Interview with Hilary Bradt
Why do you feel Madagascar is such an important location, in terms of ecosystems and wildlife?
Our Madagascar guide was the first ever guide in English, published in 1986. The full guide was preceded by a 12-page booklet called A Glance at Madagascar. I wrote this for my clients when I was leading trips to Madagascar for the American company Wilderness Travel, and also sold them to the handful of UK companies which had started offering Madagascar but with very little background information available. I wanted people to know something about the history, culture and, of course, wildlife before they went. I followed this with The No Frills Guide to Madagascar, to fill the gap while I wrote the proper guide that has now gone into 11 editions.
I always knew how special Madagascar was, and felt enormously privileged to be leading trips there before anyone knew much about the island. It is literally unique; of the 200,000 species of living things on the island, at least 150,000 are found nowhere else on earth. Isn’t that extraordinary? I’ve learned more at every visit (and I’ve been around 35 times now) but still feel I’ve only scratched the surface. There is so much more to see, and species to find!
What has been your most memorable natural world experience to date?
Each time I think about this question I come up with a different answer! Here’s one example. When we travelled from Cape Town to Cairo, we passed through Rwanda in 1976, thinking how nice it would be to meet Dian Fossey (I don’t think she would have been equally thrilled!). We were deflected from meeting her but did hire a guide to try to find the gorillas. No luck and the untrained guide got fed up and went home, leaving us to explore Virunga National Park on our own. We camped for the night and while descending the mountain the next day we heard distant drumming. Across a gulley, in a clearing, was a silverback gorilla, on his hind legs, beating his chest. Without binoculars we wouldn’t even have seen him he was so far away. I’ve since had the modern, thrilling, gorilla encounter in Rwanda, but the excitement of finding one for ourselves is still tops.