Baobab trees, which grow up to 100 feet tall and 30 feet wide, carry a prehistoric grandeur worthy of their title as Madagascar’s national tree. Of the six ancient baobab species native to the African island, only the largest, the Adansonia grandidieri, lines the Avenue of the Baobabs on Madagascar’s west coast. Along this quarter-mile stretch of unpaved road, the trees awaken during the dry season. From June through August, at sunset you can watch as the baobabs’ brown buds open to reveal white flowers bursting with stamen. Within 24 hours, bats—drawn to the flowers’ musky scent—collect sweet nectar, then the blossoms fall to the ground. In September, when prime birding season begins, those with binoculars can catch a glimpse of yellow-plumed Sakalava weavers constructing hivelike nests in the trees’ lofty branches. Or, wander over to one of the baobabs just off the avenue and climb the peg ladders built by locals for your own bird’s-eye view.
Geographic Expeditions offers customized tours of Madagascar that include sunrise or sunset visits to the Avenue of the Baobabs. From $700 per person per day. (888) 570-7108. This appeared in the August/September 2013 issue. Image: Pascal Maitre