For nature lovers, Madagascar represents the epitome of an ideal holiday destination. Cut off from mainland of Africa millions of years ago, Madagascar has evolved into a place like no other on earth. As much as 90 % of the fauna and flora can be found nowhere else. We have listed 10 incredible animals and plants to look out for when traveling to Madagascar. If you are planning to visit in the near future, just make sure to tick these off your bucket list.
1.Dancing lemurs – No, this isn’t fiction – there really are dancing lemurs on this planet. Due to their splayed feet, certain lemurs species are unable to walk on all fours like other primates. When the need to walk on the ground arises, they hop sideways on their hind legs, stomachs pushed out, and arms waving wildly above their heads for balance that looks like a comical dance. These animals are shy and spend most of their time in trees, so witnessing the lemur dance is a rare sighting. Should you be lucky enough to see a performance by these Madagascar natives – count yourself lucky!
2. Tomato frogs – This aptly named frog is easy to spot on the forest floor. Due to the fact that they are nocturnal, they are not commonly sighted. Found in the north-west part of the island, females display an intense red hue while males are a dull brown. While they mostly live off insects, they have been known to treat themselves to the occasional small mammal or rodent. When threatened, these frogs blow themselves up like a balloon to fend of predators.
3. Aye-Aye – Once thought to be extinct, the aye-aye is a species of lemur and the largest nocturnal primate in the world. They are noted for their peculiar appearance and strange hunting methods. Using its long narrow middle finger, the aye-aye taps on the outside of trees to find grubs. Once located, the aye-aye gnaws holes in the wood using forward-slanting incisors, and then inserts its middle finger to pull the grub out. Unfortunately, Malagasy legend has a rooted superstition that the aye-aye is a symbol of death, which has resulted in countless individuals being killed. They remain critically endangered.
4. Baobab Trees – Madagascar is home to 6 of the world’s Baobab tree species. Often referred to as upside-down trees, due to their peculiar proportions, these trees live to be over 1000 years. The largest ever recorded baobab had a trunk circumference of 47 metres. Their large trunks have been used for many creative purposes like bars, post offices and jails.
5. Comet Moths – Madagascan Moon moths, commonly referred to as Comet Moths, are among the world’s largest silk moths. They can grow up to 20 cm long from wing to wing. Sadly these moths, once in adult form, cannot feed and die within 4 to 5 days. Interesting fact: their cocoons have small holes to prevent individuals from drowning during tropical downpours.
6. Chameleons – Madagascar lays claim to more than half of the world’s chameleons species. The chameleons of Madagascar come in a range of colours and sizes: the smallest is less than 3 cm and the biggest is almost 70 cm long. Many – but not all – have the ability to change colour. They catch their insect prey using their long sticky tongue. Due to their slow nature, they make ideal photographic models and are a must-see on the island.
7. Travellers palm – Growing to a height of 7 m, the travellers palm is one of Madagascar’s most famous endemic plant species. There is no steadfast reason where or how this plant got its name. Some reports say that the sheaths of the stems hold water, and that this palm could act as an emergency reservoir of drinking water for lost or weary travellers. Another reason attributed to this plant is that it can act as crude compass because the fronds grow in an east-west line. None the less, its beautiful symmetry makes for ideal photo opportunities.
8. Fossa – The fossa (or fosa in Malagasy) is a carnivorous mammal endemic to Madagascar. Found in most of Madagascar’s coastal regions, fossa are more closely related to the mongoose family, even though they share a striking resemblance to felines. Living mostly off lemurs and other primates, these animals grow to the size of large house cats and are endangered due to loss of habitat.
9. Malagasy leaf-nosed snake – The endemic Madagascar or Malagasy leaf-nosed snake grows to about 1 metre and lives in deciduous dry forests as well as rain forests. Males are brown and yellow with a long pointed snout. Females on the other hand are speckled grey with a flattened, leaf-shaped nose. These snakes, while mildly venous, are quite shy and reluctant to attack or bite.
10. Flat tailed geckos – With more than ten variations of this species, the flat tailed gecko is a master of camouflage. Each of these species use varying ways to adopt the look and feel of decaying leaves or tree bark. While fairly common and found throughout most parts of Madagascar, thanks to its incredible concealment ability, this mysterious creature is not so easy to spot.
Read more about Madagascar’s unique & varied flora and fauna of Madagascar: