Antananarivo (known as Tana), Madagascar 24 February 2018

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February 24th 2018
Published: February 27th 2018
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Saturday 24 February 2018 – to Madagascar

We were on time leaving our lovely honeymoon suite to go to the Johannesburg International Airport after breakfast to fly to Antananarivo, known by the locals as Tana.

After we had breakfast at the airport, and sorting out that we had been dropped at Terminal B Domestic instead of Terminal B international as we checked in at the domestic (with the insistence of an airport attendant that all bags, both internationally and domestically used the same counter), and then lining up for 15 minutes only to be told we were in the domestic security line and the international security was at the other end of the building, we boarded the plane on time. It was a very different setup.

Two and a half hours later, we flew into the Tana airport on time. That was another interesting time going through visa, then passport checking then customs. Each country is different. We spotted my name being held up on a big piece of paper by Rivo who was to be our driver for the next 14 day. Another driver was going to take us around the northern part of the island for 4 days.

Rivo spoke heavily accented English but was easy to understand (Tom might say something different). It took us 45 minutes to get to Hotel La Grand Mellis which was right in the middle of the CBD. We noticed several kilometres of cars driving the opposite direction, bumper to bumper. There is only 1 road going to the airport!!

After settling in, Tom and I went for a walk around the busy Saturday markets. We had been warned of small children pick-pockets but was not troubled at all. There was however numerous people begging. Most were too busy buying food, clothing, shoes, toys or electronics. We love markets in other countries as it tells us a lot about the culture of the people. We also saw the large railway station which had only 2 trains use it per week. It is well known that train lines are poorly maintained, and it is not unusual for trains to stop running for several weeks at a time.

We then went back to the hotel to wait for Benjamin, the Director of Mada-Tours, to meet us so that we could pay for the rest of our tour in Euros. As Madagascar is from French origin, it is closely aligned to some things French, including the currency. The local money the Malagasy Ariary (Ar) - $1AUD = almost 2500 Ar. The first time we drew out the local money we drew ½ million Ar which equalled $200 AUD. We were advised not to rely on ATMs in rural areas.

Madagascar, officially the Republic of Madagascar and previously known as the Malagasy Republic, is an island country in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of East Africa. The nation comprises the island of Madagascar (the fourth-largest island in the world), and numerous smaller peripheral islands.

Following the prehistoric breakup of the supercontinent Gondwana, Madagascar split from the Indian Peninsula around 88 million years ago, allowing native plants and animals to evolve in relative isolation. Consequently, Madagascar is a biodiversity hotspot; over 90% of its wildlife is found nowhere else on Earth. The island's diverse ecosystems and unique wildlife are threatened by the encroachment of the rapidly growing human population and other environmental threats.

Madagascar belongs to the group of least developed countries, according to the United Nations. Malagasy and French are both official languages of the state. The majority of the population adheres to traditional beliefs, Christianity, or an amalgamation of both. Ecotourism and agriculture, paired with greater investments in education, health, and private enterprise, are key elements of Madagascar's development strategy.

The terraced paddy fields of the central highlands of Madagascar give way to tropical rainforest along the eastern coast bordered by the shores of the Indian Ocean.

At 592,800 square kilometers, Madagascar is the world's 47th largest country. Neighboring islands include the French territory of Reunion and the country of Mauritius to the east, as well as the state of Comoros and the French territory of Mayotte to the north west. The nearest mainland state is Mozambique, located to the west.

More than 80 percent of Madagascar's 14,883 plant species are found nowhere else in the world, including five plant families. The traveler’s palm, known locally as ravinala and endemic to the eastern rain forests, is highly iconic of Madagascar and is featured in the national emblem as well as the Air Madagascar logo.

Like its flora, Madagascar's fauna is diverse and exhibits a high rate of endemism. Lemurs have been characterized as "Madagascar's flagship mammal species" by Conservation International.

With all this said, we were looking forward to our flora and fauna ‘saturation’!!!

That night we went to the Café La Gard net to the railway station for dinner. We started with a champagne from South Africa followed by a lovely meal. The weather was balmy, humid and later it rained heavily after we got back to the hotel. There was an electrical storm which dulled the power source several times but didn’t cause us any problems. It was fine weather the next morning.

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