Madagascar is a beautiful island, ringed by golden beaches and palm trees. With an interior resplendent in, its variety from grassy plateaus to volcanoes and opaque forests and natural reserves. It's long isolation from the neighbouring continents has resulted in a unique mix of plants and animals, many found nowhere else in the world. Rich with wildlife, there are 10 different species of lemur that inhabit the island, and about half the world's 150 or so species of chameleons. The island is also a mass of unusual and colourful flowers and other flora. In terms of biodiversity alone, Madagascar really is one of a kind.
Some ecologists refer to Madagascar as the "eighth continent".
Please note: Madagascar is not for the faint of heart. Tourism infrastructure is very limited and accommodation levels are quite basic. English is not widely spoken, French and Malagasy are the primary languages spoken on the island. You will need to have a 'go with the flow'attitude to fully enjoy and appreciate this unique land.
Republic of Madagascar is an island nation located in the Indian Ocean, off the eastern coast of Africa (east of Mozambique).
Time: +3 GMT
Size: 587,040 sq km with a coastline of 4828km. Madagascar is slightly less than twice the size of Arizona and is the world's fourth-largest island. Madagascar has 6 provinces which consist of Antananarivo, Antsiranana, Fianarantsoa, Mahajanga, Toamasina and Toliara.
Geography: The east coast of Madagascar has lowlands leading to steep bluffs and central highlands. The Tsaratanana Massif in the north has volcanic mountains. The west coast has many protected harbors and broad plains, while the southwest is a plateau and desert region.
Biodiversity: Madagascar is the home to 5 percent of the world's plant and animal species, greater than 80 percent of which are endemic to Madagascar.
Climate: Tropical along the coast, temperate inland and arid in the south.
Population: Around 18,595,469. The vast majority is a blend of Malay, Polynesian and African ancestry, with two small minorities of Indian or French origin.
Currency: Madagascar Ariary (MGA)
Credit Cards: Credit cards are not widely accepted in Madagascar, they are sometimes accepted in the main cities, hotels and larger restaurants. Mastercard is NOT at all accepted outside of Antananarivo. It is recommended you do not rely on your credit cards for payment, it is recommended you have enough cash with you to cover the needs of your stay.
Languages: French & Malagasy. The primary language spoken in Madagascar is Malagasy followed by French. English is not spoken outside of major hotels and tourist attractions.
Public Holidays: In addition to the public holidays below, Good Friday and Easter Monday, the following public holidays are recognized.
1 January - New Year's Day
29 March - Commemoration Day
1 May - Labour Day.
26 June - Independence Day.
15 August - Assumption.
27 September - St Vincent de Paul's Day.
1 November - All Saints' Day.
25 December - Christmas Day.
30 December - Anniversary of the Republic of Madagascar.
26 June - Independence Day.
Electricity: 110V and 220V.
Banking: Monday to Friday 08h:00-11h:00 and 14h:00-16h:00
Economy: Agriculture, including fishing and forestry, is a mainstay of the economy. Major exports are coffee, vanilla, sugarcane, cloves, cocoa, rice, cassava (tapioca), beans, bananas, peanuts and livestock products. The Malagasy economy took a brief downturn during the 1980's when Coca-Cola, the world's leading purchaser of vanilla, switched to the New Coke formula that contained synthetic vanillin. The situation reversed itself when the company reintroduced its classic formula.
National Parks & Reserves:
Today Madagascar is arguably the highest conservation priority in the world and its protected areas system in one of the more advanced in sub-Saharan Africa. Some of the protected areas in Madagascar:
Ankarana Reserve: Ankarana Reserve is a small vegetated plateau in northern Madagascar with elevations that exceed 1220m (4000ft) above sea level. Ankarana has the highest density of primates of any forest, many different species of lemurs call it home. It's composed of 150-million-year-old limestone. With an average annual rainfall of 1,800 millimeters (70in), the underlying rocks are susceptible to erosion, thereby producing caves and underground streams. The rugged relief and the dense vegetation have helped protect the region from human intrusion.
The plateau slopes gently to the east, but on the west it ends abruptly in the "Wall of Ankarana", a sheer cliff that extends 25km (15 miles) north to south, and rises as high as 280m (920ft). To the south, the limestone mass breaks up into separate spires known as tower karst. In the center of the plateau, eons of rainfall have dissolved the limestone away in deep gorges, and sometimes re-deposited it in ribbons of flowstone. In places where the chalky upper layers have been completely eroded, the harder base rock has been etched into channels and ridges known as tsingy.
Madagascar is home to nine-tenths of all the world's lemur species, including the dwarf Microcebus, no bigger than a mouse; the very friendly Macaco; the Catta, with a distinctive gray body and long black-and-white striped tail; the Sifaka, which can leap 30 feet or more from branch to branch; the Indri, tallest of all lemurs; and the rarest of all lemurs, the Aye-aye.
Madagascar is considered a must-see by all serious birdwatchers. Visitors to the island are often amazed by the wide variety of rare and breathtakingly beautiful birds, including the marvelous Vangas, the beautiful Crested Coua, the remarkably colorful Roller bird, over 70 different species of singing birds and parrots, an abundance of gorgeous waterfowl, including herons and flamingos; and graceful birds of prey, such as the lightning-fast eagle and graceful falcon.
MADAGASCAR NATIONAL PARKS & RESERVES
Things you should Know Before Visiting Madagascar
PASSPORT AND VISA:
A valid passport is mandatory. All foreign visitors to the Republic of Madagascar require entry visas. Visas are issued for stays of up to 90 days and are valid for six months from date of issue.
ENTRY & EXIT REQUIREMENTS:
A passport valid for six months beyond the date of entry, visa and evidence of yellow fever vaccination (if coming from an infected area) are required.
Yellow fever vaccination certificate & cholera vaccination certificate are required if you are arriving from or have transited an area considered infected by the Malagasy authorities. Malaria Prophylaxis is recommended as is a vaccination for typhoid, polio and Hepatitis A. It is not recommended to drink tap water. Boil it or buy bottled water from the shops. It is strongly advised that visitors to the country take full health insurance. Availability of health care is very restricted and where available, the services are in high demand and can be expensive. Bring any special medication you may need. For your own comfort take a mosquito repellent. Bilharzia is present in some of the lakes, and swimming is not recommended except in designated areas.
Tropical/subtropical climate with two seasons: Hot and rainy from November to April, cooler and dry from May to October. The south and west regions are hot and dry. The mountains, including Antananarivo, are warm and thundery from November to April and dry, cool and windy the rest of the year. Monsoons bring storms and cyclones to the east and north from December to March.
Lightweight clothing is worn during the summer on the high central plateau and throughout the year in the north and south. Warmer clothes are recommended during the evenings and winter in mountainous areas. Rainwear is advisable.