‘La grande île’ is an exceptional place, African but with the feel of Southeast Asia. The people of the highlands of the interior are believed to have emigrated from Asia and their customs are very distinct from those of the coastal people. It was an independent kingdom, then a French protectorate from 1896, becoming fully independent in 1960. The country still has strong ties to France.
It is the fourth largest island in the world and, because of its isolation, most of its mammals, half of its birds and most of its plants exist nowhere else on Earth. Some ecologists refer to Madagascar as the ‘eighth continent’; but severe poverty and competition for agricultural land have put pressure on the island’s magnificent but dwindling forests, removing vital habitats and also affecting the emerging tourist industry, which is based on safaris and ecological tours.
The capital city, Antananarivo, is very attractive, with its colourful market place and steep steps up the hillsides. What remains of the royal palaces are also worth visiting. There are also coastal resorts, but tourism (mostly French) is relatively underdeveloped and so this makes it a good place to visit, apart from tropical cyclones, which can cause torrential flooding.
Ethical Travel Issues and advice
Ethical Photography: Travelling presents an opportunity to photograph in lots of different destinations and situations, but sometimes there may be culturally sensitive issues to think about before reaching for the camera or other photo-taking device. There are lots of people in the world who do not have clean water, electricity, schooling or enough to eat, let alone access to mobile telephones, the internet and printed media, so they have no idea where their photograph may end up or how it could be used. Sadly, in this day and age, child prostitution, child trafficking and other crimes against children are facilitated via the Internet, and photography can play an unwitting and innocent role. Photography and its use is no longer straight forward, so perhaps it is time to stop and think a little about the ethics of photography.
Taking photos of friendly local people is a highlight for many travellers and photographers. Smiles are universal ways to engage, as is showing people the photo you just took of them. If you show an interest in their work or ask them questions, they’ll be happy to have their picture taken. In some touristy places it has become common for people to ask for money for their photos to be taken. Do as you wish, but a photo of someone you shared a laugh with may have a better lasting impression than one you paid for. Don’t forget the same holds true for any porters and guides that may help you along the way. Take an interest in them and you’ll be rewarded with more great photo opportunities.