55 Interesting Facts About Madagascar

Last updated on October 29th, 2022

Madagascar, officially known as the Republic of Madagascar, previously known as the Malagasy Republic, is an island country in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Southeast Africa. It has an area of 587,041 square km. Antananarivo is its capital and largest city. Malagasy and French are its official languages. Its official currency is Malagasy ariary (MGA). Over 90% of its wildlife is found nowhere else on Earth. And today, 90% of its population lives on less than $2 per day. Learn more about this country with the following facts.

55 Interesting facts about Madagascar

1. The bard of Malagasy literature, Jean-Joseph Rabearivelo, is also Africa’s first modern poet. Born in a poor family, he grew up to master African and French surreal poetry. He was declared the National Poet of Madagascar in 1960.

2. Hainteny, translated as “knowledge of words,” is a Malagasy oral tradition, and is quite different from anything you have heard before. It heavily uses metaphors, folktales, fables, riddles and historical poems to convey simple messages.

3. Kabary means public discourse, but through indirect speech. It is actually a social game, where two “players” debate with each other but can never directly counter one another. For example, to counter someone’s illogical points, one might say: The dog’s bark: it isn’t might, but fright.

4. Both men and women wear the same clothing in Madagascar, lamba. There are lambas for marriages, lambas for work, lambas for elders, lambas for children and even the dead are wrapped in a special kind of lamba before burial. Madagascar is a great place to open a lamba shop, if you ask me.

5. Madagascar has made an understanding with its ghosts. In popular Malagasy belief, the dead look out after the living, and the living look out for the dead.

Flag of Madagascar

Flag of Madagascar
Flag of Madagascar. Source – CIA

6. Now, “looking out for the dead” in Madagascar is both scary and funny the same time, though a bit complicated. In a ceremony called Famadihana, the dead remains of an ancestor are first literally dug out and placed on the field. Then, the family members dance around the skeleton and engage in funny social debates, or “Kabari.” The dead ancestor then goes back inside the earth again, happy and wrapped in a new lamba.

7. The lemur may look like a monkey tripping on cocaine, but it is actually a sacred animal in Madagascar, deeply revered and worshipped by the Malagasy people. To them, lemurs carry the souls of their ancestors.

8. A special species of Baobab, known as the Mother of the forest, Adansonia grandidieri, is only found in Madagascar. The striking landscape of The Avenue of the Baobabs has become a cultural identity of not only Madagascar but also of Africa.

9. Madagascar has its own brand of fight clubs. Moraingy is a popular sport in the coastal regions, consisting of hand-to-hand combat without any weapons.

Street view of Madagascar
Interesting facts about Madagascar: Street view of Madagascar. Image credit – Iqbal Osman

10. Music is not viewed as a luxury, but a sacred part of the Malagasy daily life. Music is believed to be the connection to an ancestor’s soul, and sometimes when the party gets hotter, rum is poured into the instruments as a show of respect for the dead.

Madagascar facts for kids

11. The snakes are not the only ones that hiss in Madagascar. The hissing cockroach, which happens to be Hollywood’s cliché of scary insects, is found only in Madagascar. Here are two facts about Madagascar hissing cockroaches: first, they love to live in rotten logs. Second, they are actually harmless vegans that only come out of their rotten logs at night, for the fear of being eaten.

Interesting facts about Madagascar: The hissing cockroaches.
The hissing cockroaches, Madagascar. Image Credit – liz west

12. Madagascar has no tigers, zebras, giraffes or hippopotamuses, as portrayed in the famous Hollywood movie, Madagascar. But the film rightly showed the lemur as King Julien.

13. The uniqueness of Madagascar’s biodiversity rightly gives it a name – The Eighth Continent of the World.

Map of Madagascar

14. This tropical paradise is the world’s second-largest producer of vanilla, after Indonesia. Ironically, vanilla originated in Mexico.

15. Deep in the jungles of Madagascar, everything is not as it seems. The flat-tailed gecko, native to Madagascar, is a master of camouflage, and has a special fashion sense, blending in with tree barks and dry leaves.

16. The Baobab tree is a species unique to Madagascar. It has a bloated trunk, which is used to store gallons of distilled water.

17. Madagascar is a paradise for chameleons. These reptiles are so lazy that they evolved a way to look backwards without having to turn their heads; they can turn back their eyes! They don’t even care to run away from a predator, and can simply change their body color and merge with the surroundings.

Chameleon, Madagascar
Interesting facts about Madagascar: a Chameleon, Madagascar. Image credit – nomis-simon

18. 90% of the world’s lemur species live happily in Madagascar. Everywhere else in the world, the lemurs evolved into monkeys, except in this lemur paradise. A true Pokémon at heart.

19. The silk of the Darwin’s bark spider, endemic to this tropical island, produces the world’s strongest silk, which is ten times stronger than Kevlar, a synthetic fiber of high tensile strength. It also makes the world’s creepiest and biggest reported orb nests.

20. Tenrecs were the first mammals to inhabit Madagascar. They look like hedgehogs and curl up into a spiky ball when threatened.

Facts about its history, forests, people, poverty, food, plantation and more

21. Madagascar has an entire forest made of stones. Tsingy – Madagascar’s Stone Forest, has big, tall stones naturally lined up along with trees.

22. Racially speaking, Madagascar is truly unique. The Malagasy people are descendants of African and Asian people, who migrated from Borneo, Sumatra, Java and Indonesia.

23. Madagascar had two breakups during its early days. After a break from the African continent around 160 million years ago, it started to drift toward the east along with its new partner – The Indian subcontinent. But then, around 88 million years ago, India broke off with Madagascar, too, and it became an island near Africa.

24. But that was a blessing in disguise for Madagascar. Those breakups isolated Madagascar so much that it developed its own unique ecosystem. 90% of the species in Madagascar can’t be found anywhere else on earth.

25. “Govern a country as you would roast a crocodile on a spit” – A proverb from Malagasy literature. It leaves little room to say anything else.

26. The early Malagasy people irrigated their crops “like a boss.” The technique they used was called “slash and burn,” and it would involve cutting down a forest, and then burning the remains. After cultivating that land for a while, they got bored and moved on to the next rainforest for some more slashing and burning.

27. Though rich in biodiversity, Madagascar is totally cashless. While Africa is the poorest continent of the World, Madagascar is one of the poorest nations of Africa. 90% of the population survives on less than $2 a day.

28. Poverty doesn’t dissuade the people of Madagascar from building expensive burial tombs for their dead, or burying the dead with jewels and precious metals. In fact, many families spend more on their dead than on themselves.

29. The “Aye Aye” is not a pirate’s call but a rodent of Madagascar, which looks a drug addict running away from rehab. Incidentally, this little animal has an unusually large middle finger.

30. Some 100-odd Zafimaniry villages of the tropical rainforests in Madagascar produce beautiful crafts from timber. It has been recognized internationally with UNESCO placing it on its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Transport in Madagascar
Interesting Facts About Madagascar – Mode of transport in the country. Image credit – NH53

31. The natural beauty of Madagascar earned it another prestigious distinction from the UN. The Rainforests of the Atsinanana on the eastern coast were declared a World Heritage Site in 2007.

32. Madagascar has a healthy share of exotic fruits in its basket. Fruits like jackfruit, longan, avocado, custard apple, breadfruit, and baobab all grow on this tiny island tropical island

33. Though the size of Madagascar is almost twice that of the UK, Madagascar has just 1% of the total paved road length of the UK.

Rice fields, Madagascar
Interesting facts about Madagascar. Rice fields, Madagascar. Image credit – Valerian Guillot

34. The people of Madagascar relish rice like no one else. The verb for eating a meal is “mihinam-bary,” which literally translates to “eat rice.”

35. Ranovola is served as a tea in Madagascar, but is far from one. Its preparation goes something like this: burn rice in a pan, pour water, strain and enjoy your morning tea.

. . . continue reading on the next page.