A short drive from Morondava on Madagascar’s west coast, is a tree-lined dirt road of such natural and unique beauty, it has been recognised as the island’s first officially protected natural monument.
It is called the Avenue of the Baobabs. It is one of the most visited and photographed sites in Madagascar. And it was where I chose to watch the sun set on my final night on the island.
The baobab tree is an iconic and integral part of Madagascar, with six of the world’s eight species endemic to the island. Instantly recognisable with its sparse branches and massive trunk (which can grow to 30 metres), many trees are considered a sacred link to ancestors and a source of good luck.
Despite not producing the growth rings traditionally used to age trees, it is believed some baobab trees can live for many hundreds of years. Contributing to this is their ability to store water from sporadic rainfalls, making them well adapted to dry and inhospitable conditions.
Baobab trees are an important resource for both wildlife and humans in Madagascar, but sadly, habitat loss has led to half the species being listed as endangered.
And this makes a visit to the Avenue of the Baobabs a poignant reminder of not just how beautiful nature can be – but how important it is for us to protect it.
Don’t be deterred by its ‘top tourist attraction’ status. The natural beauty of the location outweighs its popularity. As the sun begins to set, watch the sky explode into a kaleidoscope of colours, silhouetting the majestic baobabs and surrounding rice paddies. Let the presence of other tourists fade into the background, replacing it with the birds and insects performing nature’s song. And feel grateful for the opportunity to stand amongst some of the oldest and most iconic trees in the world.