Madagascar is often called the eighth continent because it is an exceptional island. Not only the size and the world's fifth-largest island, but it is unique in many respects. I was lucky to explore some of the natural wonders and taste Madagascar off the beaten tourist paths.
Madagascar harbors unique flora and fauna, to a significant extent, endemic. Lemurs are the most known animals from Madagascar. But, there are many others. Approximately 95 percent of Madagascar's reptiles, 89 percent of its plant life, and 92 percent of its mammals exist nowhere else on Earth.
There are some magnificent landscapes or habitats where those animals and plants live. Located off the east coast of Africa, Madagascar's climate is tropical along the coast, temperate inland, and arid in the south. The island harbors lush rain forests, tropical dry forests, plateaus, and deserts. It's more than 3,000 miles of coastline, and over 250 islands are home to some of the world's largest coral reef systems and most extensive mangrove areas in the Western Indian Ocean.
Then, people of Madagascar are unique too. They blend of Africans and Asians. The most important settlers wave came from Asia, Malayo-Indonesians arriving before the 5th century AD. Highlander Merina tribe, through centuries the ruling class, is still light tanned. Malagasy language is of Austronesian origin, and the culture of rice paddies further proves Asian origins. The African element is most dominant in the dry western part of Madagascar with zebu cattle herding, taller Sakalava people. Western savannas of Madagascar, for example, resemble those of East Africa.
Life of Malagasy people is governed by a system of taboos called fady. It refers to a wide range of cultural prohibitions. People, places, actions, or objects may be the subject of fady, which varies by region within Madagascar. The taboos are believed to be enforced by supernatural powers and are mainly connected with Malagasy ancestor worship.
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