NEED TO KNOW
LOCATION Madagascar is the fourth-largest island in the world, and lies in the Indian Ocean off the southeast coast of Africa AREA 226,655 sq miles (587,040 sq km)
KEY WILDLIFE Lemurs, fossas, leaf-tailed geckos, panther chameleons
Madagascar is one of the world’s most important biodiversity hotspots. Once linked to Africa and the Indian subcontinent, the landmass became an island some 60 million years ago, and since then its wildlife has evolved in virtual isolation.
Almost 1,000 vertebrate species are unique to Madagascar, the most famous of which are its 68 species of lemur – small, gentle, wide-eyed primates that include the indri (whose distinctive call sounds like a banshee), the dancing Verreaux’s sifaka, and the demonic-looking aye-aye. Other bizarre species unique to the island are the tomato frog, nymphomaniac vasa parrot, giant hissing cockroach, 2-ft- (0.6-m-) long Oustalet’s chameleon, fossa, giraffe-necked weevil, and the astonishingly camouflaged leaf-tailed gecko.
Getting There The main point of access is the capital, Antananarivo, which has an international airport and many operators that organize countrywide tours. Public transportation is an option for those with lots of time.
When to Go The driest months (Jun–Nov) are the best for walking and wildlife viewing. The cyclone season (Feb–May) should be avoided.