Author of the seminal guidebook on Madagascar and founder of Bradt Travel Guides, Hilary Bradt led tours in Madagascar for 25 years. Here she talks about her experiences and why she recommends group travel.
Madagascar is huge; the logistics of seeing the most exciting scenery and wildlife without your own transport is daunting. Backpackers exploring under their own steam generally set aside months for their visit – an option not open to most holiday-makers – so the choice is between a tailor-made tour or joining a small group on a fixed itinerary.
Tailor-made tours are wonderful for families, a few friends, or couples who prefer to be on their own. But when people ask me how best to visit Madagascar I always suggest joining a group as the first option. Mind you, I’m hopelessly biased since this is how I’ve always travelled in Madagascar, admittedly as the leader. Last year marked the 30th anniversary of my first group tour of the island in 1982. I had three clients and my leadership skills were tested to the limit. But as the decades have passed the country has become much more accessible and welcoming, and although it would clearly be a lie to pretend that all of my hundreds of clients were one step away from sainthood, I can truthfully say that most groups have gelled beautifully and been a pleasure to be with both individually and collectively.
When I look back at those 30 years I have so many happy memory snapshots. Meals spent in gales of laughter, the thrill rippling through the group at the first wail of the indris in Andasibe and the astonishment at some of the more curious insects. And how could I forget the times that my group were invited spontaneously to be guests at a famadihana, the ‘turning of the bones’, and the insight it gave us into the spiritual life of the Malagasy? For the island is not just about lemurs. Even something as mundane as last minute shopping for souvenirs is enhanced by the ‘show and tell’ afterwards.
Apart from the sheer pleasure of being with a group of compatible people there are the fringe benefits: groups – and particularly Rainbow groups – are assured of the best wildlife guides available. And perhaps even more importantly, they secure the best local tour leaders. Along with those wonderful encounters with wildlife, the lasting memories may be of the patient and good humoured Malagasy guide who enabled it all to happen and took the hassle out of travel.”
Madagascar Wildlife Discovery Tour from Rainbow Tours On this exclusive tour you’ll see a superb variety of lemurs, birds and extraordinary reptiles, frogs and invertebrates, and incomparably diverse fl ora. The tour visits the eastern rainforests, the dry deciduous forests and the bizarre ‘spiny desert’ of the semi-arid southern region. Some departures include the Berenty Reserve, famous for its ringtails, while others visit the dry deciduous baobab forest of Kirindy, Madagascar’s most threatened habitat type. Each has its own locally endemic ensemble of plants and animals.
To read Hilary Bradt’s blog which is regularly updated with her latest articles, visit www.hilarybradt.com.