WHY GO?: "At every step one finds remarkable and marvelous forms of life," recounted French naturalist Philibert Commerçon upon returning from Madagascar in 1771. What was true then remains true now: Isolated from Earth's other landmasses for 165 million years, Madagascar is a biodiversity nirvana. In 11 days with veteran outfitter Cortez Travel, you'll explore the Spiny Forest—home to unique three-cornered palms and thorn-covered euphorbia trees—and Andasibe-Mantadia National Park, where Malagasy guides will lead you in search of the Coquerel's sifaker lemur (pictured) and the legendary indri, the largest of the lemurs. When the day's zoology lesson is over, you can reflect on evolution's wacky inventions inside your bungalow at Relais du Masoala, an ecofriendly resort built by Cortez Travel.
NEED TO KNOW: Agriculture, mining, and logging have already decimated more than half of Madagascar's forests, making sustainable industries (such as tourism) a conservation necessity. Cortez Travel works with local villagers to preserve remaining forest tracts.
Outfitter: Cortez Travel www.cortez-usa.com
Photograph courtesy of Ralph Lee Hopkins/Lonely Planet Images
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