Indri lemur in Madagascar

Madagascar Safari; A Candid Review

Natural World Safaris

Cheryl Dean

13 Oct 2016

Madagascar; An Overwhelming Safari Experience

We had a truly incredible trip to both places, but it was quite overwhelming at times, both for good and bad. The pockets of Edens that we saw were gorgeous, and we were smitten by the gentle creatures inhabiting them. The guides we had throughout were terrific, very knowledgeable and passionate about their country, plus determined to make sure that everything worked well throughout our trip, with good attention to small details. All 3 hotels/facilities in Madagascar were excellent, and we were extremely grateful that we chose to stay near the airport, as the traffic in Tana was worse than we had imagined (even after reading about it). 

The dismal part came from seeing both the abject poverty and also the vast extent of the foreign-owned sisal fields in the south, where we learned about the terrible working conditions for the locals. Between that, the lack of education and access to healthcare for a large portion of the population, plus the rate at population growth with limited resources, it's hard to believe that there will be many "pristine" edens left within a few decades. We had a good meeting with Prof. Ratsimbazafy, and he's extremely busy with trying to get funds to implement the recommendations of the IUCN report, so we certainly hope he's successful. Nick and I believe that the future of wild lemurs, especially those who haven't been successfully kept in captivity, is not at all certain, so we're absorbing that right now, thinking about the challenges/obstacles to ensuring their survival, and whether we could make an honest film with hope for these incredible creatures.  I would love to do this.

Red ruffed lemur in Madagascar, November

As for the Comoros, that was a very interesting place. Geologically, it very much reminded us of the big island of Hawaii, with black lava fields flowing down from the verdant volcano top into the ocean below. It was very lush with enormous mango trees, all laden with fruit that will be ripe in November (much to our disappointment). I wouldn't spend any time in the capital city of Moroni, as there really wasn't much to see or do there - fortunately we only had to transit there for one afternoon. Laka Lodge on Moheli was a beautiful little spot, run very well by a friendly and professional family with Western roots (she's from Texas and he's Kenyan but got his pilot's license in Texas). Their dive shop is very well run, with all of the equipment and boats in very good shape, reliably leaving and taking us where and when we asked. The lodge has a large garden where most of its fruit and vegetables come from, and the food was delicious, especially given how remote it is. The island's largest economy comes from growing ylang ylang (the Chanel No. 5 flower), cloves, and cinnamon, so it's very fragrant. One of the highlights of our stay was watching giant green sea turtles hauling themselves out of the ocean to lay eggs on the beach.  They have a very healthy population there. We also hiked up to the top of the island to see the world's largest fruit bats, and that was fun (except for the mosquitos). However, even though we enjoyed it, it definitely is on the rustic side, so I don't think that a large proportion of people would feel that it was worth while traveling half-way around the world to visit.

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