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Monday, October 13, 2008

Madagascar (Part 1)

The Traveller's Palm, the national symbol of Madagascar. The laterally compressed tree grows aligned east-west so a traveller can get his bearings without a compass. The orientation of the leaves collects water for a refreshing drink and there are other features which are of practical value to travellers.

Madagascar is an island lying off the south-eastern coast of Africa. It became separated from the continental land-mass some 80-100 million years ago and its isolation has resulted in a biodiverse flora and fauna, of which a very high proportion are endemic species. I have just returned from a two week trip to Madagascar, with the Travelling Naturalist tour company.

A Madagascan village
Madagascar was colonised by humans about 2000 years ago with peoples from Asia and Africa, resulting in a rich genetic diversity that became geographically isolated into some 18 distinct ethnic groups. The island has a comparatively large population of about 20 million, most of whom live in extreme poverty.

Zebu, the humped ox, is the staple meat diet...

... and the zebu cart is the principal form of transport

Coastal tribes use out-rigged canoes to gather seafood from the coral reef

Although desperately poor, the children always have smiling faces and are ready for a "kick-about" with a make-shift football whenever we stopped near a village
The vast proportion of Madagascar is under agricultural development. However there remains some natural habitats now protected as natural parks where it is illegal to damage native species. Broadly speaking, Madagascar has desert and sub-desert habitats, but with tropical rain-forest to the east of the central divide where the saturated prevailing easterly winds from the Indian Ocean drop their rain.

The sub-desert "spiny forest" dominates the arid areas to the south and west of Madagascar

We were lucky to see these spiny forest plants with their green shoots and flowerheads after a rare rainstorm during the previous week

A Bayabub grove in the spiny forest. There are six species of these curious trees endemic to Madagascar (there are only two in the whole of Africa).

Bayabub trees gathering the rising sunshine

The rocky Isalo National Park in central Madagascar

Rainforest to the East of Madagascar

Our lodge set in the rain forest

Mamy, our local Malagasy tour guide. A football fanatic , here seen wearing his beloved Swansea City shirt!

Part 2 in this series will depict some of Madagascar's wildlife


Blogger Ellee Seymour said...

All I can say is "Wow", you never fail to impress. How stunning. Wow!!

7:11 pm  
Blogger simon said...

How utterly stunning mate.. looling forward to part 2!

11:09 pm  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...

Swansea City is a good choice!
It looks so interesting. You must have covered a great deal of the island. Look forward to hearing about all the birds and animals you have seen.
Love Lorenzo.

9:45 am  
Blogger simon said...

now here is something for you mate:- the Bayabub tree-

Well, In western Australia there is a Boab tree and it has direct links to Madagascar. only grows ina small area...

Now lunatic christians will tell you its because before the flood the land masses were linked.... ( until god waved his hand across the land masses blah blah)

But scientists have proven that ocean currents allowed the trees seeds to travel to Aus... and hence the tree which is now quite distinct from its Madagascar relatives.....yet linked

cool huh?

11:32 am  
Blogger Maalie said...

Simon, yes, geographical isolation is the most rapid cause of speciation, hence all the endemics on islands like Madagascar, Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand etc. I did not know that about the Australian tree but it is known that some plant seeds can be disseminated over vast distances and long time periods and still germinate when ending up in a suitable environment.

Thanks for the info. We do not need to invoke the supernatural to explain anything natural.

11:47 am  
Blogger Magdalene said...

What a fab post! So glad you nudged me into dropping by. Bird life here in Devon has consisted mainly of greenfich versus great tit peanut wars, the odd visit from a great spotted and also a green woodpecker,the usual assortment of robins, wrens and dunnocks, the occasional lofty fly over by our local ravens and for the past couple of weeks, loud nightly visits from tawny and probably barn owls judging by my levels of insomnia!

And I'm still being a non-blogger. :-/

8:55 pm  
Blogger TCA said...

Encouraging to see a 'human angle' in your recent post. ...I don't remember "kick abouts" as a child; I tried to smile as best I could.

Have you gone soft?


8:18 am  
Blogger Kiwi Nomad 2008 said...

I thought your blog had 'disappeared' as the page just appeared white. A blogger issue it would seem though, as the same affliction seems to be happening with other blogs including lorenzo's.

9:01 am  
Blogger simon said...

I am having some trouble with blogs too!

3:57 am  
Blogger donsands said...

Superb pictures.

1:28 am  
Blogger Kiwi Nomad 2008 said...

I had somehow imagined that it was pretty much jungle in Madagascar, so it is interesting to see how dry it is near the village and in some of the forest areas.

8:27 pm  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...

The seeds only floated across if it was within the last 5000 years.

12:32 am  
Blogger Raelha said...

Wow. Between you and Lorenzo it seems you've got most of the globe covered.

One wonders why Swansea City in particular has done to deserve such alleigance

12:57 am  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...

Raela, Swansea City is a brilliant team, second only to Colchester United!

Enjoying Japan enormously. I will do a posting after I return in just over a week.

Love Lorenzo

11:29 am  

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