

It's true that most travellers come to Madagascar to observe the natural wonders but the beaches here are great too and can often be overlooked. Nosy Be is the largest of a cluster of islands in the Mozambique channel. A stay on Nosy Be wouldn't be complete without a day trip to the nearby reef ringed island of Nosy Tamikely. Here you will find a marine reserve perfect for snorkelling.

Off the East Coast of Madagascar lies Ile Sainte Marie, a cliché of a tropical island with endless palm fringed beaches, white sand, luxurious vegetation and the added bonus of being relatively undeveloped. The picture perfect beaches are a great place to wind down and between May and September to whale-watch.

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