When Aurélie Amiot imagined Madagascar, she pictured red-orange soil, flat land, and towering Baobab trees, their root-like branches reaching for the sky.

Upon arriving, she found that the vistas defied all expectations. They were fluid and changing: from the pull of the azure tides to the rolling green rice fields to the sandy brown mountains. She found it all in Madagascar.

Her 15 days in the country were not long enough, but they gave her time to photograph the lush vistas, experience the kindness of the people, spot leaping lemurs, and visit island beaches. She traveled with her two-and-a-half year old daughter, who charmed everyone with her smiles and her enthusiasm for hugs.

Aurélie remembers the unexpected nature of the weather: how their trip south on a boat was canceled due to extreme wind and threatening clouds. That she’d packed summer clothes — a single pair of pants — in anticipation of extreme heat, but instead faced low temperatures and lots of laundry.

Although the trip to Madagascar is manageable from France, she recalls feeling a bit displaced. Aurélie remembers a distinct mindset in Madagascar, which is unanchored from mainland Africa: Those who live there consider themselves more Asian than African. That the food — mostly curry — reflected that, surprised her.

Aurélie’s favorite moment in the country was a quiet one, spent at sunset while she walked the rice fields with her daughter. The light, catching in the green strands of sprouting rice, illuminated her daughter, who sprinted along the path with a Malagasy child beside her.

A country that had defied her expectations had also charmed her entirely with its beauty, warmth, and unpredictability.

Aurélie Amiot is a French travel writer and photographer. You can follow her adventures on her instagram or on her blog