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Madagascar is in the Indian Ocean

Aug 17, 2007
Madagascar is a beautiful island in the Indian Ocean, off the south eastern coast of Africa. It is ringed by golden beaches and palm trees and with an interior that is resplendent in its variety, from grassy plateaus to volcanoes and opaque forests and natural reserves.

According to local legend, the island was first inhabited by the Vazimba, a race of white pygmies. These people, if they existed, were displaced by successive waves of Polynesian migrants from the Malayo Indonesian archipelago, from as early as the sixth century AD. In the ninth century, Madagascar was a major trading power in the western Indian Ocean. Moreover, ancient ruins indicate an extensive Arab presence on the island around that time. Bantu tribes from mainland Africa later settled on the west coast. The first Europeans arrived in the mid 17th century. Several French settlements were established on the south east coast but were destroyed within 30 years.

At the time, Madagascar supported several kingdoms along its coastline and, in the central highlands, the kingdom of the Merina, which was the dominant ethnic group. From their fortress city of Antananarivo, the 19th century kings gradually conquered the coastal kingdoms and by 1830 most of the island was under unified Merina control. The success of the Merina was partly due to a well-worked strategy of playing off rival European colonists against each other: in particular, the British and the French.

In 1948, the Malagasy people sought to re establish their independence through armed insurrection. They were unsuccessful, but the uprising paved the way for independence, which came in 1960. Philibert Tsiranas PSD Party ruled with the support of France and the people of the coastal regions until 1972, when highland agitation against French influence prompted the Army Chief of Staff, Major General Ramanantsoa, to assume executive power for the purpose of pursuing a more nationalistic policy. Three years later the military government resigned after selecting Lt Commander Didier Ratsiraka as Head of State. A gradual civilianisation of the government culminated in 1977 in elections to the National People's Assembly, which were won by the sole legal party, Avant garde de la Revolution Malgache.

Recent years have been marred by political, economic and meteorological crises. Indeed, some may be deterred by the levels of poverty on this island and the enormous gap between rich and poor. Nevertheless, Madagascar dazzles with its rich wildlife, with a large majority of its species unique to the island, and found nowhere else on earth. Of the popular creature, the lemur, there are over 10 different species alone. The island is a mass of unusual and colourful flowers and other flora. In terms of biodiversity alone, Madagascar really is one of a kind.
About the Author
Douglas Scott works for The Rental Car Hire Specialist. and is a free lance writer for The Madagascar Rental Site
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