Top events in Madagascar

September
01

This is a local cultural festival in Anivorano. It is a cheerful event bringing together two to three thousand people from surrounding villages...

October
01

This week-long carnival-cum-festival in Diego Suarez began in 2007. It brings together numerous lively and colourful outdoor entertainments...

October
01

Madagascar’s jazz music festival has been running for over 25 years. It typically lasts for two weeks and comprises events across a number of...

Lemurs in Madagascar
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Lemurs in Madagascar

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Madagascar Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

587,041 sq km (226,658 sq miles).

Population

22.6 million (2013).

Population density

38.5 per sq km.

Capital

Antananarivo.

Government

Republic since 1992. Gained independence from France in 1960.

Head of state

President Hery Rajaonarimampianina since 2014.

Head of government

Prime Minister Roger Kolo since 2014.

Electricity

220 volts AC, 50Hz. Plugs are generally two-pin.

A jaw-dropping, wildlife-rich hotspot, Madagascar is truly one of the most fascinating places on earth and home to some of the weirdest and rarest animal species in existence.

But it’s not just a naturalist’s dreamland: there are also splendid beaches; world-class sites for scuba diving, surfing and kitesurfing; opportunities for rock climbing and caving; river trips; and spectacular scenery, not to mention a warmly welcoming people with interesting beliefs and cultural practices.

Flora and fauna is the big draw though, with between 80% and 90% of species in Madagascar found nowhere else on earth.

It is worth dwelling for a moment on why this is the case. Madagascar is a huge island – the world’s fourth largest – but it is also the oldest. That’s to say it has been separated from continental landmasses for longer than any other island. Evolution has been at play in this tropical paradise, largely isolated from outside interference, for many tens of millions of years.

Madagascar provided a blank canvas for evolution to experiment with diverse new forms of life in the near absence of large predators. And experiment it did.

One single ancestral lemur exploded into the dozens of species we see today (not to mention many more that have already become extinct). Nowadays Madagascar is the exclusive home of around a quarter of our planet’s primates, yet there are no monkeys and no great apes – just lemurs. And they exist in glorious variety: more than one hundred different species and subspecies – big and small, nocturnal and diurnal, social and solitary, adorably cute and downright freaky.

The lemurs’ story is played out across the animal groups: there are several hundred types of frog, dozens of bats, over a hundred snakes (mostly small and all harmless) and almost half of the world’s chameleons (including the smallest and largest). And for botanists the story is similar: more than 200 different palms, over a thousand orchids, 75% of all baobab species, the list goes on...

It is not just the diversity and otherness of Madagascar’s wildlife that makes it special for visitors; the animals are also overwhelmingly safe. Tourists can freely wander in the rainforests and other habitats of Madagascar without fear of being stalked by a tiger, charged by an elephant or bitten by a rattlesnake. Aside from a few rarely encountered scorpions and crocs, there’s hardly anything to hurt you at all.

Madagascar is divided along its middle by a high plateau. Lush rainforest runs in a band down the eastern side, while drier deciduous forests lie to the west. In the far south is the unique arid spiny forest, home to the island’s wackiest plant life. Giant baobab trees populate the western regions.

A mix of influences provides telltale evidence of the Polynesian settlers, Arabic presence, Bantu tribes-folk and European arrivals of the past, all of which have culminated in a fascinating cultural melting pot that puts the icing on the cake of one of the most unique destinations in the world.

Travel Advice

Last updated: 20 August 2014

The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to Batterie Beach, north of Tuléar, where there have been violent attacks including fatalities.

Take great care and follow local advice in the south-east of the country. In the southern triangle between Ihosy, Tuléar and Fort-Dauphin the security situation remains tense and the roads are in very poor condition. Avoid overnight stays in the countryside.

You should avoid travelling at night on Route Nationale 13 (RN 13) between Ambovombe and Ihosy and on the RN 10 between Betioky –Andranovory (the western route to Tuléar). There have been several attacks on vehicles. Take great care on these roads during the daytime.

In 2013 there were just over 8,000 British visitors to Madagascar and most visits were trouble free. If possible, travel with established organisations or travel companies who know the terrain and have the capacity to warn of potential hazards.

Be vigilant and maintain a low profile while moving around the country, in particular if you’re travelling alone. If you’re travelling independently, monitor the local media closely for the duration of your visit.

In October 2013 on the island of Nosy Be, 2 foreigners and 1 Malagasy were lynched and burned by the local population. Remain vigilant during visits to beaches.

There has been continued political instability in Madagascar since the 2009 coup d’état. The political transition remains fragile and may have an impact on security, especially in the capital, the larger regional cities, and the Betroka region in the south. You should avoid all crowds.

Crime is widespread in Madagascar. Be vigilant in the capital Antananarivo particularly on the Avenue de L’Independence, Ambohijatovo, Analakely, Bohorika, Isoraka Ampasamandinika, 67ha, Analakely and around the military barracks at Betongolo.

Be especially vigilant at night. Since 2012 there have been a number of explosions in Antananarivo linked to civil unrest which continue until today. Don’t touch any suspect packages.

There is a low threat from terrorism.

The cyclone season in Madagascar normally runs from November to April. Coastal areas are particularly affected. You should monitor the progress of approaching storms.

Piracy is a significant threat in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean, and has occurred more than 1,000 nautical miles from the Somali coast.

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