What a Coup: Madagascar's Masoala Peninsula

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Berthold Steinhilber / laif / Redux

The Masaola Peninsula's splendid isolation guarantees guests an unruffled experience

Madagascar is an island nation in limbo. A 2009 coup, in which the opposition leader toppled the country's President with army backing, has created a stalemate with no single party able to form a transitional government. While travel advisories don't caution against visiting Madagascar, they do remind you that unrest still breaks out sporadically — mostly in and around the capital, Antananarivo.

Not that you would know any of this as you recline, rum at your elbow, in the bucolic paradise that is the Masoala Peninsula. Jutting from the country's northeast corner into the tropical waters of the Indian Ocean, the area is accessible only by boat or foot and marries primordial rain forest with a serious contender for world's most beautiful undeveloped coastline. In the 2,300-sq-km national park that occupies most of Masoala, treetops are alive with lemurian antics and the flutter of rare birds. Empty beaches, mangrove forests, and rocky coves unfurl alongside a warm sea. In these waters, dolphins and — from July to August — humpback whales are more common than tourists.

On a tiny bay halfway down this magical peninsula, the Masoala Forest Lodge, masoalaforestlodge.com, is one of the very few places to stay. In a grove of cinnamon trees, five safari-style canvas tents (starting from $250 per person, including all meals) sit pretty on raised hardwood decks sheltered by thatched roofs — a setup that provides the romance of camping without any of its discomforts. The lodge offers epic kayaking excursions around the peninsula. It's also the perfect location from which to explore the rain forest or to kick back after another great feast of fresh lobster and coconut rice (or the spectacularly tasty local beef). Politics seems a million miles away.