Ask any kid if they know about a place called Madagascar. Mostly they’ll nod their heads in affirmation. Many people know about Madagascar from the animated movies named after it. They might not know about the location and some even think it’s a fabled place like Narnia. To tell you the truth even I came to know about this beautiful country back in 2005 after watching the movie. And since then I have wanted to go for an adventure in Madagascar
Madagascar is an island country, off the east coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean. Once a French colony, the country gained its independence in 1960. Here are few interesting facts about the country:
Interesting facts about Madagascar
1. Madagascar is the world’s fourth largest island after Greenland, Papua New Guinea and Borneo.
2. Madagascar once had a mad queen. During the 1800s, Queen Ranavalona ruled over Madagascar and during her 33 years of reign, she focused her energies on brutally eradicating Christians, neighbouring kingdoms and political rivals. Her favourite method of punishment was the tangena ordeal in which poison would be taken from the nut of the tangena shrub. Those on trial would take the almost always fatal poison. If the person died, they were guilty. If they survived they were innocent. It is reported that the island’s population went from 5 million to 2.5 million between 1833 and 1839. The country was later captured by France. The remains of her palace, the Rova of Antananarivo, can still be seen in the capital.
3. If you are fan of the movie Madagascar, the first thing you’d look for once reaching here is the wildlife. And let me tell you, you won’t be disappointed. Madagascar is a “megadiverse” nation. There are only 17 countries with this distinction. A megdiverse country is one which has a vast number of different species, many found nowhere else in the world.
Madagascar has a unique flora and fauna, with 90 percent of its wildlife found only in Madagascar. However you won’t see any tigers, zebra, giraffes or hippo unlike the movie. I know it’s sad. We would love to go on an adventure with Alex and Marty.
4. But what you will definitely see here is King Julien and his entire extended family. Madagascar is home to 103 species and sub-species of lemurs found nowhere else on Earth. Lemurs are considered sacred and there are also many myths surrounding the relationship between humans and lemurs. All hail King Julien!
Over half the world’s chameleons can also be found on the island. There are around 150 species of chameleons, and 59 of them are endemic to Madagascar.
Birdwatchers can also enjoy the country, and you might catch some of the world’s most elusive species here, such as the long-tailed ground roller.
5. The biodiversity hotspot has over 10,000 endemic species of plants. The most unique and famous plant found in Madagascar is the baobab tree, bottle-shaped trees that seemingly have their roots in the air. The baobab grows up to hundreds of years and is considered sacred by the people.
The drugs obtained from Madagascar periwinkle are used to treat Hodgkin’s disease, leukemia, and other cancers.
6. Madagascar was once every pirate’s paradise. In the late 17th century and the early 18th century, the absence of European influence here made the island a safe haven for the pirates. Ile Sainte-Marie, four miles off Madagascar’s east coast, was simply referred to as “the island of pirates” on maps. It’s rumoured that Captain James Misson, founded the anarchist colony Libertatia there in the late 17th century.
7. Lamba is the traditional dress of the country. It is worn by both men and women. It is a sort of rectangular cloth which is wrapped around the body. Different designs of clothing are worn for different occasions.
8. Bare-knuckle fighting is a popular sport here. Moraingy is a form of bare-fisted combat sport, and many of the people on the island take part. It is an organised spectator sport where people pay to sit in outdoor rings surrounded by grass huts and palm trees, often singing and cheering along.
9. Even though Madagascar is part of the African continent, the locals do not like to be referred to as Africans. They are simply Malagasy people. The island country is a melting pot in terms of heritage and influences. The first humans to settle in Madagascar came from Indonesia, Sumatra, and Java bringing the Southeast Asian culture with them. Later, people from East Africa began to migrate here and over time, other African, Asian and European settler groups arrived, each bringing their own unique contributions to the culture of the island.
10. Most Malagasies believe in their ancestors, taboo and magic. And even though there are large numbers of Christians, Mormons and Muslims in Madagascar, most of them are connected through the religion of the island.
One of the most common practices is to worship the ancestors by exhuming buried relatives, rewrapping them in fresh grave clothes and then dancing with them around the tomb. It’s a way of staying connected with departed relatives and paying their respects. It is also believed that ancestors are the link between those on Earth and the Supreme God itself, and they must be honoured.
11. The country is the highest producer of vanilla and is home to more than two-thirds of the world’s vanilla fields.
12. Despite getting popular among tourists, Madagascar remains one of the poorest and unhappiest countries in the world. After its independence from the French, it struggled under the leadership of one incompetent government after another. A series of civil unrest and political chaos made the conditions worse. Today, over 70% of the population lives below the poverty line.
Trip leader Sakshi’s Recommendations if you are visiting Madagascar:
When in Madagascar, you should explore the national parks and check out the biodiversity of the country yourself.
Ranomafana National Park is a prime example of a tropical cloud forest and one of the best spots in the country to see lemurs. The eastern section of the park is the most scenic, with numerous streams splashing through densely forested hills.
Isalo National Park, often referred as the Jurassic Park, is home to some of Madagascar’s most stunning scenery. The park has natural swimming pools, which are pretty famous with the tourists. Located in the south-central part of the country and featuring multiple rugged hiking trails, cliffs, ravines, gorges, and canyons, and plentiful fauna, this is often regarded as the most beautiful national park in the country.
Tsingy de Bemaraha is a place for the adventure enthusiast. The park is best known for its tsingy — sharp limestone pinnacles through which canyons and gorges are cut. To get around, you use rope bridges, ladders, and fixed cables.
Visit Avenue of the Baobabs. Grandidier’s baobab trees are massive trees that can grow 98 feet tall and 36 feet wide and can live up to one thousand years. These trees are endemic to Madagascar and can be found throughout the country. Yet, the most famous place for baobab-worshipping is the Avenue of the Baobabs. The dirt road between Morondava and Belon’i Tsiribihina in the Menabe region in western Madagascar is lined with 20-25 trees and the area looks straight out of a postcard.
Swim with the whale sharks at Nosy Be. The small island of Nosy Be is one of Madagascar’s major tourist spots. The beaches are tranquil with clear turquoise water. It is also one of the rare places on earth where you will get to swim along the whale sharks, manta rays, and stingrays.