Presenter Ian Wright travels through Madagascar, 'the
red island' 250 miles off the east coast of Africa.
It's the 4th largest island in the world, with landscapes
ranging from rainforest to arid desert, and animal and
plant life found nowhere else in the world.
His journey begins in Antananarivo
(Tana), the capital of Madagascar. Here he learns about
the unique history and culture of the Malagasy.
The earliest rulers were the highland 'Merina' tribe,
and the first king Andrianampoinimerina united the island
by marrying one wife from each of the 12 tribes. His
granddaughter, Queen Ranavalona, came to power in 1828
and became the most notorious ruler - she threw foreigners
out of the country, banned Christianity and slaughtered
her own people in the most brutal ways.
Ian plans to leave Tana and head south but discovers
there are no trains running that week. Instead, he finds
a hira gasy performance in full swing
at the station. It's a mixture of song, dance, theatre
and acrobatics revolving around a moral story.
With the show over, Ian finds a brousse taxi and travels
for 3 and a half hours south through Antsirabe, stopping
off at Ranomafana National Park. Ranomafana
was created in 1991 after a new species of lemur, Madagascar's
national animal, was discovered in the rainforest around
the Namorona River. Ian spends the
night in a hut in the middle of the forest and the next
day he's lucky enough to catch sight of a golden bamboo
lemur, the rarest of all the species.
Ian hitches a lift to the central highlands of Madagascar,
home to the Bara people who graze their
cattle around the regional capital of Ihosy.
A Bara man's status is defined by the number of cattle
or zebu he owns. Ian observes the sport of zebu wresting,
an activity which evolved from the practice of stealing
zebu and is now an important initiation rite for the
Driving west towards the village of Ifaty on
the west coast, Ian's route takes him through the Isalo
National Park. The Bara people bury their dead
in the caves here and believe that the spectacular sandstone
rockscape is inhabited by ancestral spirits. After arriving
in Ifaty Ian hooks up with a dive tour operator and
explores the coral reef, encountering a number of sharks
at quarters rather too close for comfort!
After exploring the south of Madagascar, Ian flies
north to Diego Surez, then journeys
on to the small village of Anivorana
on the shores of a sacred lake. Ian dons a lamba, a
traditional Madagasci garment, then learns the legend
behind the lake: Allegedly the lake was once a village
itself, until one day a man came by and asked for a
drink of water. No-one would help him except an old
lady, whom the man told to leave immediately. When she
returned she found her village had become a lake and
all the villagers were crocodiles. Every year the people
of Anivorana honour their reptilian ancestors by slaughtering
a zebu by the lake.
On the final leg of Ian journey he flies to the historic
island of Isle Sainte Marie. It's a
tropical island which, 200 years ago used to be the
only buccaneer kingdom in the world. Thousands of pirates
used to live here and were buried here too. There's
many tales of buried treasure on the island and Ian
goes wreck diving in one of the many wrecks off the
shore of the island.