or the Malagasy Republic, is an island nation in the Indian Ocean, some 400 kilometres off the south-east coast of Africa. Madagascar is the fourth-largest island in the world.

The island measures 1600 kilometres from north to south, and 580 kilometres from west to east at its widest point. Which means the surface equals that of France and the Benelux together. Antananarivo is the capital. Other main cities are Toamasina, Fianarantsoa, Mahajanga, Toliara, Antsiranana.

The tropical climate takes different forms: from very humid in the east (up to 7 metres of rainfall annually) to very dry in the south west (400-500 millimetres rain annually), with a cool climate on the plateau in the middle. Fauna and flora differ accordingly, and is astonishing in all parts of Madagascar.

Probably, people arrived at the island about 1500-2000 years ago, presumably from Southeast Asia. Today’s population has Southeast Asian roots, mixed with African and Arabian influences. The population has grown to about 19 million today, united by their language, Malagasy, which is spoken all over the island with only minor differences of dialect. French and since recently English are the other two official languages.

About 70% of the population lives in poverty, making Madagascar one of the world’s poorest countries. Agriculture is a mainstay of the economy.

Major exports are coffee, vanilla (Madagascar is the world’s largest producer and exporter of vanilla), sugarcane, cloves, cocoa, rice, cassava (tapioca), beans, bananas, peanuts and livestock products.

In 2007 the government launched an ambitious plan to develop the country: The Madagascar Action Plan. It includes the intention to increase the number of protected nature reserves, and to stimulate tourism.

The combination of unrivaled nature and a friendly population indeed makes Madagascar a first class tourist destination.

If you would like to read more Madagascar please look at the website of Madagascar Travel | Community Tourism.

Click here for a detailed map of Madagascar