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The sights we saw while driving in Madagascar were continually interesting and were one of our top highlights. On the road, you frequently pass through towns and small villages crowded with people. Many of the roads in Madagascar are poor and some are downright atrocious. You also have to stop frequently for zebu or slow down for zebu-drawn wagons or other means of transport. So driving is slow but at the same time interesting and often very scenic.

In the mornings we saw people walking to market, the women carrying baskets on their heads and many men carrying heavy loads on their shoulders. Later in the day we would see men with shovels over their shoulder, returning from working in the fields. It was time for the rice harvest and we saw people cutting it in the fields, threshing it, drying it, pounding it to separate the seed, saving the stalks for roofing thatch. When we would slow to watch these activities, the threshers would give us a friendly wave and sometimes put on a bit of a show for us by vigorously returning to their work. Many villages had their own specialty from honey to wood carvings for sale along the road. We passed one area where large amounts of illegal rum are produced. This whole operation took place in plain view.

Whenever we would stop for anything (to stretch, see a bird or a chameleon, take a photo), we would immediately attract a crowd of curious onlookers (always friendly) along with hopeful vendors with fruit or other items for sale.

There are no large predators such as lions, leopards or cheetahs or any hoofed species other than the domesticated zebu - similar to our cattle except for a large hump on their back. Nor are there any of the animals associated with Africa like elephants, giraffes, zebras, water buffalo, hyenas, hippos or rhinos. Madagascar’s one big animal draw is its many species of lemurs, a lovable furry creature that is found in the wild only in Madagascar. Madagascar is also known for its unique species of chameleons.

While there are no African-style game parks like one finds in Kenya or Tanzania or in southern Africa, the numerous national parks and reserves that protect and preserve the many unique botanical species and the many species of lemurs, chameleons, birds and curious insects have much to offer to the visitor.

Madagascar is a long way from our home in California – about as far as you can go before heading back around the globe. And once you arrive, travel distance to many of the major points of interest can be pretty long, due to the poor condition of the roads. Air travel can be uncertain because of last minute changes in flight schedules. Moreover, reaching some of the major points of interest is physically challenging. However, we found Madagascar to be a very enjoyable destination, well worth the effort required to get there and see it. It is a unique place, biologically speaking, and the species found only there – especially the lemurs and chameleons- would justify a visit for many travelers. And the friendly people, the colorful roads, villages and market scenes add greatly to Madagascar’s appeal.

The most surprising thing about Madagascar is how un-African it seems. There is little visible evidence of the tribal cultures that you find throughout much of Africa. Nor do you have the game that is the essence of Africa. There was one important similarity, however – the people of Madagascar exhibited the same sweetness and friendliness that we have found in every other African country we have visited. Our visit was further enhanced by the enthusiasm and friendliness of our agency guides/drivers and the national park guides. They were invariably well-trained, knowledgeable, respectful of the environment and committed to preserving it. And all of them seemed to love what they are doing.

Our trip was arranged by Le Voyageur Travel Agency in Antananarivo, Madagascar.