Today’s blog comes from Fiona Bryce, a Travel Expert in our Edinburgh George street store
It was my 30th birthday recently (terrifying) and I thought I deserved a treat for reaching such a landmark. That treat happened to be heading to Madagascar. I’ve been with STA Travel for 7 years and every year I made a file with flights to Antananarivo to (not so subtly) try and convince my other half that this year was the year we should visit. With the birthday as an excuse my somewhat exotic holiday demands were finally met with little resistance and my dream destination was on the table…
A totally beautiful Indri Lemur
Madagascar – Not just for special occasions
Choosing the adventure
A destination like Madagascar requires a bit of research. I have dreamed of going from the day I heard of it, way before the film and King Julian told us he liked to move it (move it). We had limited time and didn’t want to be stressing that we’d had missed key destinations so we decided to book with our friends at G Adventures who specialise in small group adventure tours. This wasn’t a tick list itinerary, there were places I’d never heard of and a couple of the big name stops missing, but I knew they were taking this route for a reason and I put my trust in the powers at G. The guide had a fantastic reputation and he really knew his stuff; Malagasy born and bred he gave us a true education on the country from its politics to the environment.
The G Adventures Itinerary
Walking on the wild side
Seeing unique wildlife before it disappears forever was the main reason I’d fallen in love with the idea of Madagascar, and I was not let down! We stood a few feet away from an Indri lemur and watched it leap from tree to tree, saw Sifakas in the top of the canopy enjoying the sun and had Bamboo Lemurs jump on my shoulders. I saw chameleons smaller than your pinkie and more colourful than the Rio Carnival.
As incredible as these animals were, I knew all about them before I arrived and seeing them simply lived up to my expectations. What was I had not anticipated was getting to experience a culture I knew absolutely nothing about. Madagascar is a paradox, a rapidly developing country where many people live the same way their families have existed for centuries. That’s not to say it’s the whole island is the same, far from it. As you move from one town to the next the construction of houses completely changes, you can see the lines of immigration from centuries ago and it feels like a real microcosm of our whole planet.
Our guide made sure we never referred to the people as poor. People didn’t beg or ask for the things we were carrying – they offered their services and had things to sell to us. They didn’t harass us or become aggressive if we didn’t want to buy what they had to sell. The people are the crowning glory of the island, more beautiful than the stones being ripped from the ground as more of the land is sold off to foreign developers. Being with our guide meant we got to weave our way through the streets of tiny villages tourists never visit and pick up some local delicacies for our bus journeys.
A blog doesn’t do this country justice and I could go on for days about this fantastic island. I can’t wait to go back and I, sure as an Aye-Aye likes a juicy grub, shall be heading back asap and not waiting for some stupid celebration to come round. Madagascar can really benefit from an increase in tourism, so persuade all your laid back, beach loving other halves that they want to see something unique…whilst they have the chance.