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Situated off the southeast coast of Africa, Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world. It is separated from the coast of Africa by the Mozambique Channel, the shortest distance between the island and the mainland being 400 km. After Madagascar gained its independence from France in 1960, assassinations, military coups and disputed elections followed, and the European Union, along with other international entities, refuses to recognize the new government.

With the best will in the world, it isn’t possible, therefore, to recommend Madagascar as a particularly safe tourist destination. This is a great pity, since Madagascar is like no other place on earth. Its separation from mainland Africa, by hundreds of kilometres of sea and 165 million years of evolution, has seen Madagascar’s plants and animals evolve into some of the weirdest forms on the planet. Nowhere else can you see over 70 varieties of lemur, together with both the world’s biggest and smallest chameleons.

Madagascar’s people are no less interesting: arriving here some 2000 years ago along the Indian Ocean trade routes, they speak a language that has more in common with their origins in Southeast Asia than with the African continent. Their culture is steeped in taboo and magic, imbuing caves, waterfalls, animals and even some material objects with supernatural attributes. Some of the Hill peoples dance with their dead ancestors in the ‘turning of the bones’ ceremony.

Let us hope that, in the not too distant future, we can see our way to wholeheartedly recommending Madagascar as a classic place to visit.

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