People & Culture

The Malagasy people have a complex origin: before the African, the Arab and the European settlers, 2 500 years Madagascar was first inhabited by the Austronesians. Subsequently, Indonesian (Malacca) and Bantu immigrants from sub-equatorial Africa integrated with these Proto Malagasy. The dissemination of a small population in this vast space led to the formation of the various tribes.

The Betsileo and the Merina tribes live in the highlands, the Sakalava and the Mahafaly dominate the plains of the west and southwest; the Antaimoro, Antaisaka, and Tanala populate the coast and forest of the southeast, while the Betsimisaraka dominate the eastern coast. The north of Madagascar is mainly populated by the Tsimihety and the Antakarana. The Antandroy and the Bara rule the semi-arid regions of the south.

Wildlife & Botany

Approximately 95% of Madagascar’s reptiles, 89% of its plant life, and 92% of its mammals are endemic – existing nowhere else in the world. The lemurs are an iconic animal of the Island and over 100 species can be found in all the parks. Madagascar is also a haven for bird lovers as the island is home to some astonishing 120 endemic species of birds, but also butterflies, insects, chameleons, the rare Fosa, and the unusual Aye-aye.

For those who are interested in botany, Madagascar has much to offer. Orchid tours are popular, with more than 1 000 varieties to be found, and the succulents found here offer an interesting tour. 95% of succulent species are endemic to the island, and can be found in the south, the highlands, and along the West Coast up to the Cape of Amber.

National parks

There are currently 43 protected areas managed by Madagascar National Parks. Most are on land but many of these are marine reserves. Some reserves are classified as “Integral Natural Reserves” and are only open to researchers and scientists.

The coast and the islands

Madagascar has 5 000km of coastline, the majority of which is beach and a lot of which is deserted and isolated. Some of these superb sites to take advantage of include the island of Nosy Be and its surrounding archipelagos, the small island of St. Marie on the east coast, and the superb lagoon of the south-west in the region of Tulear. There are also numerous scuba-diving and snorkelling spots scattered along the coast.

Diving in Nosy Be

Nosy Be provides an extraordinary experience due to the rich reefs and pristine coral environments that are found here. There are 410 species of coral in the area and most of these are in very good condition due to the size of the surrounding reefs and the small population of locals who live nearby. This is a popular area providing exceptional diving conditions almost year-round, with the exception of the rainy season when storms pass through, and in September when the mornings can be windy. However, because Nosy Be is situated in a bay, it is protected from the winds, and the sea is calm in the morning but can get a bit choppy in the afternoon, due to the thermal winds.