Madagascar is a large island nation in the Indian Ocean, off the east coast of Africa, where people have lived for over 2000 years. It is the world's fourth largest island, boasting 5,000 kilometres of coast and a current population of twenty-two million, split between 18 ethnic groups and a multiplicity of social sub-groups.
Geologists believe that about two million years ago, Madagascar was a part of a big landmass that included what is now the continent of Africa, but it broke off. Madagascar would later break off from the Indian subcontinent. The geography of the island is relatively simple. It is 592,000 km² wide; from North to South, high reliefs and a series of lake basins run through the centre and its highest peak is Mount Maromokotra which is located 392 km off East Africa’s coast. Erosion is variably important, having created spectacular sites such as Isalo.
The coast is rather different from one side to the other. In the East, it is narrow, due to the fact it is trapped between the edge of the Central Lands, sometimes referred to as “the cliff”, and the Ocean. In the West and the South, reliefs progressively decrease in slope to the level of a wide plain, which is often interrupted by large majestic rivers. Madagascar is surrounded by a multiplicity of islets, some of which are grouped in archipelagos.
The most popular sea is located in the North West. Its creeks, harbours, islets and white sand beaches make it ideal for leisure boating, fishing or simply lazing by the sea. From Majunga to Tuléar, the mild-sloped coast has mostly remained in its wild state, and traditional dhows elegantly sail along it. The arch formed by the Southern coast before joining the Indian Ocean can be described as the end of the world, quite literally, given the fact that only Antarctica can be found beyond; it is decorated with isolated fishermen’s villages, pristine sand dunes, and waves that meet the most ardent surfer's expectations. From Fort Dauphin onwards, the coast takes a strangely straight shape, up to Baie d’Antongil’s indentation. Underwater, Madagascar’s well-located coral reefs are among the world’s most beautiful diving sites.
Madagascar has some of the most unique flora and fauna on earth, many of which do not exist elsewhere in Africa - in fact over 75% of its species are found nowhere else in the world, and that includes most of mammals that live there too. Many were not even known about until around 1679 when Dutch explorers first came to its shores. Sadly, a large number of the species in Madagascar are in danger due to deforestation; much of the land has been cleared of forest for growing crops such as coffee, one of the island’s most important crops. A big part of Madagascar’s economy also comes from vanilla, selling more than any other country in the world.