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13 Surprising Facts about Madagascar You Should Know

Facts about Madagascar

Madagascar is an island country which lies only a few hundred kilometers away from the east coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean. It borders the Mozambique channel on one side while it is surrounded by the Indian Ocean on the other three sides. Most of the natural landscape of the country consists of hills, mountains, and forests. The capital city of Madagascar, Antananarivo, is situated in the middle of the island and is called the largest city of the country with a population that is around 3.6 million.

Madagascar has a youthful population of almost sixty percent of its residents being under the age of 25. Music is an important part of Malagasy culture; local people from the rural areas often dance and play the national instrument valiha. The Malagasy cuisine brings influences from its surrounding countries which is why African and Southeast Asian flavors can be found in the local dishes.

Madagascar is a beautiful country which has been largely unexplored by tourists and lovely welcoming locals. Read on to find out more interesting facts about Madagascar.

Here are Some Utterly Intriguing Facts about Madagascar

1. Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world

Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world with an area of about 226,917 square miles precisely. It has a larger area than some European countries such as Sweden, Germany, Spain and also surpasses Thailand in terms of area. The United Kingdom seems like a tiny island in comparison with an area of about 93,410 miles.

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2. Madagascar has a larger population than you would think

Madagascar has a population of 26.2 million local Malagasies. There are more people in Madagascar than in the large country of Australia. It is more populous than Sri Lanka, Greece, Romania, and even the Netherlands. Most of the population in the country lives in rural areas where they work in the agricultural sector of the country. Most Malagasies reside on the eastern part of the island while some live in the central highlands surrounding the capital city of Antananarivo.

Most of the locals in Madagascar work to produce vanilla, rice, and coffee. The country of Madagascar has a youthful population that mostly comprises youth under the age of 25. Almost 40% of the population is under the age of 14 years old which means there are large families in the country.  

3. The country was discovered considerably recently

The country of Madagascar was discovered quite recently almost about 1300 years ago. The first settlers on the island of Madagascar are supposed to originate from Indonesia from Southeast Asia. It is thought to be colonised by human settlers around 500 AD. This event is considered to have taken place after the first appearance of Homo sapiens in the African continent.

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4. Madagascar was once ruled by a mad queen

Madagascar has been ruled by many kings and queens, but it is famous for the rule of Ranavalona. The queen rejected the European forces’ influence in the country during her 33-year rule. The queen put all of her focus on eradicating Christians and wreaking havoc on the neighboring countries and her political rivals. The queen also used slaves to construct a beautiful palace and works of art.

Ranavalona is most famous for the tangena ordeal which was a punishment or a test of sorts. The accused was poisoned and was forced to eat three pieces of chicken skin. If the accused failed to regurgitate the three pieces or died during the process, they were deemed guilty. The Rova of Antananarivo, the ruins of her palace, can still be found in the capital.

5. Madagascar has highly diverse flora and fauna

Madagascar is home to the world’s most unique species of flora and fauna. It has been listed as one of the 17 megadiverse countries in the world. Madagascar stayed largely undisturbed by the effects of human civilization until recently which is why it has wildlife that is found nowhere else in the world. Various species of lemur and chameleons can be found in the country.

Some of the baobab tree species are unique only to Madagascar. Some of the baobabs found in the baobab alley in Western Madagascar are up to 800 years old. Reniala (the word of baobab tree in Malagasy) are also known as bottle tree as the trees hold lots of water and can grown up to 98 feet in height.

6. Madagascar is home to a few UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Madagascar is home to three world heritage sites while eight more are still under consideration. The three heritage sites include two natural and one cultural heritage site. These sites include the Tsingy of Bemaraha, the Royal Hill of Antananarivo, and the Rainforest of Antsinanana.

The Royal Hill of Antananarivo is an ancient burial site that can be dated back to 500 years ago. The rainforests of Antsinanana are the home of many species of lemur and primates. The Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve, on the other hand, is a maze of limestone that covers the large island’s western regions. Spires, tunnels, canyons, and caves have made the region into an impassable labyrinth which is why it has remained relatively unexplored for so long.

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7. People in Madagascar consume quite a lot of marijuana

People in Madagascar consume a lot of marijuana. Almost 1 in 10 people in Madagascar uses marijuana according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. It is a greater percentage than people in the Netherlands smoking weed.

8. Madagascar has been named as one of the unhappiest places in the world

Even with a bustling wildlife and beautiful landscape, the World Happiness Report, finds the country to be the 14th least happy country in the world. Madagascar is one of the poorest countries globally as it ranks 179 out of 187 nations of the world.

9. Tourism is a budding industry in the country

Nosy Ankao, one of the five islands near the northeastern coast of Madagascar, has recently become a luxurious destination for tourists all over the world. The ultra premium luxury lodge on the island offers a deluxe spa and the chance to spot turtles, dolphins, and whales in the blue waters. Visitors can also entertain themselves with activities like scuba diving and fishing.

10. Madagascar used to be a safe place for pirates

In the old times, Madagascar was a hidden location that was considered to be a safe haven for pirates looking to escape capture or to relax. The secluded coves of Madagascar have sheltered the likes of Captain Kidd and Captain James Misson. The island Ile Sainte-Marie that lies off the east coast of Madagascar was referred to as the island of pirates on maps.

11. Madagascar was once a French colony

Madagascar was invaded by the French in the late 19th century, in 1883. The kingdoms residing on the island fought the French and resisted against their rule for nearly a decade. Nevertheless, French forces overpowered the competing kingdoms and declared the island a French colony in 1896. The local people resisted French rule again in 1947 after World War II for their independence as the Malagasy Uprising. Madagascar became an independent country in 1960.

12. Vanilla is a lucrative cash crop of Madagascar

Vanilla is one of the most popular cash crops of Madagascar. The country is the world’s largest exporter of vanilla, as it produces almost half of the world’s vanilla crops. Vanilla beans were introduced to the island of Madagascar in the nineteenth century. Vanilla is an expensive spice crop and has been known to come second to only saffron. It is extremely labor intensive to grow vanilla beans.

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13. Madagascar is home to one of the most endangered animals

Madagascar is home to around a hundred species of lemurs and all of them live in the lush forests of the country. Lemurs are one the most endangered species of mammals in the world. If better care and protection is not offered to the lemur species almost ninety percent of the total population of lemurs may go extinct in the next twenty years.

Video: 10 Reasons to Visit Madagascar

Pristine coastal stretches, majestic baobab trees, leaping lemurs and a gold mine of natural reserves. Some call it the red island of the Indian Ocean, but to most, it is known as Madagascar.

This country is home to the beautiful island of nosy and the second-largest natural bay in the world, the port city of Diego Suarez. A glimpse of their surreal beauty never fails to show first-time and frequent travellers to visit Madagascar.

Furthermore, it has conic lemurs, paradise beaches, impenetrable jungle, breathtaking landscapes, and a fascinating underwater life.  This country is an irresistible destination for adventures and wildlife enthusiasts.



Madagascar is a country in the southeast of Africa that is rich with unique wildlife and beautiful hilly geographical landscapes. The country remained largely unexplored which is why such wonderful, yet unknown fauna and flora can be found within the region.

The natives of Madagascar are employed in the agricultural sector with coffee, rice, and vanilla being the cash crops. The country of Madagascar has a rich history of pirates, French colonialism, rule of tyrant kings and queens, and so much more. The tourist industry of the country is flourishing and shows great promise in improving the economic conditions.