Travel to Madagascar
As a result of the Madagascar’s long isolation from neighboring continents, this exotic is home to an abundance of plants and animals found nowhere else on Earth. Approximately 90 percent of all plant and animal species found in Madagascar are endemic. Most famous are the lemurs (a type of primate), the carnivorous fossa (a cat-like mammal) and many, many birds. This distinctive ecology has led some ecologists to refer to Madagascar as the “eighth continent”.
Madagascar is so important that primatologists divide the world into four major regions: South and Central America, southern and southeast Asia, mainland Africa… and Madagascar.
Madagascar is world-famous for its lemurs—primates that look something like a cat crossed with a squirrel and a dog. Madagascar is home to nearly 60 types of lemurs, ranging in size from the 1 ounce pygmy mouse lemur to the 15lb Indri. These animals are unique to the island and display a range of interesting behaviors from singing like a whale (the Indri) to sashaying across the sand like a ballet dancer (the Sifaka).
Divers will revel in the choice of sites, from underwater ‘cathedrals’ to shipwrecks, and will relish the chance to see stingrays, whale sharks and reef sharks. Snorkelers will encounter turtles and marvel at the rainbow of colors of corals and fish.
The type of travelers who go to beautiful Madagascar are those who appreciate anything different, unique and unusual. Nature, outdoors and soft adventure lovers. It’s a photographers and videographers dream; the images they capture prompt people to ask: “Wow, where is that?”. Malagasy infrastructure isn’t sophisticated, but clean and comfortable accommodation is available. Madagascar is the world’s 4th largest island but has few roads, redefining off road driving for most of us! You can go from rainforest to desert in just 185 miles, but it may take all day to get there.
The first people arrived in Madagascar between 350 BC and 550 AD on outrigger canoes from Borneo. These Austronesian first settlers were joined around 1000 AD by Bantu migrants crossing the Mozambique Channel.
Other groups such as Arabs, Indians, and Chinese continued to settle on Madagascar over time, each one making lasting contributions to Malagasy cultural life. The Malagasy way of thinking includes a mixture of cultures, as well as their appearance and fashion style. It is a melting pot. Madagascar is part of the African Union.
The official languages of Madagascar are Malagasy and French.
Malagasay is a Malayo-Polynesian language related to Malay and Indonesian that is spoken by the majority of the island as a native language. Because the island is so large there are many different dialects. The Merina dialect is the “Official Malagasy” of the island and is spoken around the highlands of Antananarivo. Most Malagasy, however, speak Merina across the island.
Madagascar was first settled by people from Borneo about 2000 years ago. Arab traders arrived around 800-900 A.D. when merchants begin trading along the northern coast.
The first known European to see Madagascar was a Portuguese sea captain, Diogo Dias, who spotted the island August 10, 1500, after he was blown off course on the way to India. He named the island St. Lawrence. Later in the 1500s the Portuguese, French, Dutch, and English all attempted to establish trading settlements in Madagascar. All of these failed due to hostile conditions and fierce fighting by local Malagasy warriors.
Europeans first got a foothold on Madagascar in the late 1600s when pirates ruled the eastern coast of the island. These pirates used Madagascar as a base for attacking ships bringing goods back to Europe from India. In the 1700s, the French attempted to establish military positions on the east coast but again failed. By the early 19th century the only settlement the French could claim was the island of Sainte Marie.
Meanwhile, during the 1700s, the Sakalavas of the western coast established the first kingdom of Madagascar. In 1810, their rivals, the Merina, established a kingdom over most of the rest of the island. Their king, Radama I, established relations with the British and opened the country to English missionaries who spread Christianity throughout the island and transcribed Malagasy into a written language. Under Radama’s reign, a miniature Industrial revolution brought industry to the island. After Radama’s death, he was succeeded by his widow, Ranavalona I, who terrorized the country for 33 years by persecuting Christians, evicting foreigners, executing political rivals, and reviving the custom of killing babies born on unlucky days. After her death, relations with Europe were restored.
In 1883, France invaded Madagascar and by 1896 had established rule over the island, which became a French colony. France used Madagascar as a source for timber and exotic spices, like vanilla. The Malagasy had two major uprisings against the French, in 1918 and 1947, but the country did not gain independence until June 26, 1960.
In 1975, Didier Ratsiraka took control of the country. He ruled Madagascar as a dictator until he was overthrown in 1991 amid an economic collapse. He regained the presidency shortly thereafter and ruled until losing a contested election in 2001 to Marc Ravalomanana, who brought democracy to the country. Madagascar is currently a fragile democracy.
The Ariary (sign: Ar; ISO 4217 code MGA) is the currency of Madagascar. It is subdivided into 5 iraimbilanja. Travelers usually bring Euro and change to Ariary if necessary. Many shops will accept Euro.
Dry season runs from April to October and from April is when most tourists start to arrive. Peak months are July and August, due to the timing of school holidays in Europe and the USA. If visiting for wildlife, September to December is also a good time to visit, as many of the snakes and lizards populating the island come out of hibernation during this time. The mountains, including Antananarivo, are dry, cool and windy during this time of year, shifting to warm and thundery from November to April. Travelling to Madagascar from January to March is best avoided.
Rainy season runs from December to March. This is when the rainforested eastern and northern parts of the country are battered by tropical storms brought on by cyclone season, and temperatures tend to hover around 86ºF. Despite being rainy season up north, during this period, the central parts will be a lot drier and cooler, with temperatures around 77ºF. The southern and western coasts are the driest parts of the country.
There are no required immunizations, unless you have resided in a yellow-fever area immediately prior to your arrival in Madagascar. However, anti-malaria medication is strongly recommended.
Madagascar has recently introduced a fee of 33 Euros for a Tourist Visa. The fee is payable on arrival. Additionally, visitors must present a passport valid for 6 months beyond the departure date, and a round-trip ticket.
Credit cards are not widely accepted in Madagascar. At major hotels, Visa and Mastercard are accepted, but travelers are advised to be prepared to pay cash for all purchases.
Electrical sockets (outlets) in Madagascar usually supply electricity at between 220 and 240 volts AC. You will need a voltage converter to use devices that take 110 volts. The plug type C is required for Madagascar.
Water in cities is usually potable, but Africa Answers recommends against drinking anything but bottled water throughout Madagascar.
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1000 Views of Madagascar
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