Combining one-of-a-kind wildlife, dreamy beaches and jaw-dropping panoramas, Madagascar is one of the most astounding countries on the planet. Undertake a luxury yacht charter here and understand what it takes to make a destination unique.
Floating off the coast of Mozambique, Madagascar is the fourth biggest island in the world. Bestowed with 5,000 kilometres of stunning coastline, inviting turquoise waters and dozens of deserted, jewel-like islands, this far-flung destination is nothing short of a sailor’s paradise.
But there’s more to this island-nation than its good-looking Indian Ocean cruising grounds. Read on discover what is awaiting discerning yacht-goers who venture to this remote corner of the globe.
Madagascar was separated from Africa and Asia in time of the dinosaurs and, as a result, animal life has evolved here in an astonishing array of forms. Today, five percent of the world’s animal and plant species can be found here, and here alone, making the island a must for wildlife lovers.
The lemur is undoubtedly the nation’s most famous resident. Sixty different types of this endangered primate are unique to the island, with some inhabiting the emerald-green rainforest of the Malagasy Islands.
One of the highlights of a yachting vacation to this part of the world is meeting the friendly black lemur colony on Nosy Komba, dubbed appropriately as Lemur Island, or spotting the five species of lemurs on the unspoilt isle of Antosha.
Of course, there are many other captivating creatures to behold on land, from the cat-like fossa and colourful and camouflaged chameleons to peculiarly-shaped insects and vividly-hued frogs.
Nothing comes close to crouching in the forest and catching a glimpse of an endemic species and these once-in-a-lifetime wildlife watching opportunities are rife in Madagascar.
Similarly impressive are the trees and plants, be it the lush rainforest foliage, mangrove swamps, the hundreds of orchids or the spiny forests of the desert south. Sure to take your breath away, however, are the otherworldly baobab trees, towering like giant windmills over the savannah.
The abundance of flora and fauna continues around Madagascar’s stunning coastline and offshore, where dozens of islands and barrier reef provides shelter to a diverse mix of marine life.
From late-September to December, whale sharks frequent these waters and a team of expert researchers provides tours to travellers wanting to see these gentle giants for themselves.
Around this time of year, humpback whales can usually be spotted too. Migrating from the Antarctic, large pods arrive in the protected eastern waters to mate, birth and nurse their young.
One of the prime whale-watching spots is around Ankazoberavina Island, which is a protected marine park and nature reserve. Two species of sea turtle also call this island home, while nearby Nosy Iranja is a haven for hawksbill turtles.
Much of the Malagasy archipelago is surrounded by immaculate coral and multi-coloured fish, meaning fans of scuba diving and snorkelling can spend their charter vacation discovering the country’s underwater delights.
Top of the list for best Madagascan dive sites, however, is the Nosy Tanikely Marine Reserve. World known for its diversity, the site is home to reef fish, sea turtles, schooling jacks, harlequin shrimp and blue-ribbon eels.
The extraordinary fauna and flora of Madagascar is matched by the incredibly diverse and often jaw-dropping landscapes. Lush rainforest runs in a band down the eastern side of the island, while drier deciduous forests lie to the west and a one-of-a-kind spiny forest defines the far south.
Razor sharp pinnacles rise forebodingly in the UNESCO-listed Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park, limestone karsts, plummeting canyons and deep caves wow in Ankarana National Park and golden sand beaches unfurl along the coast.
Such panoramas are spectacular when seen from a superyacht, but they also offer an outdoor playground like nowhere else. Hiking, rock-climbing and mountain biking are just some of the ways in which yacht-goers can immerse themselves in these Madagascan wonders.
Madagascar is not widely known for making chocolate, but the country does, in fact, produce high-quality dark chocolate from organically grown cacao in the northwest Ambanja region.
Chocolate production here dates back to French colonial times and most cacao plantations are small, family run farms. The combination of the natural minerals, microclimate, fauna and topography provides a unique biome where the fine cacao has evolved with a distinctive fruity flavour.
Cacao trees require shade and so grow under the canopy of the rainforest. This has provided an incentive to reforest Madagascar which, in turn, is creating a sustainable environment for the endangered animals and plants of Madagascar.
A mix of influences provides evidence of Polynesian settlers, Arabic presence, Bantu tribes-folk and European arrivals of the past, all of which has resulted in a fascinating cultural melting pot which is sure to captivate those on a charter vacation.
The people of Madagascar have an intricate set of beliefs and rituals that revere ancestors’ spirits. Attending a famadihana, a traditional exhumation and reburial to celebrate the dead, can be a highlight of the trip for some travellers.
Visitors should also be aware of fady which, although translated as taboo, are beliefs related to actions, behaviours, foods or days of the week when ‘it is dangerous to…’. These vary between family and community and add to the uniqueness of this astounding country.