Extending across the southwest are thousands of miles biodiverse spiny forests, home to a tangle of desert plants and majestic baobabs, for which the island is famous: of the nine species of this ancient tree, six are found only in Madagascar. Despite some evidence of deforestation, there are still many protected places to explore, from scouring these forests in search of the many lemur species, such as rare indri and sifika, to trekking through deserted canyons.
On the miles of coastline, sapphire seas lap gently over golden sands while local fishermen haul in their catch and giggling girls pound rice – scenes redolent of an ancient way of life, unchanged for many moons.
I had no idea what to expect of tropical city life, and it was Madagascan capital, Tana, that was the biggest surprise for me. A fascinating place often shrouded in mist, where the smell of spices hangs heavy in the air, this vibrant city is busy with rustic zebu or ox carts that carry everything and everyone around and filled with views of hills that soar from the endless rice paddies and old men drying their harvest around town. Do not miss exploring the beautiful palaces perched on the upper regions of the city – cazenove+loyd arranged a wonderful, guided exploration of these historic buildings that truly brought their stories to life.
Everyone we encountered on our journey was charming and friendly, wanting for nothing and keen to share the magical spirit of the island. We stayed in an enchanting combination of rustic but comfortable lodges and lovely contemporary hotels, many of which were committed to serving fantastic local produce that sung with the island flavours.