Madagascar is a naturalist's paradise with its unique animals and plants. It is the world's fourth largest island. The island is so unique because it has an unbelievable wealth to offer. Apart from being a naturalist's paradise it is also a great centre for the spice trade. It has an area of 594,180 sq km and is oblong shaped. A tropical climate but also has heavy rainfall in the north, monsoons in the east, and dry arid areas in the south. A chain of mountains are in the centre and towards the eastern side which descent steeply to a coastal strip.
On the side of the mountains are rainforests, while mangroves are at the lagoons and river deltas. The western side has a dry climate with savannah grasslands growing and deciduous forests. In the south, because of the dry climate, there are unusual cactus-like trees growing which form a forest.
|ANTANANARIVO THE CAPITOL|
Originally, Madagascar was volcanic and still has many hot springs. In the highlands a craters and ash cones are to be seen. Another wonder of Madagascar, it is very rich in minerals. A variety of precious and semiprecious stones were found and most of the entire world's largest crystal.
The first people came from Indonesia travelling through South India and East Africa. The language is Malagasy which is spoken today and has Malay roots. Later on there came Arabs and Indians. This mixed culture of Afro-Asian developed into ancestor worship. They believe in the spirit world and its influence. The descendants still have a variety of taboos called fady which rules their lives.
In 1500, the Portuguese explorer Diego Diaz landed there. It had several tribal areas at that time. In the 1700 a Merino Kingdom developed in the highlands with a capital Antananarivo. A powerful king conquered and united the island. In the 1817 and 1820 the British signed a treaty and declared it as an independent state. In 1886, it became a French colony after a Franco-Malagasy War.
Vichy French, allied to Germany, controlled the island in the Second World War. In 1942 Britain occupied the island to stop Japan from using it as a naval base. A nationalist rebellion against the French was defeated but in 1960 Madagascar became independent.
Today Madagascar has 18 tribes and since 1960 the population has doubled. The forest has been reduced to half of its size. The timber is used for fuel or charcoal. The cultivation was not controlled and there are now a lot of problems with erosion. Vanilla was once their top product but now vanilla is produce artificially and the demand is in decline. Another great export is coffee and the fishing industry is increasing its export. They also are trying to develop their tourism.
|TSINGY IN MADAGASCAR|
The uniqueness of Madagascar is its wildlife. Of 200,000 species of animals and plants the island has 150,000 which are not found anywhere in the world. Scientist still finding new species there but also they have more endangered species than anywhere. After a conference in 1985 held by the WWF and other groups they now have the help of the government to establish protected areas. They also have an increase in awareness of the problem of cutting down forests and erosion