If you have are planning to go to Madagascar, the first thing you should know is that it is like nowhere else on earth. Most of the reasons why are due to its sheer isolation. Madagascar drifted apart from the African continent around 165 million years ago, meaning that its plant and animal life and finely tuned ecosystem have evolved away from external influences - in other words not much at all.
Madagascar culture and peoples are also different from neighbouring Africa. Native Madagascans are descendents of Asian mariners who crossed the Indian Ocean. The first settlers, from Borneo, arrived in 350 BC, followed by waves of migrants from other parts of South-East Asia. Over the centuries, the island became carved up into various ethnic fiefdoms until it was united as the Kingdom of Madagascar under the impossibly named Andrianampoinimerina, the great Merina warrior. In the late 1800s Madagascar was colonised by the French, who, after a bloody battle, packed off its rulers to Algeria. It remained part of the French empire until independence in 1960.