Geography Now! MADAGASCAR

Hey Everybody, so you know today...


That's for the terrible puns from last episode (Luxembourg)!

Take THAT!

It's for BOB SAGET!!



(Hard punch)


It's time to learn Geography NOW!

Everyone, I'm your host Barby. Most people only know one thing about Madagascar:


But if you dig deep, you will discover a country with one of the most unique demographic anomalies on the planet:

the people.

The people here are like the real treasure.

Awh, So you're saying "Lemurs aren't as important as humans?"


(Political Geography)

Native Geograpeep wrote a cool quote in an email saying:

"Madagascar is shaped like the left footprint of the gods",

and when you observe this nation, you will definitely see the divine residue. First of all,

Madagascar is an island nation and the fourth largest island in the world located just off the coast of Eastern Africa near Mozambique.

The country is divided into 22 regions with the capital Antananarivo, sometimes called "Tana" for short.

Located in Analamanga region near the center of the country. After the capital, the largest cities are Toamasina in the East coast

and Antsirabe in the center. Although the country has about 70 domestic airports and air strips, mostly for transporting supplies to the outskirt villages,

the largest and only international airport is Ivato International in Antananarivo.

Transport in Madagascar is quite good as the 6th, 4th, and 7th highways connect the country north to south.

Unfortunately, only about 10% of their roadways are paved and many are affected by rain and cyclones.

It can take about six hours just to drive 60 miles simply because the road works.

Otherwise with a coastline of over 3000 miles, they are loaded with harbors and ports for shipping.

The largest one, of course, being Toamasina where most of the imports come in from the East.

It also transports about 75% of their imports and exports.

Wasn't there also like that "Libertalia" thing where the pirates came in to hideout and made like this weird utopian society in the 1600s?

That's why I hired you as my research assistant.

*say Hi to Kai. He's the new research guy*

The country has only two main railways: one mostly for cargo between Toamasina and Antanarivo;

and the southern route, the Fianarantsoa-Manakara line,

which carries passengers between the two towns that are not accessible by road.

Sorry if this stuff seems kind of really boring and technical, it's just I like showing the inner workings of a country's infrastructure

and how it operates, it's like, it's like opening up a pocket watch and explaining how all the gears and buttons make the whole thing function.

Pocket watch? What are you, 90 years old? When I look at you, Gen-Z kids (people born between '95 and 2009), sometimes I question if I actually am.

The country has dozens of smaller islands and islets around the coast, mostly on the west side. Places like Nosy Be, the largest and busiest resort in the country.

Wasn't there a crazy news story about that place, in which an angry mob went up to some French tourists and...

Yeah, yeah, yeah, but we got to keep this channel monetized.

Otherwise just like we mentioned in the Comoros episode, they have a few disputes over ownership of certain islands in the region.

All these islands though are administered by France. Otherwise some top notable sites of interest might include places like:

Alright, that was fun and just like Bob Saget's career, it's time to move on to weirder and stranger territories.

Yeah, yeah, see I'm still keeping the gag running. (hehehehe)

Oh good for you, Paul. That's amazing... Ken, I swear!

(Physical Geography)

In Madagascar it's like grandma's kitchen - everything is homemade with an original recipe, and this. First of all,

Madagascar is made up of four main landscape zones: the Wetter East Coast; the drier Savanna West Coast;

The really dry Southwest Coast; and the Central Highlands, known as the Tsaratanana Massif,

where you can find the tallest peak Maromokotro further up north.

It even snows on the peak sometimes (yay). These mountains also provide the source of all the major rivers including the longest, the Mangoky.

However Ikopa is probably the most important one as it flows through Antananarivo

known for its distinct red color, caused by river sediments. Not

too far off you can find lake Alaotra, the largest lake in the country. All right now that that's out of the way,

If you've watched any kind of documentary, or show, or incredibly accurate cartoon depiction of

Madagascar, I'm sure you're fully aware of how unique and distinct the country is when it comes to nature.

Due to geographic isolation, somewhere around 80 to 90% of the flora and fauna can only be found here and nowhere else. It's not only that,

but even though Madagascar is only like the 48th largest country in land area it makes up about 5% of the world's entire known biodiversity.

Some have even gone so far as to label it the 8th continent.

Yo, check out the new kid. Yeah, you can stay here with us.

Cool thanks, what's your stories ? Well, uh, I have the most mammals, and I got the most birds and I have the most diverse species in general.

Cool yeah, well, I got spiky rodents (Tenrec), owls with ears (Madagascar owl),

Hissing cockroaches, red frogs, Leaf geckos, and crack head monkey (Ayeaye) things with one long finger.

This guy is freaky. I like it. Yeah, they got some interesting stuff going on. On top of that, we cannot make an episode on Madagascar

without talking about the most iconic national animal, endemic to the island, the lemur,

which comes in over 100 different species, my favorite being the ringtail. On top of that, Madagascar's land in itself is pocketed with outstanding wonders,

like the Tsingy de Remahara stone forest, made out of niddle-shaped eroded limestone cliffs,

the Avenue of the baobabs, with incredibly thick trees only found here. *whoa*

Madagascar is also the largest producer of vanilla in the world, providing around 60 to 75% of the world's supply. Thank you Madagascar!

Minerals and sapphires are mined a lot here, you'll find the distinct Zebu cattle

all over, known for their fatty shoulder humps. They provide great meat and milk which brings us to, FOOD.

Some of the top notable dishes of the country might include things like:

and the National dish: Romazava.

Now keep in mind, just like we studied in the Laos episode, a lot of these dishes might include a touch of leftover

French influence and baguettes are everywhere. In fact, French is an official language. *Wha*, yeah, we'll explain that in...


Now if you thought the landscaping animals were interesting, wait till you hear about the back story behind the people of Madagascar.

That's where the story gets real good. A person from Madagascar is called "Malagasy",

NOT "Madagascan", NOT "Madagascarian",

NOT Elon Musk who is "Mad-at-a-gas-car-ian".

Yeah, that joke :D

Malagasy, got it? First of all, the country is made up of about 25 million people

and has the westernmost Austronesian people group in the world. About 95% of the country identifies under the broader Malagasy title,

which is subdivided into about 20 different ethnic groups. The largest being the Merina, the Betsimisakara and the Betsileo.

The remaining percent is made up of other groups, mostly Europeans in french origin, East Africans, Chinese and Indians.

They use the Malagasy Ariary as their currency, they use the type C, D, E,

J & k outlets, which can all pretty much accommodate the same two-prong format most Europeans used.

That type E though is weird because it has like a socket that has its own prong that goes into the plug.

And they drive on the right side of the road. Now what exactly is a Malagasy person?

You would think: Well they're in africa so they're just African, right, you know, black. Done!

But ehhh, hold on. There's a little more to that, there's a twist.

And it has to do with Austronesians!

Yo Ken? Oh yeah? Yeah i'm gonna get a triple shot of espresso. You're like half filipino. These guys are technically like your cousins.

You explain this part. Uh, are you sure? Yeah don't question my tactics when running this show. Just do it!

I mean, doesn't Noah usually do the... (teleprompter)

Do it or I'm fired, right?

♫ Ken Ken Ken, Do it Ken or you're fired. Ken I swear! ♫


Madagascar is actually relatively newly inhabited island. Although evidence of human foraging goes back to about 2000 BC,

the early settlements occurred only about 380 AD and they were actually by Austronesian people

from the Southeast Asian islands. Overtime, Bantu people moved across the Mozambique channel and mixing with Austronesian settlers

creating a whole new race known as a Malagasy. This means that the average Malagasy person to a varying degree

has a genetic haploid structure derived from both Sub-Saharan African and Southeast Asian people.

This is why Malagasy people look different from mainland Africans and can come with a variety of skin tones.

Sometimes when meeting the locals, You might feel like you're more in a Polynesian or Southeast Asian country rather than Africa.

Phew! Was that good?

Ken, you dyed your hair green?

Ken I swear. Anyway!

Malagasy language is one key factor that sets Madagascar apart to as it's related to other languages in the Nusantara region of Southeast Asia.

Side note: that word i just said "Nusantara" is the term used for

the entire archipelago of islands in Southeast Asia. And the craziest thing is: the closest language to Malagasy is

actually the Ma'anyan language spoken in Borneo, not a native African one. You can find other similar words and

other Austronesian languages like the word for island "Nosy" versus Javanese "Nusa",

or Malay related words like "Riana" versus "Riam". On top of that, as a former French colony, French is an official language

mostly spoken by the government and educated officials. Although only about a quarter of the population are fluent, still you see French signs everywhere.

Culture-wise, as mentioned, there are 18 tribes each with their own distinct customs. For example: the Betsileo are known for their Famadahani dead celebrations

and Zebu rodeos. The Betsimisakara are known for being like the best fishers. The Sakalava are the

non-Malagasy Bantu derived tribe and they have their trance ceremonies that talk to their ancestors.

The Antandroy are like the ones that live near the spiny forest and are famous for their drum, spears and flutes.

The Bara are famous for their cattle herding and hair braids.

The Antaifasy are the desert sand people and so on. About half the country is Christian whereas the other half adhere to indigenous folk religions,

sometimes synchronize with Christianity making Madagascar one of the highest percentages of

populations that practice traditional beliefs. Speaking of which,

it's time to talk about History! in the quickest way I can put it:

Forages come in but maybe die out or disappear,

Austronesian sail in, Then the Bantus come in, Then the Arabs, The Portuguese, many small kingdoms,

This dude decided to unify it, English and French missionaries, deportation of the queen,

Colonization of the island in 1896, Independence in 1960,

1972, university strike that resulted in the end of the first republic, This guy becomes president and kind of stays that way,

Protests, Modern era, and here we are today. some notable people of Malagasy descent or who came from Madagascar might include:

These soccer players,

This former president,

and these traditional singers. Alright time to move on to the last segment.


Now being a country that was raised from distant settlers mixing in,

Madagascar has always kind of understood what diplomacy was all about.

As a member of La Francophonie, they get along pretty well with other French-speaking countries

including their smaller island neighbors: Comoros, Mauritius and the overseas territories of Mayotte and Reunion.

Canada has been a huge investor though for decades especially in mineral mining. As a part of the SADC,

They get along with South Africa and other nations in the area especially for trade and business. Many people even have family members in Mozambique.

China today is the largest trade partner though with sales reaching about 765 million.

Historically, relations with the USA go back to the 19th century and were relatively close, except for that one period in time during the 70s

when they close ties because they favored the USSR but relations picked up back again in the 90s.

However, a lot of Malagasy people I've talked to have said france would probably be their best friend.

Yes there were the colonial years but their history and interaction is so closely intertwined

with a relationship that is better than ever today. France is the second largest trade and business provider,

they are the largest export receiver as well as foreign aid donator. They provide the largest number of european tourists and overall,

the two countries are very strongly linked. In conclusion, there is no place like Madagascar

with things in it found nowhere else. With a unique people and makeup, it's no wonder why they call themselves the "8th Continent".

Stay tuned. Malawi is coming up next.