Long before the people of the North discovered the Indian Ocean and the Southern Pacific, important migration fluxes had already taken place there; several of them included Madagascar as a stop-over or a destination. In the context of the evolving melting pot resulting from migration, social groups took the habit of defining themselves in relation to their environment. Thus, the Sakalava for instance define themselves as « the- people-of-the-small-valley-that-cuts-through-the-big-one », the Tanala «People-of-the-forest » or the Merina « People-of-the-Highlands » ; the Antandroy are the « The-people-living-in-thorns » and the Antemoro « Men-of-the-shores ».
Nowadays, the population counts a little less than 20 million inhabitants, split between 18 ethnic groups and a multiplicity of social sub-groups.
Madagascar boasts 5,000 kilometers of coast, is 592,000 km² wide, and its highest peak is Mount Maromokotra which is located 392 km off East Africa’s coast. The geography of the island is relatively simple. From North to South, high reliefs and a series of lake basins run through the center. Erosion is variably important, having created spectacular sites such as Isalo.
The coast is rather different from one side to the other. In the East, it is narrow, due to the fact it is trapped between the edge of the Central Lands, sometimes referred to as “the cliff”, and the Ocean. In the West and the South, reliefs progressively decrease in slope to the level of a wide plain, which is often interrupted by large majestic rivers. Madagascar, the “small continent” is surrounded by a multiplicity of islets, some of which are grouped in archipelagos
Madagascar’s seashore is approximately 5,000 kilometers long. The most popular sea is located in the North West. Its creeks, harbors and islets make it ideal and popular for leisure boating. From Majunga to Tuléar, the mild-sloped coast has mostly remained in its wild state, and traditional dhows elegantly sail along it. The arch formed by the Southern coast before joining the Indian Ocean can be described as the end of the world, quite literally, given the fact that only Antarctica can be found beyond; it is decorated with isolated fishermen’s villages, pristine sand dunes, waves that meet surfers’ expectations. From Fort Dauphin onwards, the coast takes a strangely straight shape, up to Baie d’Antongil’s indentation. Underwater, Madagascar’s well-located coral reefs are among the world’s most beautiful diving sites.