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Madagascar Where?




Welcome to Madagascar.”


Like Marty the Zebra from the animated film Madagascar, you can be forgiven for not knowing much about the country. Not many people do.

Plonked in the middle of the Indian Ocean off the southeastern coast of Africa, Madagascar is remote and isolated. But that’s exactly why we like it.

Here are seven facts about the world’s fourth largest island to get you up to speed.

1. Madagascar is a biodiversity hot spot:  Luckily for the nature-lovers, Madagascar’s seclusion has made it home to the bizarre and extraordinary. Over 90 percent of Madagascar’s wildlife cannot be found anywhere else on Earth, including cheeky lemurs, chameleons and the ferocious fossa.  On the slightly sad side, due to deforestation in Madagascar this wildlife can only be seen in nature reserves and sanctuaries.

2. It offers some of the world’s most diverse terrain: The expansive island (569 times the size of Hong Kong but half the size of Texas) offers a mind-boggling mix of terrain. To the east are low-lying tropical forests; to the west, grassy plains filled with bizarre-looking boab trees, spiny forests and winding rivers.  To the north, fragrant coastlines known for their spice as well as the Tsingy ranges; the south, Jurassic sandstone massifs. And in the centre, a series of hills, inactive volcanoes and fields of rice paddy fields. Simply put: a visual and sensory feast.

3. The native Malagasy people have closer roots to Asia: Though only 400 kilometres off the coast of southeast Africa, Madagascar’s heritage is more closely linked to Asia. The native Malagasies are descended from Malay-Polynesian seafarers who arrived via the Indian Ocean trade route over 2,000 years ago.

4. Madagascar is home to 18 official tribes: Over the years, African slaves, Arabs, Indians, Portuguese traders, European pirates and French colonists all mixed with the population to eventually create the 18 official 'tribes' or clans inhabiting the island today.

5. Madagascar’s political history is as diverse as its flora and fauna. Apart from the native Malagasy, the Portuguese were the first Europeans to arrive, followed by the Dutch and then the British. The local Malagasy rose to rule their country during the 18th century, until the French invaded in 1895. The 100 years that followed involved more invasions, uprising and political turmoil.  After its independence from the French in the 1970s, Madagascar has struggled under the leadership of one incompetent government after another. Presidential elections due in 2012, but have been due for 24 months.

6. The Malagasy are some of the poorest people on the planet. Today, the people of Madagascar are also some of the poorest on the planet, with a mere annual GDP of US$800 per person.

7. Madagascar enjoys a varied climate. Although lying in the tropics, not all of the isle experiences warm, tropical climate. Due to Madagascar’s epic size, it experience different climates across the country simultaneously. In the central highlands, temperatures can drop to 0 degrees during winter, while at sea level in the west it is hot and sunny year round.  The rainforests in the east receive often wet and overcast weather.

Though the 2014 Roving Race in Madagascar will offer real adventure and some of the most idyllic running terrain on offer on the planet, one thing’s for certain: it will be perhaps be one of the most challenging Roving Races yet. 

By Rachel Jacqueline


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