One of the unsung features of a Madagascar wildlife holiday is the actual terrain through which you travel: the plants and foliage that make the island such a unique habitat for the abundant wildlife. It’s easy to view exotic animals in a zoo, but by travelling to their natural habitats, visitors can become immersed in the atmosphere and environment that these spectacular animals call home. The plant life of Madagascar is fascinating and absorbing in its own right, and you may have the opportunity to encounter many species that might otherwise remain a mystery.
While orchids may be a common sight at a florist or in a garden (depending on where in the world you live), you may not be able to see 960 species at once – the number of orchid species you can find on a Madagascar wildlife holiday. The name itself comes from the Greek myth of Orchis, who was the son of a nymph and a satyr. The legend describes how Orchis managed to stumble upon a festival of Dionysus in the forest. Being the son of a satyr, he of course drank far too much, and after making some unwelcome advances to one of Dionysus’ priestesses, was summarily torn apart by the revellers. After his father prayed for him to be restored, the gods instead turned him into a flower – and so the first orchid was created.
Six of the world’s eight baobab species can be seen on a Madagascar wildlife holiday. These are truly ancient trees, and many are believed to be hundreds of years old. Their exact age is hard to determine, however, as the wood of the baobab trees doesn’t produce annual growth rings like many other species, making it impossible to date them that way. These time-worn trees are an important part of the ecosystem of Madagascar’s dry, deciduous forests. They have adapted to their surrounds and there are even some examples of baobab trees growing out of weakened limestone – a remarkable sight.
Although not as commonplace as the other two, and certainly not as visually distinctive, the Madagascar periwinkle is certainly unique in its medicinal properties. It’s gained plenty of attention for its medicinal and pharmaceutical uses, as the sap from the plant has been shown to be effective in the treatment of lymphoma and leukemia. On a Madagascar wildlife holiday, it seems, the environment can hold more secrets than even the keenest eye can observe!