Madagascar has been on my bucket list ever since I read Douglas Adam’s book ‘Last Chance to see’. Most people would think Madagascar is a movie animation with cutesy animals, its one of the largest islands in the world filled with a fascinating wildlife endemic only to the island.
Part of my aim was to visit the endangered animals and trees endemic to Madagascar, Baobabs trees and the lemurs, primates that are even older than the primates in the rest of the world. Because of Madagascar isolation and its breaking off from Gondwanaland a few hundred million years ago, without competition with the newer primates, this set of older primates evolved into a wide range of lemurs from the strange and weird Aye Aye, the pygmy mouse lemur, the ringtail lemur made famous by the animated movie.
This has been a great experience and my first encounter with such beautiful animals up close. I’m bitten with exploring more wild life and have finally completed my long awaited journey to this amazing country. I climbed up a 5 storey high Baobab tree, saw the elusive Aye Aye, photographed the Zebu market, met the gorgeous locals.
Most Madagascans are so poor that even throw away plastic PET bottles and containers are so precious, many I met in the south were asking for them. In most places I visited, infrastructure is sorely lacking, there is no sustainable energy grid and the roads are so bad that travel between different places could take much longer than we are use to. A 100km road take at least 3-4 hours of travel.
This country is changing rapidly, unfortunately not for the better, environmentally most of the land are being destroyed. A tough fight between the endemic wildlife and the growing human population. There are plenty of wild life conservation organisations but none that help the growing population, most are struggling to survive. Besides the basic education of wildlife conservation, there must be an effective assistance for the human population economically. Water source is limited and land is much needed for agriculture. A tough balance to feed the poor population and to keep the endangered wildlife in tact. Two third of the country have already been destroyed, exploited by mining, wood and other natural resources, only 10% of the original rainforest in the island have remained and converted to national parks.
The people of Madagascar are both warm and friendly and the environment vastly different area to area. Antannarivo the capital is more like some french town filled with colonial architecture and cobblestone streets, Tulear right at the Tropic of Capricorn feels more like a dry drought ridden dusty town, Moroansetra feels more tropical carribean rainforest. From the cool highlands, to spiny desolate deserts to wet tropical rainforest, this big island has so many contrasts that makes a person like me want to revisit.