Zion Island 19.

Fodor’s South Asia on Five Dollars a Day (1952).

Madagascar.

Madagascar is difficult to visit, but well worth the effort.  The difficulties arise from its remote location, the infrequency of air flights or ship sailings to the island, and from the stringent customs formalities.  The benefits more than repay these difficulties.  The lush vegetation, the immense diversity of fauna, the striking scenery, and the remarkable social experiment being conducted on the island combine to make Madagascar a must-see for the sophisticated traveler.

The island may only be entered through the east coast port city of Toamasina.  There are monthly sailings from Germany and from Dar es Salaam in Tanganyika.  From Dar es Salaam one can make connections to many other destinations.

The capital city is Theresienstadt (formerly Antananarivo).  Here are located the headquarters of the administrative services.  Here, also, is located a small technical institute that supports the European immigrant population’s agricultural development program with a variety of engineering services.

Theresienstadt is also the home of the Institute for Tropical Medicine.  The ITM provides European scientists a home base that serves the many medical research stations dotted about the island.  The ITM is particularly notable for its pioneering techniques in seeking cures for tropical diseases like malaria, yellow fever, and dengue fever.

The traditionally sleepy languor of a tropical town has been enlivened in recent years by immigrants from a variety of European cultures.

You have to get out into the countryside to garner a sense of the “real” Madagascar.  The island is divided by climate and geography into three zones.  Along the east coast there is a narrow, high scarp of mountains.  The twisting roadways are largely the product of the extension of Germany’s domestic program of “autobahn” to the tropical island.  These allow for many eye-catching views.  But don’t let your attention wander too much!

The central part of the island is occupied by a plateau.  Here one finds the indigenous population.

The bulk of the European immigrant population is engaged in re-claiming the arid Western coastal strip that slopes down from the central plateau to the Mozambique Channel.  The whole region is dotted with small agricultural settlements.  Irrigation systems are being constructed and mangrove swamps drained to increase farmland.  Soon the fields will give forth a harvest of fruits and vegetables that promise to become a major source of export earnings.

The unusual mixing of different populations might be expected to give rise to some tension.  In fact, the substantial police presence inspires a sense of security that reassures all parties.

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