General Information



The Malagesy people are unique to Madagascar: physically they resemble a mix of Indonesian, Arab and African races. Some also have a bit of French in them, but this is usually old and male.

The island split from Africa hundreds of million years ago. It was only a few thousands years ago that people discovered it. And then came the tourists.

Tourists were initially attracted to the island’s incredible natural beauty and number (80 per cent) of endemic plant and animal species; from the traveller’s palm, which grows like a fan and is always aligned north to south, to the 85 species of lemurs. Now tourists are also attracted by the seedy lure of sex - and Madagascar's prostitutes are a different breed altogether.

Aside from tourism, a major industry on the horizon is mining and gem stones. Mines in the central highland town of Ilakaka have profited lucrative hauls of sapphires. Another lucrative haul was Osama bin Laden’s brother in law. In about 10 years, the town grew from one or two shacks to 50,000 inhabitants.

In the country’s north, substantial nickel deposits have attracted the interest of big mining companies and the World Bank, which has approved a USD$2.6 million project. Though while minerals may exist in abundance, roads do not: mining companies will create 18 roads, and install a 220km slurry pipeline.

Malagesy are religious, predominately Catholic. On Easter Saturday Ambalavao hosts a Protestant versus Catholic basketball match: Suffice to say God is always the winner.

Malagesy also strongly believe in spirits and that dead relatives return to guide and protect them. After seven years they exhume bones of relatives and dance around with them, before returning them to their tomb. It’s much like in ‘Thriller’, except it’s probably much healthier for kids to play with their dead grandmother than Michael Jackson.