By Taylor Mayol, Blue Ventures
Look at a map and find Madagascar, the fourth biggest island on Earth, just off the coast of east Africa. Focus on the dry southwest and find the town of Toliara, capital of this impoverished region.
Now imagine a drive northwards through the searing heat along a bumpy, sandy trail. You’re hugging the coast, flanking the peculiar yet alluring Spiny Forest, one of the planet’s most threatened forest ecosystems. You hold on tight as your 4×4 surges forward over rocks and nearly becomes planted in the deep, fine sand.
To the west lie crystal clear emerald waters and vast lagoons fringed by one of the Indian Ocean’s largest yet least known coral reefs. You continue like this for eight hours, jaw gaping at the exaggerated color and beauty of untouched beaches around you.
Finally, you arrive in the village of Andavadoaka, the heart of Velondriake, one of the Indian Ocean’s largest community managed marine conservation areas.
To read the remainder of this story, visit National Geographic.