officially the Republic of Madagascar (Malagasy: Repoblikan’i Madagasikara), and previously known as the Malagasy Republic, is an island country in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of East Africa. The nation comprises the island of Madagascar, and numerous smaller peripheral islands. Following the prehistoric breakup of the supercontinent Gondwana, Madagascar split from the Indian peninsula around 88 million years ago, allowing native plants and animals to evolve in relative isolation. Consequently, Madagascar is a biodiversity hotspot; over 90% of its wildlife is found nowhere else on Earth.
The terraced paddy fields of the central highlands of Madagascar (left) give way to tropical rainforest along the eastern coast (center) bordered by the shores of the Indian Ocean (right).
At 592,800 square kilometres (228,900 sq mi), Madagascar is the world’s 47th largest country and the fourth-largest island in the world. The country lies mostly between latitudes 12°S and 26°S, and longitudes 43°E and 51°E. Neighboring islands include the French territory of Réunion and the country of Mauritius to the east, as well as the state of Comoros and the French territory of Mayotte to the north west. The nearest mainland state is Mozambique, located to the west.
Along the length of the eastern coast runs a narrow and steep escarpment containing much of the island’s remaining tropical lowland forest.
To the west of this ridge lies a plateau in the center of the island ranging in altitude from 750 to 1,500 m (2,460 to 4,920 ft) above sea level. These central highlands, traditionally the homeland of the Merina people and the location of their historic capital at Antananarivo, are the most densely populated part of the island and are characterized by terraced, rice-growing valleys lying between grassy hills and patches of the sub-humid forests that formerly covered the highland region. To the west of the highlands, the increasingly arid terrain gradually slopes down to the Mozambique Channel and mangrove swamps along the coast.
The grassy plains that dominate the western landscape are dotted with stony massifs, patches of deciduous forest, and baobab trees, while the south is characterized by desert and spiny forests.
Madagascar’s highest peaks rise from three prominent highland massifs: Maromokotro 2,876 m (9,436 ft) in the Tsaratanana Massif is the island’s highest point, followed by Boby Peak 2,658 m (8,720 ft) in the Andringitra Massif, and Tsiafajavona 2,643 m (8,671 ft) in the Ankaratra Massif. To the east, the Canal des Pangalanes is a chain of man-made and natural lakes connected by canals built by the French just inland from the east coast and running parallel to it for some 600 km (370 mi).
The western and southern sides, which lie in the rain shadow of the central highlands, are home to dry deciduous forests, spiny forests, and deserts and xeric shrublands. Due to their lower population densities, Madagascar’s dry deciduous forests have been better preserved than the eastern rain forests or the original woodlands of the central plateau. The western coast features many protected harbors, but silting is a major problem caused by sediment from the high levels of inland erosion carried by rivers crossing the broad western plains.
The combination of southeastern trade winds and northwestern monsoons produces a hot rainy season (November–April) with frequently destructive cyclones, and a relatively cooler dry season (May–October). Rain clouds originating over the Indian Ocean discharge much of their moisture over the island’s eastern coast; the heavy precipitation supports the area’s rain forest ecosystem. The central highlands are both drier and cooler while the west is drier still, and a semi-arid climate prevails in the southwest and southern interior of the island.
Tamatave / Toamasina
(the city where our plantation is located)
Toamasina, meaning “like salt” or “salty”, unofficially and in French also Tamatave, is the capital of the Atsinanana region on the east coast of Madagascar on the Indian Ocean. The city is the chief seaport of the country, situated 215 km (134 mi) northeast of its capital and biggest city Antananarivo, near the centre of the eastern coast. According to the 2015 estimate, Tamatave / Toamasina had a population of approximately 300.000. The city is served by international Tamatave / Toamasina Airport.
Tamatave / Toamasina owes its importance to the existence of a coral reef which forms a spacious and fairly commodious harbour, entered by two openings. The city center is built on a sandy peninsula which projects at right angles from the general coastline. On this are crowded together a considerable number of houses, with shops and merchant offices located in the main thoroughfares.
The city has wide palm tree-lined avenues and a wide selection of hotels and restaurants. The beaches in this area are famously beautiful. Bazary Be is a famous colorful street market, specializing in exotic spices and locally made handicrafts. The central market in the heart of the city is one of the most popular sites in the city.