The Country of Madagascar
Madagascar lies in the Indian Ocean off the southeast coast of Africa opposite Mozambique. The world’s fourth-largest island, it is twice the size of Arizona. The country’s low-lying coastal area gives way to a central plateau. This island was created when it separated from the Indian subcontinent 80-100 million years ago.
The first humans arrived on Madagascar around 2,000 years ago, most likely using outrigger canoes hailing from India, Africa, and Arabia.
The newcomers were greeted by dense rain forests and an abundance of wildlife – strange monkey-like creatures known as lemurs, dwarf hippos, giant tortoises, ten-foot tall elephant birds (their enormous, thousand-year old eggs are still being found to this day), and over 100 other exotic species of animal found nowhere else on earth.
Madagascar is home to many exotic animals, birds, and reptiles. The animals of Madagascar are surrounded by plentiful foodstuffs and an almost total lack of predators.
Because evolutionary pressures on Madagascar’s early inhabitants were almost nonexistent, the island literally teems with life forms that have changed little in hundreds of thousands, even millions of years. In many ways, Madagascar is literally a land that time forgot.
Plant and Animal Life
Of the estimated 14,000 plants native to Madagascar, 90 percent are found nowhere else in the world. Of the 50 different kinds of lemurs, 10 are critically endangered, 7 are endangered and 19 are considered vulnerable.
There are seven species of baobab trees in Madagascar compared to only one in all of the rest of Africa.
Native Food/ Cuisine
The Toliara coral reef, off Madagascar’s southwestern coast, is the 3rd largest coral reef system in the world.
Rice is the the staple of the Madagascar diet. The resourceful natives have developed literally dozens of delicious preparatory techniques for this plentiful grain. But the Malagasy diet is a varied one, and heaping mounds of rice are usually topped with zebu, an excellent local beef, as well as pork, chicken, crab, fish, corn, peanuts, and potatoes.
Fresh fruits and vegetables abound. Spicy curries are popular, as are the numerous exquisite French dishes served at the island’s finest restaurants and hotels.
When in Madagascar, you’ll be urged to try the national snack: Koba, a pate of rice, banana, and peanut. Unless you’re a fan of that peculiar combination of flavors, skip the Koba and order one of the island’s famous seafood salads.
You’ll be handed a heaping plateful of luscious ginger-and-lime flavored crab and lobster meat, resting on a bed of fresh greens. Akoho sy voanio, a chicken dish prepared with rice and fresh coconut, is also quite delicious, as is the Foza sy hena-kisoa, a stir-fried crab, pork, and rice dish.
Unlike most countries in Africa or, indeed, the world, all Malagasy people speak one language, Malagasy. This sophisticated language is a living synthesis of Austronesian, African, and Arabic elements, though the grammar is definitely Austronesian.