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Madagascar, Toliara, Morondava, Indian ocean, Les Allee des Baobabs at sundown

Andoany (Hell-Ville), Nosy-Be, Madagascar

Madagascar is a world apart. And Nosy Be, which means “large island”, is apart from that. The islands have unique wildlife and cultural traditions long separated from the African mainland. Some 90 percent of the plants and animals in Madagascar are endemic. Nosy Be’s port, Andoany, was formerly called Hell-ville, but is not really that bad. The major attractions for many visitors are the clear waters and prolific coral reefs surrounding the island. There are shops in the town selling the many essential oils, of ylang-ylang, vanilla, black pepper and other plants, that originally attracted the attention of the wider world. Outside town, near the village of Mahatsinjo, there is an immense banyan tree planted by a Malagasy queen in 1836. It is still sacred, and the current queen makes a pilgrimage to sacrifice at the tree annually. The Lokobe Natural Reserve is the place to see the endemic forest and the endearing lemurs that are the iconic wildlife species of Madagascar, along with crater lakes, waterfalls and other types of wildlife. At Lemurlandia, lemurs are captive, and the park also offers up-close access to vanilla orchids, ylang-ylang, cacao trees and other specialty plants. The island also has a distillery that flavors local rum with essential oils of all flavors.