Destination Information Madagascar

Your stay abroad in Madagascar

General information

Madagascar

This exotic island off the eastern coast of Africa is the fourth largest island on the planet. Nature enthusiasts will be fascinated by the immense biodiversity and varied landscape. If you are looking to experience something new and unique, Madagascar is the destination for you!


Projects

Geography

Geography

Madagascar is the fourth largest island on the planet. There are four geographical zones alongside the 5000 km coastline: The Central Highlands, the North, the West and the South-west. The Central Highlands make up around two thirds of the entire island. The highest point of the Highlands is Maromokotro, which is the highest mountain on Madagascar at just under 3000 m. The Southwest is the driest part of the island. The vegetation in this area is made up of succulents, baobab trees, and a spiny forest in the south. This spiny forest is considered one of the most fascinating biotopes on the planet. Around 60% of the plant life in the area is endemic, and the majority have spines to protect themselves against herbivores. In contrast to the dry south-west, the East is covered by a tropical rainforest. Unfortunately, the Madagascan rainforest is under severe threat from slash and burn tactics and illegal trading in tropical wood. The Masoala Rainforest is the largest contiguous rainforest area on Madagascar. It is one of the Rainforests of the Atsinanana, which UNESCO have placed on its list of World Heritage in Danger sites.

Geomorphology/Geology

In former times, the island was part of the supercontinent Gondwana before Madagascar and India were separated from the African continent. After it was also separated from India, Madagascar´s flora and fauna started to develop independently. Along the coast, basaltic material can be found as a consequence of the separation of the plates. In the western and northern regions of Madagascar, bizarre rock formations can be found that are called Tsingys. Tsingys are karstic plateaus with sharp-edged, sometimes even needle-like rocks that were formed due to weathering and the influence of groundwater on the former limestone. Moreover also the red soil is characteristic for Madagascar. The color derives from the mineral laterite that is a product of intensive weathering in tropical zones and contains mostly insoluble residues with aluminum and iron minerals.


Flora & fauna

Flora and Fauna in Madagascar

About one fourth of all monkey species worldwide and also various endemic species in flora and fauna live in Madagascar. The best known animal in Madagascar is probably the nocturnal lemur of which there are several species on the island. The smallest species is the mouse lemur with a body length of about 8 cm whereas the biggest one is the endangered indri that can reach a body length of almost one meter. In general these animals climb from tree to tree and only at rare occasions leave the safety of the heights.

Besides the lemurs also 8 predator species live in different habitats on the island of which the fossa is the biggest one with 35 cm in size and a weight of up to 10 kg. Moreover the island is home to several amphibians and reptiles like chameleons, over 250 different species of frogs, snakes and crocodiles like the Madagascar boa or the Nile crocodile. Along the coast it is possible to see sea turtles and rays.


Climate

Climate in Madagascar

The climate in Madagascar varies with the elevation of a region. Overall it can be said that the climate is tropical and mostly hot like in the norther region of Madagascar, whereas it can be colder in highlands, especially in the months of the African winter. The eastern part of the island has tropical climate with a lot of rainfall throughout the whole year. In contrast to that the southern region is the driest of Madagascar.


Social Geography

Population

Most of Madagascar's inhabitants have a south Asian descent but also migrations from east Africa and the Middle East influenced the population and led to today's diversity of culture.

Language

Über die Hälfte der Einheimischen sind Anhänger von Naturreligionen, der weitere Großteil ist christlich und ein kleiner Teil muslimisch. Viele folgen heute noch dem Ahnenkult und halten sich an sogenannte „Fadys“. Die Fadys sind Regeln im alltäglichen Leben und entstammen dem Glauben, dass das Handeln eines Einzelnen andere Personen oder Gemeinschaften negativ beeinflussen kann. Die Verletzung eines Fadys bedeutet Unglück und wird zum Teil bestraft. Die Fadys weichen jedoch von Ort zu Ort voneinander ab, daher ist es schwer für Neuankömmlinge sich einzufinden, daher sehen die Einheimischen über „Fady-Verstöße“ von Touristen hinweg

Economy

Most important economic drivers in Madagascar are agriculture and the textile industry. The tourism industry also shows economic potential as it is steadily growing, even though mining is seen as more promising. Moreover the island is the biggest exporter of vanilla. As the trade of wood from tropical trees is illegal, it is no economic driver and only enriches individuals.

Political situation and safety

In the years 2009-2013 Madagascar was hit hard by a political and economic crisis but ever since the democratic election in 2013 the country recovers steadily. The majority of Madagascar's population is relatively poor and the numbers of unemployment are quite high. Travelling in the dark and in crowded areas, you should keep an eye or two on your belongings as robberies are no exception.

Religion

In Madagascar more than 50% of the population belongs to natural worships, another major part of the population is Christian and a smaller percentage is Muslim. Moreover the ancestor worship, that includes the adherence to the so called “fadys”, is common among the people. These are rules to live by in the daily routine and as they may vary locally and violation is partly punished. In most cases locals excuse “misbehavior” of tourists though.


Travel Tipps and Trivia

Time zone

MESZ: +01:00

There is no daylight saving.

Currency

Madagascar's currency is called Ariary (1 Ariary= 5 Iraimbilanja). For current exchange rates see www.währungsrechner.de.

Units

In Madagascar metric units are used.

Electricity

As the voltage in Madagascar is 110/220 V and 50 Hz you do not need to bring an adapter for German plugs.

Transportation

Bus: In Madagascar the bus is quite established as means of transportation. For shorter distances smaller busses, the so called Taxi-Brousses, are commonly used. By using long-distance busses, also remote destinations can be reached. Tickets can be bought in advance at the bus station or directly from the bus driver.

Rental car: It is not very common to rent a car and if a car is offered for rent, in most cases a driver comes with the car.

Train: The rail network in Madagascar consists of four railway lines which are partly available for passengers. Tickets for the line Tana-Antsirabe and Tana-Andasibe can be bought from the company Madarail. Bigger groups can also book the Trans-Lemuri Express for this line.

In Town: It is widely common to use taxis to get around in cities. You raise your hand to signal the driver that you need a ride and negotiate about the price before heading off. Ask someone from your accommodation in advance what the normal price for a taxi is. Another alternative are the traditional Pousse-Pousse, a rickshaw with space for one or two passengers.

National holidays

  • January 1: New Year's Day
  • March 8: International Women´s Day
  • March 29: Martyrs' Day
  • May 1: Labour Day
  • June 20: Summer Solstice
  • June 26: Independence Day
  • November 1: All Saints' Day
  • December 11: Republic Day
  • December 21: Winter Solstice
  • December 25: Christmas Day
  • Movable Holidays: Easter Monday, Whit Monday, Assumption Day

Dos and Don’ts

Do

  • You should be prepared to eat a lot of rice.
  • Bevor drinking alcohol it is a tradition to spill some on the ground first, to give it to the ancestors as a present.
  • It is very important to be polite in Madagascar.

Don't

  • Try not to give money to begging kids as it is only a trick in most cases.
  • Try not to feel offended if people stare at you or point their finger on you.
  • Do not point on a grave stone with your finger and do not take pictures of it.
  • Do not take pictures of people without asking first.

Highlights Must-see places in Madagascar

Our top recommendations for you

Highlights

Highlights

Along the coast of Madagascar you will find amazing places to rest yourself, relax and revive. You can enjoy the beaches or discover the tropical forests and mangroves in your surroundings or explore the water by boat or on diving trips. Besides the beautiful coral reefs along the coast you also have the chance to see whale sharks, sea turtles and rays. Also a trip to the beautiful and peaceful island Nosy-Be north of the main island is an alternative worth considering.

The interior regions on the island are very fertile and while enjoying outdoor-activities like climbing or hiking, you can experience the delicious smell of vanilla fields. Further south in the Berenty Park you can explore flora and fauna of the spiny forest. If you decide to visit the Masoala Nationalpark, you may even be lucky and see an Indri-Indri or an Aye-Aye. In the western region of Madagascar you can make a trip to the Baobab-Avenue and admire these bizarre trees that look like they were put in the earth upside down. These trees store great amounts of water in their stems and only open their flowers after the sunset.

Got questions? — We'll call you back