Leyla Aliyeva takes a trip into the unknown, to discover for herself the astounding variety of flora and fauna in Madagascar, Mauritius and Reunion
I had dreamed of visiting Madagascar for ages. It is a magical little island with many wonders and incredible wildlife. I finally had the chance in late 2016 when I travelled to the Indian Ocean to see not only Madagascar, but also Mauritius and Reunion.
The purpose of my trip was, as always, to visit new places which are known for their rich wildlife and interesting people. I didn’t know anyone who had been to Madagascar or Reunion so I didn’t know what to expect. But what I found were three islands that were totally different from each other: each beautiful in its own way and utterly unique.
Reunion is like a little slice of France in the tropics – it even produces its own wine. Mauritius is famed for its coastline but its less well-known interior features soaring volcanic peaks, plunging waterfalls and dense rainforest home to many bird species, including the endangered pink pigeon.
Madagascar, meanwhile, is the world’s fourth largest island – twice the size of the UK – yet was isolated for more than 160 million years, which means 70 per cent of its wildlife and 90 per cent of its plant species are found nowhere else in the world. It’s mind-blowing to think about it.
While I found them all very different, what unites them is their incredible wildlife, from the lemurs of Madagascar to the giant tortoises on Mauritius and the huge flying foxes of Reunion, which soar above you like giant birds.
It was particularly moving to see how the islanders treasure their wildlife. I got the feeling that they really value the wealth that their wildlife has given them. In Madagascar, for example, the locals cherish their lemurs and are proud of the fact that there are more lemurs on their island than anywhere else in the world. Even here, however, their numbers are decreasing and the people are doing what they can to protect the lemur population.
For me, the more wildlife that there is on the Earth, the richer it is. No matter how much progress man makes, no matter how impressive the architectural buildings that he constructs, he can never create the beauty of this planet.
Photography courtesy of Getty Images
A version of this story appeared in the Summer 2017 issue of Baku magazine.