8thContinent.nl is a website dedicated to three travels to
Madagascar, undertaken and documented in 2004, 2005 and 2006.
It must have been 10 years ago when I visited the Blijdorp Zoo in Rotterdam. I was fascinated by a few of the most beautiful, cute, fluffy and peculiar animals that I'd ever
seen: lemurs. They all had one thing in common; the signs on their cages all listed "Madagascar" as their place of origin. I hardly knew anything about this exotic sounding place but I knew right then that one day, I would set foot on it.
Some time later I saw a documentary on National Geographic, where a team of scientists undertook an expedition to a forest, sunken deep into a collapsed cave, surrounded by impassable spike-like limestones. No Westener had ever set foot there before. When they finally reached the caves, one of the first animals they came across was a 2 meter long carnivore, jumping through the trees: a very odd mix between a dog and a cat. Never in my life had I seen anything like it. I later learned that this sunken cave was in Ankarana, and the catlike mongoose was a Fossa. The country where this utterly fascinating expedition took place: Madagascar.
In 2003, it was a journey to Tanzania that made me fall in love with the continent of Africa - its people, its nature, its wildlife, its culture and its pace - and when we returned, we finally made the decision to go to Madagascar.
We went unprepared, not knowing what to expect, but everything went perfectly. After that first trip, a feeling remained that I wasn't done - there were so many exotic places left to see. So we went back a second time. And a third time.
Today, Madagascar is one of the few places on Earth that still
has largely unexplored areas, like the Makay Massive - so inaccessible
and secluded that no scientist has managed to make it there
yet. Madagascar is also a place where new species of plants,
insects and animals are discovered on a frequent basis. It's
neither Africa nor Asia, from where its ancestors came - it's
a world apart, a miniature continent (dubbed the 8th continent)
where one can still feel like a Livingstone. It is a place where
people are amazingly happy, warm, friendly, helpful and welcoming
towards foreigners. It's a country with a unique flora and fauna
that exists nowhere else on Earth. It's also a country under
great threat - the rainforests are rapidly disappearing due
to deforestation, pushing the remaining species towards their
Tourism is one of the things that can help halt this process by encouraging the conservation of what little is left for future generations.
That brings me to one of the reasons I made this website; my
aim is to offer people an impression of what it's like to travel
around the Great Red Island and perhaps inspire them to take
the step that I took. Madagascar needs tourists - our children
too should be able to see the animals that I saw in Rotterdam
- but in their natural habitat: in the wilds of Madagascar.