After fieldwork, we took a few days off and travelled south along the paved "Route Nationale 7", from the capital Antananarivo all the way down to Toliara on the coast of the Mozambique channel. We travelled with taxi-brousses, slow uncomfortable erratic little vans filled with people to hard-to-believe levels, which are part of daily life in Madagascar. We tried to sample the different ecosystems of the island, visiting some key nature and conservation areas, ending with a little bit of relax in the beach.

Established in 1991 to protect the newly discovered golden bamboo lemur, Ranomafana national park soon grew up to be one of the most important wildlife sites in Madagascar and a good example of montane rainforest, with steep slopes and plenty of lemurs!

River Namorona cutting through the national park
High altitude rainforest, from "Bellevue"
Fern trees near our camp in the primary forest
Breakfast and birdwatching
On the way back
Black-and-white ruffed lemurs
(Varecia variegata) feeding above our tent

Ambalavao is one of the most beautiful towns of the highlands and is part of the Betsileo tribe territory. We visited the nearby Anja reserve, a community initiative, where ring-tailed lemurs are habituated to visitors.

Betsileo houses in Ambalavao
Men traditionally cover themselves with blankets: the highlands can be very cold
The Anja reserve, near Ambalavao
Ring-tailed lemurs are excellent climbers and acrobats!
Enjoying the sunshine
Ring-tailed lemurs are easily seen in Anja

An eerie landscape of eroded sandstone formations and deep canyons criss-cross Isalo national park. A surprise awaits at the bottom of some gorges: a lush green vegetation surrounds natural pools, a refreshing experience after hours of walking under the sun through a dry landscape filled with endemic succulents.

The sandstone massif of Isalo with its deep canyons
Going up the escarpment
The landscape at the top
Elephant's foot (Pachypodium sp)
Natural pools and lush vegetation hide in the middle of the dry landscape
Evening light, walking back to Ranohira

About 700 kilometres and 19 hours of taxi-brousse away from Antananarivo, we finally reached the sea! We spent a couple of days relaxing in the village of Ifaty, with a nice beach by a lagoon. The village is surrounded by subarid thorn scrub or 'spiny forest', native to the dry southwest coast of Madagascar, with spectacular baobabs and very special vegetation.

Crammed "taxi-brousses" are the local means of transport...
...but when too much sand on the road, camion-brousses take their place
Baobab (Adansonia sp) with fruits in Ifaty
Typical vegetation of the dry spiny forest of Madagascar (Ifaty)
The little paradise of Ifaty
The fishing village of Mangily

As our plane flew back to the UK via Mauritius, we stopped there for 4 days. Only four days and a whole island to discover! The winning combination was a mix of relaxing seaside and strenuous walks at the Black River gorges national park, one of the few pockets of rainforest in Mauritius, searching for the pink pigeon and the echo parakeet, mythical names ... well, at least for conservationists! :-)

Sunrise from the seaside promenade in Mahebourg
Nice transparent waters...
Prickled fruit at a street stall
Hindi temple.
Black River gorges national park
From one of the ridges overlooking the gorges