- At 587km2 it is 4th largest island - about same size as France - Greenland largest...ask Wikipedia why Australia isn't largest!
- Population of 20.7m with a density of 33.6 per km - 177th in the world about the same as USA (UK is 51st)
- Highest mountain is Maromokotro at 2876m - double the size of Ben Nevis
- 250,000 animal species are found in Mady of which 70% are found nowhere else in the world
- 14,000 plant species native to Mady of which 90% are found nowhere else in the world
- Lemur's are endemic to Mady - of the 50 on the island 10 are critically endangered. Mady is one of richest places on Earth for higher level endemism
- Toliara reef system in SW Mady is 3rd largest in the world
- Deforestation is close to 90% of it original forest - 40% in last 60 years
- French protectorate in 1890 and colony in 1896 after British and French colonial empires competed for it. British invaded over for WWII for fear of Germany plan of Nazi government to relocate Jewish population of Europe to Mady. Independence from France in 1960 with democracy before a military coup in 2009 by the capital's mayor (couldn't see Boris achieving this!)
- Air Mady was banned from EU airspace in 2011
- HIV prevalence rate of 0.3 among adults - as UK...although how true is this stat
- Minimum wage $0.26 per hr (= 100% of GDP) - same as India
- Bubonic plague has been hitting Madagascar prisons therefor been avoiding rat stroking!
- 80% of global vanilla sourced from Mady
- No Big Mac index as no McDonalds!
- British foreign office has warnings about violence and bandits! Also has a dark illegal sex industry...Wikileaks US embassy doc is interesting reading
- Madagascar film grossed over $532m in 2005. All together the 3 film franchise has grossed $1,881m
From reading the facts above or the news you probably are thinking like I felt before arriving...what I am doing in Madagascar and I should be really careful!!
Well the reality is a really amazing and beautiful country that I would encourage you all to visit. The final elections are in a weeks time and propaganda for the final 2 candidates is hotting up...who knows what it will be like in the future.
The best way to describe it is a country that has been isolated from the mainland and rest of the world and stuck in a time warp with a French Dr Who...but for good reasons. The colonial past which is now neglected is still obvious to see but you have people who are blinkered from the western world for the better. Everyone appears content with their minimal lifestyle and happy to smile and wave at every opportunity...no aspirations to drive Mercedes...no hitchhikers just happy to walk and no beggars. Having a water border has helped keep the trouble out...just look at the HIV data compared to the rest of Southern Africa...but offsetting this is the lack of money in to grow the economy.
Like any country it has its problems...one hotel had a warning about underage sex...the capital city is unsafe after dark and rife with prostitutes. Stick to the usual ground rules of travel and you will be fine...in fact in the capital Tana at the ex-pat renovated railway station, eating foie gras burgers and watching Superman could have been on a rooftop in Peckham.
We visited the East, South and North (note only smelt sea in north) and all were different in many ways. The East/South was serious intensive terrace subsistence farming in 23C heat...the land was very lush (not in Welsh sense). Everything but mainly rice was grown and sold on the side of the well maintained good quality road (another surprise)...scenery I last saw in Vietnam...the people were also of Chinese/Orient looking...Sarah was often mistaken as a guide!!
Then as we moved North above the capital the landscape turned more arid and dry and 10C warmer...vastness and scenery seen in Karoo/Free State of SA...the farms were more spaced out and houses were more mud than 2 storey brick with the people more African looking. Then as we reached the Northern coast we found plantations of vanilla, cocoa and coffee...and of course the sea and amazing beaches (Fact: Diego Suarez is 2nd largest natural bay after Rio)...the tropical idyllic Island of Nosy Komba was a fitting end to an action packed 3 weeks in Madagascar.
I met and saw some amazing people getting on with life and showing great ingenuity. A farmer sharpening his scythe on an electricity pylon. Our guide speaking good English thanks to the BBC World Service (brought a tear to the eye). The school children at the l'ecole counting 1-5 in French to us. The usual African markets selling cats, pigeons, ducks and anything else you think you might need...I needed fake Oakleys for £1! Also the markets selling all the donated goods from USA and Europe...all the chequered shirts "Chipz" has finally thrown out. The local monastery making the worst yet blessed red wine that our driver even turned his nose at but at £2 a bottle we couldn't complain. Every Sunday the locals wearing their best for church when during the week it's sarongs and tattered clothing. Sought out the numerous hot springs to enjoy a rub down in 46C baths...Sarah's Molten Brown being a nice added touch. Nice surprises along the way included some amazing water falls (can't compare to Vic Falls but good alternatives) and brown river torrents.
firstly in Andasibe NP trekking through secondary rainforest for the endangered Indri. Our first lemur spot of the trip was special but seeing them howl to each other was awesome and very very loud. We heard them later on from our hotel 2km away whilst swimming in the rain!!
secondly was at Ankarafantsika NP where outside our bungalow on the lake not only did we see lots of migratory birds but had Coquerel's Sifaka outside our door bouncing off the ground after collecting mangos!! Their buddies were just chilling in the tree.
finally the Tsingy rouge at Diego Suarez and Ankarana NP of sandstone and limestone respectively. Mother Nature at her best and unfortunately the photos don't do it justice as to how impressive these things are to look at. Bonus in the NP was a cave of bats with large stalagmites.
The house with 3 rooms was perfect and her cooking was top class. Offer of pre dinner cocktails meant we made the right choice! Plus side of Nosy Komba is no wifi so meant could chill out and catch up on reading books etc...and no interruptions of cricket scores! Sharing meals with other guests was great way to share our experiences to date and made us realise that we have seen a lot in 3 weeks!! Other guests were new land owners to the island and building houses with varying degrees of difficulty and bureaucracy which made for a soap opera update each night to keep us entertained...note plots of land with houses and direct sea frontage are around €40k!!
Our 4 days there were action packed though. We had a reef opposite our front door for snorkelling. The local village (1600 people of 6000 on the island...note only 6 families on the island...makes Norfolk look normal!) had lemurs and numerous shops and bars to meander through. Plus we made 2 day trips to see whale sharks (we only saw one) feeding on plankton and to Nosy Tankiley which has a large reef for snorkelling where I saw fish (not very descriptive I know but again animals aren't my speciality) and turtles.
"I still haven't found what I am lemuring" for by U2
"Zebu is it me your are looking for" by Lionel Ritchie
"I bat you look good on the forest floor" by Arctic Monkeys
"Baobab to Black" by Amy Winehouse
"Karma chameleon" by Culture Club
"If there is any justice" by Lemur
"Day Tripper" by Beetles
"Jungle Boogie" by Kool & the Gang
Welcome new song listings!! (RLD is one is for you!)