Top Ten Madagascan Attractions

Top Ten Madagascan Attractions

       Madagascar is an island country located in the Indian Ocean off the southeastern coast of Africa, comprising the island of Madagascar, the 4th largest island in the world, as well as numerous smaller peripheral islands, the largest of which include Nosy Be and Nosy Boraha. The prehistoric breakup of the Gondwana supercontinent separated the Madagascar-Antarctica-India landmass from the Africa-South America landmass around 135 million years ago. Madagascar later split from India around 88 million years ago, allowing plants and animals on the island to evolve in complete isolation. Consequently, Madagascar is a biodiversity hotspot in which over 80% of its plant and animal species are found nowhere else on Earth. These are dispersed across a variety of ecoregions, broadly divided into eastern and south-central rain forest, western dry forests, southern desert and spiny forest. Most archaeologists believe Madagascar was first inhabited sometime between 300 BC and 500 AD by Austronesian peoples arriving on outrigger canoes from Borneo in the Indonesian archipelago who were later joined around 1000 AD by Bantu migrants crossing the Mozambique Channel. Arab, East African, Indian, Chinese and European (primarily French) migrants settled on Madagascar over time, each one making lasting contributions to Malagasy cultural life. Malagasy, the Austronesian language spoken in various forms by the vast majority of the population, is the national language and one of two current official languages alongside French. Until the late 18th century, the island of Madagascar was populated by a fragmented assortment of shifting socio-political alliances of varying sizes. Beginning in the early 19th century, however, the majority of the island was united and ruled as the Kingdom of Madagascar by a series of nobles of the Merina ethnic group. The monarchy collapsed when the island was conquered and absorbed into the French colonial empire in 1896, from which the island gained independence in 1960. Since 1992 the nation has officially been governed as a constitutional democracy from its capital at Antananarivo by an elected president who serves a renewable five-year term and is supported by the prime minister he or she nominates. A 2010 constitutional referendum ushered in the Fourth Republic in which the nation continues to be managed by Rajoelina’s unelected caretaker government known as the High Transitional Authority (HAT). Rajoelina, currently the youngest head of state in Africa, has failed to secure recognition from the international community, which largely views the current administration as illegitimate and has widely characterized Rajoelina’s seizure of power as a coup d’état. In 2010, the population of Madagascar was estimated at around 20 million, 85% of whom live on less than two dollars per day. Ecotourism, agriculture, expansion of international trade and greater investments in education, health and private enterprise are key elements of Madagascar’s development strategy. Under Ravalomanana, these investments produced substantive economic growth but the benefits were not evenly spread throughout the population, producing tensions over the increasing cost of living and declining living standards among the poor and some segments of the middle class.

  1. Marojejy National Park

    Marojejy National Park is a national park in the SAVA Region of northeastern Madagascar. It covers 55,500 ha (214 sq mi) and is centered around the Marojejy Massif, a mountain chain which rises to an elevation of 2,132 m (6,995 ft). The wide range of elevations and rugged topology of the massif create diverse habitats that transition quickly with changes in altitude. Warm, dense rainforest can be found at lower elevations, followed by shorter forests at higher elevations, followed still by cloud forest, and topped near the peaks with the only remaining undisturbed mountain scrub in Madagascar. This habitat diversity lends itself to high levels of biodiversity. At least 118 species of bird, 148 species of reptile and amphibian and 11 species of lemur are known to live within Marojejy National Park. One of the lemurs, the silky sifaka (Propithecus candidus) is listed among “The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates.” The Helmet Vanga (Euryceros prevostii) is considered the iconic bird species of the park. One path leads from the entrance of the park to the summit. There are three camps along the route: Camp Mantella at 450 m (1,480 ft) in elevation in lowland rainforest, Camp Marojejia at 775 m (2,543 ft) at the transition between lowland and montane rain forest, and Camp Simpona at 1,250 m (4,100 ft) in the middle of the montane rainforest. Camp Simpona acts as a base camp for the trek to the summit, a route that stretches 2 km (1.2 mi) and can take up to four or five hours.
    Links: National Parks, Top Ten African National Parks, Top Ten Lizards, Top 100 Birds, Top Ten Best Dressed Animals,,
  2. Masoala National Park

    Masoala National Park, in northeast Madagascar, is the largest of the island’s protected areas. Most of the park is situated in Sava Region and a part in Analanjirofo. Created in 1997, the park protects 2,300 square km of rainforest and 100 square km of marine parks. The Masoala peninsula is exceptionally diverse due to its huge size and variety of habitats. Altogether, the park protects rainforest, coastal forest, flooded forest, marsh and mangrove.
    Links: National Parks, Top Ten African National Parks,,
  3. Ranomafana National Park

    Ranomafana National Park is located in the southeastern part of Madagascar in Haute Matsiatra and Vatovavy-Fitovinany. With more than 41,600 hectares (161 square miles) of moist forest climate, the park is home to several rare species of flora and fauna such as the lemur. The park was established in 1991 with the purpose of conserving the unique biodiversity of the local ecosystem and reducing the human pressures on the protected area.
    Links: National Parks, Top Ten African National Parks, Top Ten Frogs/Toads, Top Ten Lizards, Top Ten Spiders,,
  4. Royal Hill of Ambohimanga

    The Royal Hill of Ambohimanga is a site of cultural and historical significance located approximately 24 km to the east of the capital city of Antananarivo in Madagascar. The site consists of a walled historic village including residences and burial sites of several key members of the royalty of Imerina, the ethnic community that rose to power in the 19th century and united much of the island nation of Madagascar under its administrative authority. The site, one of the twelve sacred hills of Imerina, is associated with strong feelings of national identity and has maintained its spiritual and sacred character both in ritual practice and the popular imagination for the past 500 years. It remains a place of worship to which pilgrims come from Madagascar and elsewhere.
  5. Andringitra National Park

    Andringitra National Park is National Park in the Ihorombe Region of Madagascar, 47 km south of Ambalavao. Approximately 140 km of the Tropic of Capricorn crosses the park. The park was established in 1999 and is managed by the Madagascar National Parks Association. It is known for its rough terrain, which includes the mountain peak Ivohibe at 2,658 m, as well as deep valleys and ridges. It is also one of the most biologically diverse and endemic places in all of Madagascar; over 100 different species of birds, over 50 species of mammals and 55 species of frogs can be found here.
    Links: National Parks, Top Ten African National Parks, Top 100 Flowers, Top Ten Trees,,
  6. Andohahela National Park

    Andohahela National Park, in southeast Madagascar, is remarkable for the extremes of habitats that are represented within it. The park covers 760 square kilometers of the Anosy mountain range, the southernmost spur of the Malagasy Highlands. These mountains form a natural barrier to the moist trade winds that blow from the east, causing a rainfall of 1,500 to 2,000mm per year on their eastern side that supports one of the few rainforests south of the tropic of Capricorn. At the western edge of the park, the rainfall is just 600 to 700mm per year and the resulting vegetation is a dry spiny forest characteristic of southern Madagascar. In the area between these two climatic extremes is a unique transitional forest known as the Ranopiso transition, which is characterized by the locally endemic triangular palm, Dypsis decaryi. The variety of habitats within Andohahela is mirrored in the richness of species that are found there. Fifteen species of lemur have been recorded, including two of Madagascar’s most emblematic species, the Ring-tailed Lemur and Verreaux’s Sifaka. Several circuits within each of the habitat types of the park can be accessed by road from the town of Tolagnaro. Detailed information on arranging trips is available from the tourism information office or from the Madagascar National Parks Association office in Tolagnaro.
    Links: National Parks, Top Ten African National Parks,,
  7. Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve

    Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve is a nature reserve located near the western coast of Madagascar in Melaky Region. The southern end of the protected area has subsequently been changed into the Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park, covering 666 square km (257 square mi). The northern end of the protected area remains as a strict nature reserve covering 853 square km (329 square mi).
  8. Zahamena National Park

    Zahamena National Park is a national Park of Madagascar.
    Links: National Parks, Top Ten African National Parks, Top Ten Lizards,,
  9. Links: Islands, Top Ten African Islands,,

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