Map of Madagascar. Arrows indicate major areas visited on this tour.
Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world, as large as France and Switzerland combined. It can be divided broadly into five geographic zones. The east coast lowlands and slopes receive heavy precipitation from the easterly prevailing winds off the Indian Ocean. Down the length of the island slightly eastward of the centre line runs a large plateau ranging from 800 to 1,800 m (2,625 to 5,906 ft) in altitude, and on the western side of the island the rain shadow created by the mountains results in a much drier climate. The Tsaratanana Massif region at the north end of the island contains, at 2,880 metres (9,449 ft), the highest point on the island. The southwest (e.g. around Ifaty) is the hottest and driest region and is the location of the "spiny forest" habitat.