Madagascar’s Habitat & Landscape
With tropical coastline, a dry and arid south and a temperate inland climate, Madagascar harbours spiny dry forests, lush rainforests, mangrove forests, highland plateaus and scrub deserts – what a melting pot. Habitat loss through farming and timber harvesting is the main threat to Madagascar’s varied flora and fauna. Over the last 20 years or so, a concerted effort has been made to conserve the wilderness and the wildlife it contains and there has been a turnaround in loss of habitat. The ancient baobabs, impressive rock formations, stunning coastlines and plethora of forests, are a delight for visitors, so much variety contained on one island. No wonder many see it as a continent all of its own.
- Tsingy: These unusual jagged rock formations were formed over millions of years. The largest is Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park. With sturdy shoes you can explore these pinnacles by traversing a series of ladders, bridges and walkways. Endemic flora grows in the nooks and crannies of this stone forest harbouring undiscovered species. This is possibly one of the most spectacular natural landscapes on the whole island.
- Red Tsingy: Further to the north is the Red Tsingy. Unlike the more common limestone tsingy these are caused by erosion of red standstone, exposed as a result of ‘slash and burn’ agriculture. The Red Tsingy are a relatively new phenomenon, a result of man’s interference with nature, if you will.
- Isalo: The spectacular rock formations of Isalo National Park are one of the reasons this is the most visited park on the island. Sculpted boulders give way to vertical cliffs. Gentle streams flow at the bottom of steep canyons. Impressive gorges, formed over millions of years part to reveal grassy savannahs. Watch the vista change as the sun makes its way across the sky casting light and shadow as it goes.
- Spiny Forest: These forests, in the southwest of the island contain an impressive proportion of the endemic plant species of the island and are incredibly important. Bird enthusiasts will find this area attractive too with various rare, endemic species to spot amongst the rather otherworldy thorny octopus trees.
- Baobabs: An iconic tree in Madagascar is the ancient baobab, often referred to as the upside down tree. There are nine species of baobab and seven of them can be found in on the island. You will find baobabs throughout the island but be sure to visit Baobab Alley. Here a collection of 20 giant trees rise up from the dirt road, in the middle of nowhere. Visit at sunrise or sunset, take a wander amongst them and admire their majestic silhouettes against the reds and purples of the sky.
- Central highlands: This area is vast and stretches from north of Antananarivo and down over 1000km to the south. Much of the indigenous forest has been cleared by man over the centuries and is now distinguished by terraced rice-fields and rows of small traditional houses balanced on the slopes. This pretty patchwork vista is a prominent characteristic of the region.