Madagascar is a name that’s famous around the world – yet the country remains largely unknown. For those who are curious enough to go under its surface will be duly rewarded by otherworldly landscapes, warm people, rich biodiversity, and an impressive collection of wildlife found nowhere else in the world.

As the fourth biggest island in the world – after Greenland, Papua New Guinea and Borneo  –  La Grand Île is located in the Indian Ocean, with the Mozambique Channel separating it from continental Africa. Over 5,000km of wide beaches and coral reefs stretch along its coastline, while further inland, it’s home to diverse terrains ranging from volcanic mountain chains in the center to the humid rainforests in the east, dry sandstone cliffs in the west and bizarre karst forests in the north.

Madagascar’s isolation from the African continent 165 million years ago has resulted in the evolution its animals and plants into what they are today. There are now over 70 species and sub-species of lemurs on the Red Island, although 16 have already been wiped out since the arrival of mankind. There are also over 346 species of reptiles found nowhere else besides Madagascar – including the world’s biggest and smallest chameleon.  Plant life is as equally impressive here, with over 6,000 species of endemic plants, including the bizarre spiny octopus-like trees and the bottle-shaped baobab trees.

With over three weeks in Madagascar, we traveled through the raw and rugged backcountry, exploring as much as we possibly could – from trekking through darkness in the Kirindy forest and watching sunset at the Avenue du Baobab to climbing sharp karst stone pinnacles in the Tsingy de Bemahara and flowing down the Tsiribihina River on dugout canoes.

Seven continents and hundreds of countries later, Madagascar remains one of my favorite places in the world. I’ll let our photos show you why.