Sunday, 8 February 2015

Madagascar: The Eight Continent

Madagascar, also known as the Malagasy Republic, is positioned in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Southeast Africa. Being one of the last countries to be inhabited by humans, Madagascar is recognized for its ecological exquisiteness and diversity. It is home to thousands of exotic plants and animal species, which cannot be found anywhere in the world. Its spectacular natural diversity has earned it the label of the ‘eighth continent’.

It is true, Madagascar’s ecological diversity is what makes it diverse from the rest of the world, 5% of plants and animals known can be found in Madagascar and in Madagascar alone. The topography is also praiseworthy, one can go from rainforest to desert in just 300 km. The country is truly a natural phantasmagoria. Madagascar is a bliss for nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts.

The Enthralling Climatic Scenario
Madagascar experiences a hot rainy season (November to April) and a cooler dry season (May-October). This is due to the combination of southeastern trade winds and northwestern monsoons. Heavy rainfall is responsible for the country’s survival and existence of country’s rainforests.

Madagascar is particularly blessed with a wide diversity of flora and fauna. Almost 90% of wildlife found in Madagascar is endemic, including the lemurs. The island is also a biodiversity hotspot, thus making it all the more importance in reference to the climatic scenario of the world.

In Madagascar…
Madagascar is a dreamland for tourists who love to spend their vacations in the lap of nature. From national parks to beaches to historical villages, Madagascar has it all.

1. Ranomafana National Park:It is the most popular national park in Madagascar, located in the southeastern region of Madagascar, near the village of Ranomafana. The eastern part of the park is spectacular with many streams splashing through the park. The park is also home to many endangered species, including the golden bamboo lemur.

2. Masoala National Park: Spread over an area of 250 miles of rainforests and consisting of three marine parks as well, Masoala National Park is situated in northeastern Madagascar. The park houses a large species of flora and fauna. Aye-aye, the world’s largest nocturnal primate is also found in Masoala. The tomato frog, distinctly known for its red color is also found in this park. The three marine parks are an ideal place for snorkeling and kayaking.

3. Royal Hill of Ambohimanga: An historical village that is considered very sacred by the people of Madagascar, Ambohimanga was once home to the royal; family of Madagascar. The village is surrounded by a wall made of mortar, which was made of lime and egg shells. The home of former king Andrianampoinimerina is made of solid rosewood and the compound also houses artifacts like drums, weapons and talismans.

4. Avenue of the Baobabs: One of the most visited tourist destinations in Madagascar, the avenue of Baobabs is situated along a dirt road between Morondava and Belon’i Tsiribihina in western Madagascar. It is a group of trees, which have a strange shape. The Baobab trees originated some 800 years ago and were earlier found in dense forests, the clearing of forests for agriculture has left only the Baobabs.

5. Nosy Be: If you are looking to spend some time in peace and tranquility then Nosy Be is the place for you. The beaches of Nosy Be may not be picture perfect but are still a favourite tourist spot known for their quite environment, clear turquoise water and excellent seafood restaurants.

6. Tsingy de Bemaraha: Madagascar’s largest natural reserve, Tsingy de Bemaraha is situated in the southern part of Madagascar. The park features a broad range of mangrove forests. The word ‘tsingy’ means pinnacles in reference to the peaks of the limestone plateau.

7. Ile Sainte Marie: The Island is one of the celebrated tourist attractions of Madagascar. The island enticed pirates in the 17th and 18th century and the wrecks of ships can still be seen in the waters of the Baie des Forbans. This is an ideal spot for snorkeling and spotting migrating humpback whales which visit the island during summers.

The Malagasy Food
Malagasy cuisine is inclined by Southeast Asian, Chinese, India, African and European cuisines. Rice is the staple food all over Madagascar. Zebu or beef steaks are famous in Madagascar and are usually served with a creamy green peppercorn sauce. Seafood also dominates the cuisine of the region, with lobster and shellfish being the most famous one. Pizza is a famous all over the island country.

Street snacks include slices of coconut and peanuts in a sweet coconut or toffee coating, koba (banana, peanuts and rice, ground to a paste, wrapped in a banana leaf and served in slices), sambos (samosas) or nems (spring rolls) are famous street snacks in Madagascar.

Romazava (a type of beef stew), Ravitoto (pork served with shredded cassava leaves), Varanga (fried slivers of beef), Sesika (a sort of poultry blood sausage), Vorivorin-kena (beef tripe), Smalona (stuffed eels), Lasary (a colourful chutney usually made from lemon, mango or papaya - or sometimes tomato, peanuts or vegetables), Khimo (curried ground beef popular in Majunga), Kabaro (lima beans with curry or coconut, a speciality in Morondava) are the special delicacies of the region.

Malagasy cuisine is not generally hot and spicy, but a local relish known as sakay is always available to spice up the dish. Sakay ranges from mildly hot to cataclysmically spicy, thus it is advised to be cautious before testing it.


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