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10 things you might not know about Madagascar

Madagascar is the 4th largest island in the world, being almost as large as Spain and Portugal combined. The island is also known as the "sixth continent," which is due to the enormous amount of animals and plants that can't be found anywhere else in the world. Madagascar's treasures also include dense rainforests and tropical beaches, sublime baobabs, googly-eyed animals, and friendly people. Find out what else there is to know about Madagascar that you most probably never heard before!

1) Hardly any railways

If you consider that Madagascar is the world's 4th biggest island, there are very few railways – just 854 kilometers ( ~530 miles) of a track, to be precise. If you want to get around the country, better rent a car, or share a taxi. But there are less than 6,000 kilometers (~ 3,728 miles) of paved roads - the rest is sandy and quite bumpy. 

2) It was a haven for pirates

Madagascar was once a safe haven for quite a few pirates due to the island's secluded coves, and the absence of European powers for centuries. "Ile Sainte-Marie," a tiny island four miles off Madagascar's east coast, was simply referred to as "the island of pirates." Madagascar even features an own cemetery for pirates.

3) Bare-knuckle boxing is a national sport

Besides Rugby, "Moraingy" (also known as Malagasy boxing) is Madagascar's official sport. It's mere bare-knuckle fighting without weapons or body protection. Striking for vital body points, scratching, or even hair pulling are strictly forbidden. Moraingy also holds the shortest round duration of all fighting sports worldwide. The origins of this sport can be traced back to the 15th century. 

4) Late Colonization 

Due to its quite late discovery, Madagascar was one of the last landmasses to be colonized. But even though its proximity to Africa, 

the first inhabitants were Asian coming from Borneo.

5) The Island of Diamonds

Many of the world's most high-quality sapphires can be found in Madagascar. Unfortunately, due to the increasing number of gem hunters, the country's rainforests are at risk, which forced local residents to even calling for military intervention.

6) There are only two seasons in Madagascar

The dry, colder season runs from May through October, while the hot, rainy season lasts from November through April.

7) The Medicinal Properties of Madagascar's Native Plants

There are several plant species, like the Madagascar Periwinkle, on the island used for remedies for treating Hodgkin's disease, leukemia, and other cancers.

8) "I like to move it move it..."

Even though lemurs might look like weirdly dancing little monkeys, they are sacred animals and sincerely worshipped by the Malagasy people, who believe that they carry the souls of their ancestors. As of today, there are over 70 species and sub-species of lemurs in Madagascar. The most recent discovery of a new lemur species was in 1985. 

9) Madagascar and its Chameleons

Worldwide there are around 150 species of chameleons with more than 50% of them living in Madagascar. Nearly all of the Malagasy chameleons, including the world's biggest and smallest chameleons, are endemic, which means they can't be found anywhere else in the world. 

10) Marco Polo 

The famous explorer Marco Polo was the first European to report the existence of the island and hence gave it its name "Madagascar." But in the end, it was the French who colonized the island and declared French the official language. Today, both French and Malagasy are the official languages. However, you'll hardly find anyone in the countryside speaking any other language besides Malagasy.

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