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Madagascar

Madagascar, previously known as the Malagasy Republic, is an island country in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Southeast Africa. It's the fourth-largest island in the world that doesn't also count as a continent, and its population is over 22 million and growing. Malagasy and French are official languages of Madagascar, and the humans are almost as diverse as the biological species. There are people of Austronesian and Bantu descent, as well as Chinese, Indian, and Comorian minorities. The terrain includes a variety of forests, mangrove swamps, and peaks. Biodiversity is incredibly high here. Thanks to plate tectonics and the resulting isolated locale of the island, 90% of the wildlife is unique to Madagascar. The aye-aye is a nocturnal lemur, the fossa is related to a mongoose and looks like a bit like a puma, and the web-footed tenrec (limnogale mergulus) is an insectivore that resembles a river otter. Tourism, agriculture, and the extractive industries are the most important industries. Eco-tourism is particularly important, and some people pay big bucks to see rare lemurs and the like. Nosy Be is the top beach destination in Madagascar, but it is quite pristine and undeveloped. The Parc National des Tsingy de Bemaraha is extraordinary for both its animal species and the tsingy themselves, limestone pinnacles. Visitors can walk through them, using ropes and other equipment in certain areas, and see relics like pottery shards from the ancient Vazimba people who inhabited this spot. Malagasy food is an exciting mix of diverse cuisines from around the Indian Ocean. Relishes like lemon and mango pickles reflect an Indian influence. Rice is called vary, and is topped with flavorings like ginger, onion, garlic, tomato, vanilla, salt, or curry powder. Cassava, millet, and maize are other important starches. Tomatoes, turnips, and greens are typical vegetables. Zebu, a humped type of cattle, are used for their flesh as well as their milk, especially for cheese curds. Try ravimbomanga sy patsamena, which are potato leaves stewed with dried shrimp. Banana and tamarind sweets are typical desserts or snacks. You can drink betsabetsa, rum made from fermented sugarcane juice. Arrr!