About this blog
This is my blog about our trip to Madagascar, including brief stop-overs in Mauritius at either end. (No. 66 and 67 on my list of 'countries visited'.)
Some background about Madagascar:
Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world. With a total area of 587 thousand square km it's about 50% larger than Germany. The two official languages are Malagasy and French. It has a population of about 22 milion.
With a total GDP of 20B, per capita GDP is less than $1,000, which makes it one of poorest countries in the world. (On the CIA list this puts it at no 183 out of 194 countries.)
Antananarivo (called Tana by the locals) is the capital and largest city of Madagascar.
What makes Madagascar's flora and fauna so unique is the fact that it has split from the Indian subcontinent more than 85 million years ago, and so its plants and animals have evolved almost entirely independently. Over 90% of the plants and animals indigenous to Madagascar are only found here and nowhere else in the world.
The first humans on the other hand arrived relatively late. It is believed that the first settlers arrived only about 2000 years ago. Interestingly they didn't come from Africa, but from Borneo on the other side of the Indian ocean (probably by outrigger canoe). Even though Africa is only about 500 km across the Mozambique channel, the first settlers from Africa didn't arrive until around 1000 AD.
Because of the fairly late settlement Madagascar doesn't have a particularly long or interesting history. The country was only united under one kingdom starting in the late 18th century. It had a series of occasionally crazy and colorful kings and queens before it became a French colony in 1897. After it gained its independence from France in 1960, the country had a handful of different dictators and it tried communism for a while in the 70s. In 1992 Madagascar became officially a constitutional democracy, but that didn't last too long. In 2009 the last elected president, Marc Ravalomanana, was made to flee the country after a coup d'etat supported by the military. The country has suffered a lot since then as all foreign aid was cut off after the coup. The current government has been promising elections but no date has been set yet.
Madagascar has a varied range of landscapes and climate zones. The mountains in the central highlands rise to almost 3000 meters. It is very dry and hot in the South. The West is dominated by grassy plains and the North and East are covered in tropical rain forest (although the forests are rapidly disappearing, and only about 10% of the original forested areas remain).
November is generally a good time to visit Madagascar. However, we did miss out on one of the potential highlights at this time. The Tsingy de Bermahara National Park on the West Coast, cannot be accessed during the wet season, which starts in mid November, because the road to the park is no longer passable.