The landscapes of Madagascar are some of the most unusual that exist in the world today. This large island sits in the Indian Ocean, just off of the the coast of Africa, and is an independent country. It’s the fourth largest island in the world and nearly 22 million people call the island home. French and Malagasy are both official languages and remarkably almost the entire population lives on just $2 per day.
It is one of the most interesting places in the world to visit and here are some interesting facts to consider with the large island as well.
1. Almost Everything on Madagascar Is Found Only There
Nearly all of the animal and plant species that are found on Madagascar can only be found there on the main island. It’s a unique climate and this has resulted in a number of unique shapes. Take the baobab, for instance. It’s a tree that has an incredibly large trunk and just small branches. The trunk is so large because it allows the tree to store extra water to get through the hot season. There are also trees that grow to about 15 feet tall that resemble a cactus more than they resemble a tree and some of the plant life has been dated to be at least 1,600 years old.
As for the animals, the most famed of them all are probably the lemurs. They live in the tropical rain forests of the island and look like something that came from a cross between a monkey and a cat. Aye-Ayes, tomato frogs, and fossas also top the list of unusual animals that can be seen.
2. What Is That Enchanting Smell?
If you love the taste of vanilla ice cream – the real stuff, not the artificially flavored stuff – or having cloves with your Thanksgiving ham, then you have Madagascar to thank for that. They are one of the world’s primary suppliers of those two products. A number of seafood products, including shrimp and lychees, also get exported on a regular basis. If you can afford it, coffee from Madagascar as a distinct flavor to it that is definitely worth a try.
It isn’t just food products that come from Madagascar. Many of the semi-precious stones that are sold today come from this island nation. Half of the world’s supply of natural sapphires come from Madagascar, yet 70% of the country’s population lives in extreme poverty.
3. Want to Wrestle a Zebu?
Because times are a bit tough for many people in this country, mostly because of political unrest, there are a number of creative pastimes that have been developed. One of the most popular activities is to wrestle a zebu, which is a domestic cow that originates from Southern Asia originally. The livestock have a large, fatty hump on their shoulders and large, droopy ears that give them a very unique appearance.
Fanorona is a board game that also helps to pass the time. It’s a two player game that’s a bit like checkers and the goal is to capture all of their opponents pieces. There are three variations of the game that can be played. If sports are wanted, then rugby is the national sport of the island, while football also has a good following.
4. A Lemur For You, and You, and You…
There are over 100 species of lemurs that are on the island today and many of them are considered to be rare and endangered. Some of the lemurs were even thought to be extinct until a few of the species were recently rediscovered. As deforestation occurs on the island, however, many of the current lemurs look to be even more threatened as their habit continues to dwindle. This is despite the fact that many of them are considered to be sacred.
Lemurs are actually a primate, which makes them the smallest of their species. Except for one species, they all have long tails that are used for balance, but they don’t hang from their tails. They have opposable thumbs and love the night. They are very sociable, have large families, and the females are the leaders of the group, not the men. They’re cast out to live on their own to form male only families.
5. It’s a Unique Population Base
Unlike any other African nation, Madagascar is truly a melting pot of culture. It was originally settled by Asian population groups and then mainland Africans joined the population base about 5 centuries later. European settlers arrived as well and this has brought a unique conglomeration of people together. There are some traditional beliefs practiced on the island and sometimes these are fused with elements of Islam or Christianity.
6. Madagascar Had a Queen
Before the French came to Madagascar to rule colonially, the last sovereign of the kingdom was a queen. She ruled for 14 years before the French deposed her. Throughout most of the 1800s, the monarchy in Madagascar worked hard to prevent European influences from dominating their culture. Although ultimately not as successful as they would have liked, there is still a certain unique individualness to this island nation that isn’t replicated anywhere else.
7. Take Two Periwinkle and Call Me in the Morning
A number of the plants that are found in Madagascar also have unique medicinal properties. The Madagascar periwinkle might top them all, however, because two drugs that are used to treat cancer and Hodgkin’s Disease come from this plant. They work to slow the growth of cancer cells within the body, although they can also damage healthy cells as well if it isn’t properly administered.
That’s why saving Madagascar’s wildlife and plant life is so important. It’s a large island on a bigger planet, but there are many miracles that have yet to be discovered. From the lemurs to the periwinkle, Madagascar is an amazing place filled with many interesting facts, but to truly discover this island, it must be seen in person.