Madagascar is a large island nation off the southeast coast of Africa. It’s home to thousands of animal species, such as lemurs, which are not found anywhere else. Near the busy capital of Antananarivo is Ambohimanga, which is a hillside complex of royal palaces and burial grounds, as well as the Avenue of the Baobabs, which is a dirt road lined by massive centuries old trees. Take a look below for 30 more fun and interesting facts about Madagascar.
1. Madagascar has two seasons, a dry cooler season which starts in May and lasts until October, and a hot rainy season which starts in November and lasts until April.
2. It’s one of the poorest countries in Africa. The people in this territory face many problems including poor health care, a poor educational system, economic problems and malnutrition.
3. 52% of the population maintain their indigenous religious beliefs, 41% are Christian and the remaining 7% are Muslim.
4. Madagascar has two official languages, French and Malagasy.
5. The island has lost more than 80% of its original forest land since humans arrived on the island about 2,000 years ago.
6. The bard of Malagasy literature, Jean-Joseph Rabearivelo, is one of Africa’s first modern poets. He was born in a poor family, grew up to master African and French surreal poetry and was declared the National Poet of Madagascar in 1960.
7. Hainteny, translated as “knowledge of words,” is a Malagasy oral tradition. It uses metaphors, folktales, fables, riddles and historical poems to convey simple messages.
8. Kabary means public discourse, but through indirect speech. In Madagascar, it’s a social game, where two players debate each other but can never directly counter one another.
9. Both men and women wear the lamba. There are lambas for marriages, work, elders, children and even the dead are wrapped in a special kind of lamba before burial.
10. In popular Malagasy belief, the dead look out for the living, and the living look out for the dead.
11. Madagascar wasn’t always an island. Millions of years ago, Madagascar was connected to Africa’s mainland.
12. The first inhabitants weren’t from Africa but from Asia. In fact, they came from Borneo.
13. The service industry makes up 58.9% of Madagascar’s GDP.
14. An influx of gem hunters has put rainforests in the country at risk. Local residents that can’t control the situation have been calling for military intervention.
15. Tropical cyclones are common in Madagascar, and destructive flooding occurred in the country in 2004. Cyclone Gafilo killed almost 200 people, left over 200,000 homeless and caused millions of dollars in damages.
16. A species species of Baobab, known as the “Mother of the Forest,” Adansonia grandidieri, is only found in Madagascar. The landscape of “The Avenue of the Baobabs” has become a cultural identity of Madagascar and Africa.
17. Madagascar has its own brand of fight clubs. Moraingy is a popular sport in the coastal regions and it consists of hand to hand combat without any weapons.
18. Music is believed to be the connection to an ancestor’s soul and, sometimes, when the party gets exciting, rum is poured into the instruments as a show of respect for the dead.
19. Madagascar is the world’s second biggest producer of vanilla, right after Indonesia. Ironically, vanilla originated in Mexico.
20. The silk of the Darwin’s bark spider, which is endemic to the island, produces the world’s strongest silk, which is ten times stronger than Kevlar, a synthetic fiber of high tensile strength.
21. Tenrecs were the first mammals to inhabit Madagascar. They look a lot like hedgehogs and curl up into a ball when threatened.
22. Madagascar has an entire forest made of stones. Tsingy has big, tall stones naturally lined up alongside trees.
23. The early Malagasy people irrigated their crops by a technique called “slash and burn.” They would cut down a forest and burn the remains, after which they would cultivate the land for a while before they moved on to the next rainforest.
24. Malagasy people built expensive burial tombs for their dead and they all bury them with jewels and precious metals. In many families, the members will spend more on their dead than on themselves.
25. The Rainforests of the Atsinanana on the eastern coast were declared a World Heritage Site in 2007.
26. Exotic fruits like jackfruit, longan, avocado, custard apple, breadfruit and baobab all grow in Madagascar.
27. Even though the size of Madagascar is almost twice that of the United Kingdom, Madagascar has just 1% of the total paved road length of the U.K.
28. Renovola is served as a tea in Madagascar, but it’s not really tea. It’s rice that’s cooked in a pan with water, then strained into a cup.
29. The third largest coral reef in the world is located off of the southwestern coast of Madagascar.
30. An insect known as the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach is only found on the island. They typically live in rotting wood and only come out at night.