Trip of a Lifetime... Madagascar
Trip of a Lifetime... Madagascar
Inspirational nature in its rawest form
Situated in the Indian Ocean, over 280 miles from the shores of Mozambique, Madagascar is an isolated slice of history. Home to thousands of endemic species of flora and fauna, a people whose heritage spans an entire ocean and a landscape that shifts from arid desert to humid rainforest, tropical beaches to agricultural highlands, this unique African island-country is both powerfully beautiful and increasingly vulnerable.
Madagascar’s solitude has led to some remarkable evolutionary wonders. Ninety percent of all of the island’s wildlife is found nowhere else on Earth. Colourful, rich and tremendously diverse, it’s a nature-lover’s dream come true. Grand baobab trees rise to form impressive silhouettes on the horizon; inquisitive ring-tailed lemurs spring from branch to branch in the southern gallery forests; and carnivorous fossas - resembling giant mongooses or miniature cougars – scour the shrubbery for prey. Each of these species is endangered, primarily due to loss of habitat.
The people are challenged too, by poverty. Rebuilding a political structure after independence from French Colonial rule is still a major focus. Scarce water supplies and lack of electricity in a large portion of the inhabited land means the Malagasy are limited by insufficient resources. Despite their problems, they are a strikingly resilient people with a fascinating quasi-Asian culture, unique traditions and a welcoming attitude towards visitors.
If you are inspired by the grace of nature and imbued with a sense of adventure, Madagascar could just be your ultimate trip. My Destination has found two ways you can experience this trip of a lifetime.
Learning alongside Luxury
Madagascar, with all its outstanding beauty, is still a fragile country whose population lives in a state of poverty, making it vital that visitors ensure their trip to the island is both eco-friendly and ethically aware. That’s not to say that a holiday in Madagascar won’t be a relaxing retreat – far from it; it is more than possible for luxury and local empowerment to come hand in hand.
Specialist tour operator Scott Dunn offers a handful of carefully crafted itineraries, showcasing some of Madagascar’s most prized natural landmarks and unique traditions. The Baobabs and Butterflies tour will take you firstly to the Mandrare River, where you will sleep in the most luxurious tents – they are kitted out with four poster beds – and meet the local people, the Antandroy.
Whale-watching, bird spotting, magical forest walks and snorkelling are just some of the activities on offer. Nature is at the heart of this tour, which is why it makes sense that Scott Dunn gives all clients the opportunity to offset the carbon emissions of their holiday.
The 11-night Baobabs and Butterflies tour with Scott Dunn costs £3,955 (est).
Play a Part in Madagascar’s History
A stint volunteering may not be your first choice when it comes to booking a holiday, but if you’re looking for something truly significant, with an impact on the locals’ lives as well as your own, you won’t regret sacrificing a little luxury to take part in one of the many worthy projects in place on the island. The experiences you gain and memories you make will stay with you forever.
British charity Azafady was voted ‘Best Volunteering Organisation’ at the 2007 Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards. With a clear goal of partnering with local communities in Madagascar in order to support environmental conservation and aid those most in need, you can be sure that your money and efforts are going directly to a good cause.
Azafady provide short and long term projects for prospective volunteers, focusing on four areas: Community Health, Construction, Sustainable Livelihoods and Environment. Their well-organised and varied programmes could see you helping to build a new school for a rural village, planting trees, researching lemur populations and recording crucial data, or teaching English to eager Malagasy children.
Prices for volunteering with Azafady vary depending on the length and nature of the placement. See their website for more details.
Why does Madagascar fall into the Trip of a Lifetime category? Firstly, because a significant portion of what makes this country so special may be lost within a generation. That adds a serious sense of urgency to the buzz term ‘must-see’. Secondly, there is no doubt that a journey through Madagascar unravels a whole new world for you to see, giving you a strong awareness of the fragility and undeniable beauty of this corner of our planet. This is one journey you will not regret.
Main image by Aleix Cabarrocas Garcia
Images by Frontier Official
The landscape shifts from desert to humid rainforest, tropical beaches to agricultural highlands.
By Themes (All Destinations)
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"I dislike feeling at home when I am abroad" - George Bernard Shaw