Isolated from the African continent, the giant island of Madagascar is home to an extraordinary variety of unique animals and plants. The surviving forests and woodlands are home to more than 100 species of fascinating, beautiful and endangered lemurs, as well as the world's greatest diversity of chameleons. Madagascar attracts wildlife enthusiasts from around the globe and tourism provide the best chance of saving this priceless biodiversity.
Madagcascar has more than 50 species of chameleon, well over 100 different frogs and around 250 bird species, virtually all of them being endemic; they are found nowhere else on earth.
Madagascar is the world's fourth largest island, after Greenland, New Guinea and Borneo, which makes it just a little smaller than the state of Texas.
The landmass was thought to have broken away from the African mainland about 160 million years ago, when dinosaurs roamed the super-continent of Gondwana. Lapped by the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, the topography matches that of many other islands, with a central spine of mountains and plateaus that slant down into undulating valleys and flat coastal plains. In the east, the coastal plain is narrow. Mountain slopes that were once fully cloaked in rain forest, receive the highest rainfall. The western plain is wider and drier, with deciduous woodland and savannah turning into a "spiny desert" in the semi-arid south. Rising to 2,800 m, Maromokotro is the highest mountain.
By far the biggest wild attraction in Madagascar are the lemurs - monkey-like primates thought to be distantly related to the African galagos and Asian lorises. Lemurs are found only in Madagascar, with more than 100 species currently recognized, ranging in scale from the baboon-sized indri to the tiny, hamster-sized pygme mouse lemur.