Off the coast of southeastern Africa, across the Mozambique Channel, nature has created a stunning spectacle:


This remarkable continental island, the fourth largest in the world, is a wonder of biodiversity. A stunning kaleidoscope of habitats, landscapes, and seascapes, Madagascar developed its own distinct ecosystems and unique wildlife after breaking away from the African continent about 160 million years ago.

Madagascar’s climate is tropical along the coast, temperate inland, and arid in the south.

It has rainforests, tropical dry forests, spiny forests, deserts, and white sand beaches. There are sandstone canyons, limestone karsts, soaring mountains, and hills terraced with rice paddies.

There are 3,000 miles of coastline that host extensive mangrove areas and some of the world’s largest coral reef systems.

Madagascar is home to some of the world’s most extraordinary wildlife: scientists estimate that 90 percent of the plants and 85 percent of the animals are found only there, and nowhere else on Earth.

It is perhaps most famous for its lemurs, but there are also a treasure trove of birds, chameleons, butterflies, frogs, orchids, insects, mongooses, and baobab trees, just to name a few.

And more are still being found: from 1999 to 2010 alone, scientists discovered 615 new species in Madagascar, including 41 mammals and 61 reptiles.

Madagascar is a place like no other on Earth.

It needs attention and protection,
so that its magic may endure long into the future.

The People

The Malagasy peoples have a rich cultural heritage and are extremely warm and cheerful. Their hospitality and friendliness are well known and are considered national traits. Malagasy are bound to nature, have great respect for wildlife, and put a high value on land. Most observe traditional customs and beliefs, especially those that are associated with respect for the family’s ancestors.

The people of Madagascar are from a group of 20 different ethnicities, which descend from ancestors in Southeast Asia and Africa. All groups speak a dialect of Malagasy, which is a Astronesian language—a family of languages from countries including Indonesia, Philippines, and Malaysia. Both Malagasy and French are considered official languages. Most ethnicities possess their own set of beliefs and ways of life that contribute to their unique identities. About 40% of the population practices Christianity and 5% follow Islam.

The majority of the population lives in rural areas and remain very traditional, with most decisions made by the community’s male elders. Most of the population depends on agriculture for their livelihood. They grow primarily rice, cassava, corn, and sweet potatoes. Vanilla, coffee, cloves, and other cash crops are exported. The production and weaving of silk can be traced back to the early settlers.