It’s not just our staff that travel to some of the far corners of the earth in the pursuit of seeing some of our animals wild cousins. Two of our volunteers recently returned from the trip of a lifetime to Madagascar and of course we had to find out as much as we could!
Clare (pictured right) and Jane (left) have a long history with the Trust. Clare began volunteering with us in 2008 and in 2010 took up a position on our board of trustees. Jane worked for the Trust as a part time animal keeper during her teens, and came back to us as a volunteer in 2011.
“Jane is obsessed with lemurs” Clare explained “and last year for her birthday our husbands presented her with this trip!” Both ladies are friends dating back to their school days so it was without question that the two of them would go together
The first stop on their tour was Ranomafana National Park in the South East of Madagascar. It was a 3 day drive along rustic dirt roads from the city of Tana where they had landed. “You have to travel everywhere by car. It’s a vast country but internal flights can be extremely expensive” they inform me. This was their rainforest of firsts. First animal encounter! This is an extremely rare comet moth - what a find!
First trek, first time hearing wild lemurs, and then importantly their first time seeing them. “It was lemur-tastic” Clare says. Golden bamboo lemurs, red-bellied lemurs, and the Milne Edwards sifaka!
Whilst here they also went on a night trek spotting mantis, chameleon, spiders, tree frogs and mouse lemurs!
Next stop after a 2 day drive was Isalo National Park. A contrast to their previous destination, Isalo is an arid desert and canyon environment. “This was where we really noticed the unique and diverse plant life” Clare says. Although a rainforest is full of them, the incredible beauty of trees such as the Baobab and Pachypodium really captured their attention. Furthermore, the ladies were impressed at the sheer volume of birds in such a dry place!
But it would seem that Isalo was known for one thing overall, “It was ringtail central!” they said. I wonder if King Julian knew they were such big fans...
Next stop after a shorter 1 day drive was Ifaty on the coast. This was a bit of down time and the ladies enjoyed the beaches and snorkelling opportunities, including an encounter with what Clare describes as “the Liberache of lobsters”.
The final stop was Andasibe. On this occasion they did fly owing to the distance involved. This was pristine primary forest and it was here that they had their encounter with the breathtaking Indri. They could hear these distinctive lemurs long before they could see them. Their desire for a low impact and natural encounter took them away from any tour groups. After a few miles of trekking they found them! And boy was it worth it.
The ladies were keen to highlight that whilst this was an undoubtedly breathtaking trip, it really opened their eyes. “People think of Madagascar as this Disney-like place but the poverty and deforestation is unavoidable” they explained. “Outside of the main city there are no towns, it’s all dirt roads and mud huts. People living on less than the bare minimum. And away from the National Parks it’s paddy field after paddy field”. They both feel a real connection to the extremely kind and knowledgeable people that they met, and a passion to help protect what little of Madagascar is left.
I don’t know about you, but I’m certainly jealous! Thank you to Clare and Jane, and as it turns out Jane wasn’t the only one getting such a generous birthday gift. Soon after it was Clare’s birthday and their husbands have pulled another one out of the bag- Next year they are off to Uganda to fulfil Clare’s dream of trekking with wild mountain gorillas! We’ll definitely be checking back in with you then ladies!