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Madagascar

A remarkable and facsinating island approximately 400 kilometres (250 miles) off the coast of East Africa. The nation comprises the island of Madagascar (the fourth-largest island in the world) and numerous smaller peripheral islands. One of the last major areas on Earth to be settled by humans, the natural beauty and ecological diversity of Madagascar makes it feel like a country forgotten by time.

Madagascar split from the Indian subcontinent around 88 million years ago, allowing native plants and animals to evolve in relative isolation. Consequently, Madagascar is a biodiversity hotspot; over 90% of its wildlife is found nowhere else on Earth.

Madagascar is home to two thirds of the world’s chameleon’s species, as well as a plethora of endemic invertebrates; butterflies, spiders and dragonflies.

Jungle, dry forests, deserts and xeric shrublands, high peaks, escarpments and plateaus, swamps and lagoons – Madagascar has it all. For the size of the island, Madagascar has an overwhelming amount of stunning and diverse landscape. 

The 26 million inhabitants of the island are a mix of African, Arab and Indian origin and make up the Malagasy ethnic groups. A supremely welcoming and warm pre-disposition makes travelling and interacting with locals a delight. 

Miles and miles of stunning coastline wrap around the island. Species of palm trees line the waters, with traditional wood carved canoes either resting between the shaded trees or are seen trawling the crystal waters by fisherman. Fresh oysters are always an option on any beach, opened by a rusty knife and served with a homemade spicy sauce. The Indian Ocean provides the perfect accompaniment for swimming, snorkelling and some laid back, mellow surfing.  Madagascar is a true gem in the Indian Ocean.

Ranomafana National Park – features numerous streams splashing through densely forested hills. The park is home to the endangered golden bamboo lemur, an animal whose diet includes bamboo shoots laced with high doses of cyanide.

The Masoala National Park – covers nearly 250 miles of rainforest and includes three marine parks ideal for snorkelling and kayaking. The park features ten species of lemur, including the Aye-aye, the world’s largest nocturnal primate and the Tomato frog.

Andasibe-Mantadia National Park – home to eleven lemur species, including the country’s largest lemur, the Indri.

Royal Hill of Ambohimanga – a sacred and historical village once home to Madagascar royalty.  The wall that surrounds the village was built in 1847 with a mortar made of lime and egg whites. The Mahandrihono compound includes the former home of King Andrianampoinimerina, with walls made of solid rosewood, and artefacts of the island’s great king, including drums, weapons and talismans.

Ifaty – comprises two dusty fishing villages on the coast of southwest Madagascar. A 60-mile long coral reef creates an ideal haven for diving, snorkelling and fishing. The desert inland area is renowned for its spiny forest, where the strange-shaped baobab trees have thrived for centuries.

The Avenue of the Baobabs – is an eerie group of trees lining the dirt road between Morondava and Belon’i Tsiribihina in western Madagascar. Its striking landscape draws tourists from around the world, making it one of the most visited locations in the region.

Nosy Be – is a small island and one of Madagascar’s premier tourist spots year-round. The beaches serve up tranquillity, clear turquoise water and excellent seafood restaurants.

Tsingy de Bemaraha Reserve – lies in the southern region of Madagascar’s largest natural reserve. The word “tsingy” refers to the pinnacles that dot the park’s limestone plateau. The park is home to seven lemur species, and an expansive mangrove forest.

The Ile Sainte Marie – lies off the east coast of Madagascar. A popular tourist destination the island’s array of protected bays and inlets attracted pirates to Ile Sainte Marie during the 17th and 18th centuries.  The wrecks of several pirate ships can still be viewed from the shallow waters of the Baie des Forbans. The still, clear waters of the island’s bays make ideal spots for snorkelling. Migrating humpback whales visit the island waters during summer and early fall.

GOOD TO KNOW

MADAGASCAR AREA

592 800 km²

POPULATION

26.8 million

Capital of MADAGASCAR

Antananarivo

Currency

Malagasy Ariary

ClimatE

The combination of south-eastern trade winds and north-western monsoons produces a hot rainy season (November–April) with frequently destructive cyclones, and a relatively cooler dry season (May–October). 

People

The Malagasy ethnic group forms over 90 percent of Madagascar’s population and is typically divided into 18 ethnic subgroups

Official language

Malagasy is the national language while official languages were reintroduced: French, and English.

Time

GMT +3 hours

“I never knew of a morning in Africa when I woke up that I was not happy.”

Ernest Hemingway