Madagascar is the fourth largest island on the planet. This is a land of exceptional natural beauty. Because of its geographic isolation, local flora and fauna are different from that in Africa. As a result, today there can be seen many species of plants and animals that are not found elsewhere. After many years of logging, today the government is making a great effort to retain the forests of Madagascar.
Geographic location, boundaries and size. Madagascar is an island country in the southern hemisphere. It lies between 11.57 and 25.36°S, among the waters of the Indian Ocean, about 420 km off the coast of Mozambique, South Africa.
It is separated from Africa through the Mozambique Channel. Madagascar is the largest African island. It occupies an area of 587,040 sq.km. Its longest distance from north to south is approximately 1570 km.
Climate. Most of the island of Madagascar falls within the tropical climate zone, with the exception of the northern-most regions which have subequatorial climate. All year round there is a warm weather with temperatures between 24 and 32°C.
The climate is humid in the east and dry in the west. Although Madagascar as a whole does not suffer from severe drought similar to some countries on the continent, there is a pronounced dry and rainy season.
During the rainy season rainfall may reach and even exceed 500 mm, while during the dry season falls only about 100-120 mm of rain. During the warmer and rainy half of the year strong tropical cyclones often hit the island.
The climate in the mountain regions of Madagascar is traditionally cooler and more humid in comparison with the coastal areas.
Relief. Madagascar has a diverse relief. Along the eastern coat of the island there are long but narrow valleys. They lie between the coast of the Indian Ocean and the steep slopes of the Central Mountains, which stretch from north to south along the entire island.
The West of Madagascar is also occupied by plains, which gradually increases their height, turning into a part of the mountain range. The highest point of the island is Mount Maromokotro, which rises to a height 2876 meters.
The coastline of Madagascar as a whole is slightly indented with a few exceptions in the northern parts of the island.
Nature. Nature of Madagascar is extremely diverse. The country is one of the places with the greatest diversity of plant and animal species in Africa.
The South of Madagascar is occupied by semi-arid landscapes. Local vegetation is sparse, represented mainly by certain dry-loving shrubs. Vast territories in southern Madagascar are threatened to become a desert.
Northwestern Madagascar is occupied by a typical subequatorial landscape. This part of the island is covered with picturesque savannah. Extensive grasslands are interspersed by shrubs or lonely trees.
There are a lot of Baobab trees that are typical representatives of the African flora. This tree specie is easily recognizable because of its extremely thick stems and small branches.
The landscape in this part of Madagascar changes every year from golden to bright green, depending on whether dry or rainy season.
The East of Madagascar is significantly different from the western parts of the island. Here grow subequatorial rain forests that are home to a wide variety of rare animal species.
Though affected by the indiscriminate felling, the forests of Madagascar are a haven for wildlife. The island country pays a lot, including large amounts of foreign aid, for protection and preservation of this natural treasure.
Being cut off from the mainland, local flora and fauna is composed of many species of plants and animals that have evolved independently and today are not found elsewhere. These plants and animals are called endemic species. Lemur is one of the most exciting endemic creatures of Madagascar.
This type of primat is found only here and some nearby islands. Although varying in size, lemurs have some characteristic features in common. One of them is their large and wide-open eyes that are adapted for night vision, since lemurs are generally nocturnal animals.
These creatures live mainly in trees and rarely descend to the ground. They are omnivorous and their diet may consist of both insects and other small animals and of plants. They are well known among local population who fear them, considering these animals for night spirits.
In general, the predators on the island of Madagascar are different from that in Africa. Here are not lions, leopards or hyenas. Fossa is the largest terrestrial predator of Madagascar. This is a mongoose-like animal, which eats mainly birds and small rodents.
The most dangerous predator on the island, however, lurks beneath the surface of some freshwater pools. This is the Nile crocodile. Today the number of these predators has seriously declined and they are found only in some regions.
Economy. Madagascar is a developing country with low living standards. Many local inhabitants survive on less than two dollars a day. Local poverty is largely caused by the longstanding political instability.
During the mid 70s Madagascar attempted to build communism. In less than 20 years the regime caused a disastrous impact on the local economy. However, in Africa there are many countries that are in a worse economic condition.
Basis of the local economy is poorly developed extensive agriculture. There is a lack of modern equipment. Local farmers usually increase the arable land when they needed to increase the yield. Main crops of the island are rice, beans, cassava, coffee and other mainly tropical cultures.
Madagascar is the largest exporter in the world of vanilla. This is quite valuable raw material in food, perfumery and cosmetics industries.
On the island are also growing some tropical fruits such as bananas, mangoes and papayas. The soils of Madagascar are generally not very fertile. Very small portion of the land is suitable for agriculture.
Literacy is over 70%, placing Madagascar among the more educated African countries. Madagascar extracts and exports certain minerals such as graphite and oil.
Population. The island of Madagascar was inhabited for over 2000 years. The population is approximately 21 million people and continues to increase by several percent per year. For the most part, local people are Malagasy.
The Malagasies are a mix of immigrants from eastern parts of the Indian Ocean (in particular the islands of modern Indonesia) and African population. Around the 9th century, here came the first Arab traders, some of which remained in these lands permanently.
Over the centuries Malagasies managed to preserve much of the traditions and culture intact. Today, more than half of Madagascar’s population professes local traditional beliefs. Second in importance is Christianity that includes more than 40% of the population.
Islam is third most popular religion in Madagascar. Malagasy is main language of Madagascar, but English and especially French are quite popular among locals.
Tourism in Madagascar
Cuisine. Malagasy cuisine is considered to be quite varied, as combines eating habits from Africa, Europe and Asia. It is strongly influenced by France, England, India, China, Indonesia and other countries, especially from the region of the Indian Ocean.
Malagasy cuisine is mainly based on local products. Rice, beans and potatoes most often present at the table prepared in different ways. The rice itself can be called “the soul” of Malagasy cuisine.
The combination of different flavors and aroma, but without adding a lot of spices, is typical of Madagascar. You will quickly notice that local cuisine is not very spicy and emphasizes the natural flavors of the ingredients.
One of the most traditional dishes of the island is Koba. This is a kind of sweet to taste meal. It is a combination of rice, nuts and bananas. The Malagasy people are big fans of the moderate consumption of meat.
Chicken, beef, goat and pork often present on the table. Since Madagascar is surrounded by ocean, locals traditionally consume different types of seafood – fish, crabs, shrimp and mussels. From seafood are prepared main dishes but also and a huge variety of salads.
If there is food more frequently consumed than rice, these are certainly the tropical fruits. Locals every day eat an impressive range of fruits in unlimited quantities. Tropical fruits are widely spread in the local cuisine.
Coconut, mango and bananas for example are often one of the main ingredients in main dishes. Tropical fruits are often served as a side dish to meat or used in the preparation of sweets.
Malagasies are known for their love of sweets and especially the consumption of fresh fruits. Sometimes local eat as a dessert even sugarcane.
Do not miss while in Madagascar: One of the most exciting places to visit in Madagascar is Antsiranana Province. It occupies the northern end of the island. Here is the most picturesque, beautiful and highly indented coastline of Madagascar.
Situated along the deeply cut into the shore bay, the city of Antsiranana is one of the most interesting places in the country. Although with its 83,000 inhabitants the city is the sixth largest, it is a leading tourist destination.
It attracts tourists mainly with its charming colonial architecture. On the east coast of Antsiranana Province you will find magnificent lagoon with azure blue waters. Here you can enjoy the white sands and emerald sea waters of the islands of Nosy Diego and Nosy Suarez.
With its beautiful tropical beaches and warm climate, Madagascar is an attractive place for nautical tourism. Adjacent to the northwestern coast of the province of Antsiranana is the small island Nosy Be.
It has beautiful and picturesque scenery. Golden beaches and coral reefs are the cause of the appearing of several small resorts on the island. Nosy Be is considered the most attractive place for a holiday in Madagascar. The atmosphere is relaxed and unpretentious.
Here you can lounge on a hammock under the shade of coconut palms and forget completely about concerns and problems. The interior of the island is exciting and interesting place for tourists. Here you could see some of the native species lemurs in their natural environment.
One of the places that you should not miss while on the island is the capital Antananarivo. Founded in 1625, today it is the largest and most dynamic city on the island. It is located in the central mountains of Madagascar and therefore has a cool climate.
To visit the island of Madagascar without enjoying its amazing wild nature is craziness. We recommend you to visit one of the local national parks. Today about 10% of the Madagascar’s area consists of protected territories.
Of course, you could not tour all these places if you do not have unlimited free time. But for those who want in a short time to see as much as possible of the local nature we recommend National Park “Masaloa.”
When to visit Madagascar? The best time to visit the island is during the southern winter from June to September. The temperatures are most pleasant and rainfall is negligible.
If you go to Madagascar in July, for example, you can enjoy the pleasant temperatures of around 24°C in coastal areas and around 21°C in the capital Antananarivo. The weather along the coast of Madagascar is warm and you can swim in the Indian Ocean all year round.
What clothes to wear in Madagascar? No matter what time of year you visit Madagascar, you need a lot of summer clothes. Note that this is a tropical island and low temperatures here are very rare.
However, the country’s capital is located in a mountainous area and if you visit the island during the winter months, you should wear a light jacket and long pants. Night temperatures in Antananarivo sometimes drop to about 9 – 10°C.
It is good to wear open summer shoes and slippers, as well as strong shoes, suitable for hiking in wooded and suburban areas.
* Republic of Madagascar is the official name of the country.
* Official currency is the Malagasy ariary.
* Madagascar is an independent country since 1960
* National Day is the Independence Day – 26th June
* In Madagascar you have to drive on the right side of the road.
* You will often see local women dressed in saris, which is a strong evidence for the cultural link between Madagascar and Asia.