In Madagascar, wildlife abounds on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure

Baobab trees in the sunset


I knew the island of Madagascar is sometimes called the eighth continent, owing to its size and rich biodiversity. But no amount of research could prepare me for its stunning variety of landscapes and wildlife. In the span of just a couple of hundred miles, I traveled from tropical rain forests straight out of Jurassic Park through grasslands to coastal mangroves.

Geographically isolated, Madagascar has developed unique ecosystems with many endemic species—95% of the country’s reptiles, 89% of its plants, and 92% of its mammals (including more than 100 species of lemurs) are found nowhere else.

While too many of these species are endangered or facing extinction, national parks—as well as community-led and tourism-driven conservation projects—have been critical to saving flora and fauna from illegal hunting and deforestation. The Anja Community Reserve, for example, protects a forest that’s home to globally loved ring-tailed lemurs, and proceeds have helped fund water treatment, medical, and school facilities for the community. To the north, the Anjajavy Lodge manages a 17,000-acre private nature reserve and runs a variety of conservation programs, from reintroducing aye-aye lemurs and rewilding giant tortoises to restoring mangroves and monitoring baobab trees for disease.

My favorite lemur was the indri. The largest lemur in Madagascar, the species is locally called the father of the forest and is known for its hauntingly beautiful call. Another adventurer described it as a whale song played on a trumpet. To me, it was otherworldly, and hearing its voice echo through the trees was an experience I’ll never forget.

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