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Madagascar Travel Guide

This South African country, surrounded by the Indian Ocean, is known formally as the Republic of Madagascar. The country has a large 600,000 square kilometres of space, where around 17 million people, of mostly Merina and Betsimisaraka descent, work and live. The people of Madagascar make their money from selling products such as soap, cement and textiles and trade with countries including Hong Kong and Japan. Its capital Antananarivo is one of Africa’s main business hubs, whose workforce are well-educated and of Christian and Islam religion.

The country was once an independent nation, but in 1896, became a French colony. In 1960, Madagascar took back its control but after the 1992 to 1993 free presidential and National Assembly elections, single-party rule was finally ended. Four years later in 1997, Didier Ratsiraka, who was once the leader in the 1970s and 1980s, was again given presidential status. Later on though, in the 2001 presidential election, a competition arose for presidency between Didier Ratsiraka and Marc Ravalomanana, which brought the latter as leader, 2 years later, in April 2002.

Today, even though there are many ecological pressures put on its reefs, Madagascar invites foreigners to snorkel and dive, to their hearts content. Whale watching is also a big tourist attraction, with the best places to go being in Taolognar, south of Madagascar and Île Sainte Marie, lying just off the east coast. Walkers are in for a treat too, with the numerous national parks on offer, providing an abundance of hiking trails and wildlife. Heading away from the coast though and into the capital city of Antananarivo, visitors will be faced with plenty of hustle and bustle from cars and people, but will also find a few areas of interest. The district of Analakely, at the lower end of the city, is filled with markets where vendors sell everything from car parts to fruit. Taking a walk to the upper end of town, there are some churches and old royal buildings to explore, which by night becomes quite a good club scene. To see and buy some handicrafts, visitors need to head to the northeastern end of the capital, where the craftspeople will sit and work during the day. When it comes to accommodation, there is a large variety of places to stay in Antananarivo, but visitors should pay that little bit extra for something nice, as the cheaper ones usually turn into brothels when night time arrives!

Getting around Madagascar is done via rickshaw, bush taxi, bus or by air, with of course air being a quicker but more expensive route. Air Madagascar is a safe and reliable carrier and will take travellers far and wide, covering around 60 towns and cities. Visitors wanting to travel by rickshaw will only find them where flat areas exist and the bush taxis around Madagascar are for those folks wanting to head into the outback. The local buses are in a bad way but the newer minibuses will take tourists from the capital of Tana, to various towns close by. For direct flights into the country, visitors will need to get a ride via France, South Africa or Kenya, where passengers will be flown straight to Antananarivo’s airport. The hottest time to arrive in the country is from November to March, with April to October also bringing good weather to the central highlands, but the east coast will be a rainy time during June and September.

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