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Madagascar Geography


Situated off the southeast coast of Africa, Madagascar is the fourth-largest island in the world, with an area of 587,040 sq km (226,657 sq mi), extending 1,601 km (995 mi) north northeast to south southwest, and 579 km (360 mi) east southeast to west northwest. Comparatively, the area occupied by Madagascar is slightly larger than France. It is separated from the coast of Africa by the Mozambique Channel, the least distance between the island and the coast being about 430 km (267 mi). The coastline of Madagascar is 4,828 km (3,000 mi). Madagascar claims a number of small islands in the Mozambique Channel – the Îles Glorieuses, Bassas da India, Juan de Nova and Europa – covering about 28 sq km (11 sq mi), which are administered by France.

Madagascar's capital city, Antananarivo, is located near the center of the island.

Madagascar consists mainly of a block of crystalline rocks. It is generally described as a plateau, rising sharply from the narrow plain of the east coast and descending in a series of steps to the strip of sedimentary rocks along the west coast. The high plateau is much indented and, on the eastern edge, cut by deep gorges and waterfalls. There are numerous volcanic outcrops that produce heights over 1,800 m (6,000 ft); the highest point is Mount Maromokotro (2,876 m/9,436 ft) in the Tsaratanana Massif. The eastern coast is almost straight and has very few anchorages. Behind its coral beaches there is an almost continuous line of lagoons from Foulpointe to Farafangana. These are linked by man-made channels to form an inland waterway called the Pangalanes Canal. The island's major rivers flow westward and are navigable for about 160 km (100 mi) inland.

The climate of the eastern and northwestern coasts is dominated by the almost constant blowing of the southeasterly trade winds, which carry heavy rains during the austral winter (May to September). The central plateau and the western coast are sheltered from these winds but receive rain from the monsoon winds, which blow during the austral summer (October to April). Neither the trade winds nor the monsoons reach the southern part of the island, which consequently receives little rain and is, in places, a semi-desert. The central plateau enjoys a tropical mountain climate with well-differentiated seasons. Generally speaking, the climate throughout the island is moderated by altitude, with the coast being hotter (average temperatures 21-27°C or 70-80°F) and wetter than the plateau (average temperatures 13-19°C or 55-67°F). Toamasina (Tamatave), on the east coast, has 284 cm (112 in) of rainfall annually, while Antananarivo, inland, has about 140 cm (55 in). Occasional cyclones have been devastating.


Location :
Southern Africa, island in the Indian Ocean, east of Mozambique

Geographic coordinates :
20 00 S, 47 00 E

Map references :

Area :
total: 587,041 sq km
land: 581,540 sq km
water: 5,501 sq km

Area - comparative :
slightly larger than France

Land boundaries :
0 km

Coastline :
4,828 km

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