Ethical Travel Madagascar‘La grande île’ is an exceptional place, African but with the feel of Southeast Asia. The people of the highlands of the interior of Madagascar are believed to have emigrated from Asia and their customs are very distinct from those of the coastal people. It was an independent kingdom, then a French protectorate from 1896, becoming fully independent in 1960. The country still has strong ties to France.

Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world and, because of its isolation, most of its mammals, half of its birds and most of its plants exist nowhere else on Earth. Some ecologists refer to Madagascar as the ‘eighth continent’; but severe poverty and competition for agricultural land have put pressure on the island’s magnificent but dwindling forests, removing vital habitats and also affecting the emerging tourist industry, which is based on safaris and ecological tours.

The capital city, Antananarivo, is very attractive, with its colourful market place and steep steps up the hillsides. What remains of the royal palaces are also worth visiting. There are also coastal resorts, but tourism (mostly French) is relatively underdeveloped and so this makes it a good place to visit, apart from tropical cyclones, which can cause torrential flooding.