I'm not actually going on this trip and sort of stumbled across this post accidentally, but I thought I would say hi on the account that I lived in Madagascar for four months last summer. I was based in a remote coastal community in the southwestern region (near Tulear), but also travelled throughout the country. I'm not familiar with the Exodus tour there (I was doing coral reef reserach for a NGO), but even after being there for as long as I was, it was not nearly enough time to appreciate it fully. I have done a lot of travelling, but no place touched me like Madagascar. It's the type of country that will permanently change you - for the better - if you allow it to. I have no doubt I will go back.
So, with regard to your question, I would absolutely take an extra week (or more!) to explore the rainforest! The country does have it's touristy bits, but you can also see it without spending a fortune (living there is really inexpensive outside of the big cities/if you know where to go).
I know it'll be more fun to start conversing with the people you will actually be travelling with, and I'm sure Exodus does a great job in pre-trip organization, but if you have any questions or anything, I'm more than happy to help if I can!
All the best with your planning and your adventures!
Good of you to take the time to get in contact.Sounds like you have a job lots of us envy and few of us have the courage to try. One of my students, a Japanese lecturer in Japanese at Sussex, actually re-trained in order to be able to help study coral bleaching back home. Exodus have confirmed the extra week so now I have to sort out what best to attempt. I have lots of reading to absorb, distil and then act on; but I think it best to avoid moving around and concentrate on one area. The Exodus trip moves rapidly through Andasibe-Payeira-Perinet-Antsirabe-Lac Tritiva-Isalo-Tulear-Morondavo-Grands Tsingy Sakalava using bus and planes. So that leaves so much. If you have any 'must do' ideas let me know.
You mention trips which change how you feel, Laos did that for me, I ended up sending hundreds of photos back to the people I met and a Blurb book to each of the villages. I hope to spend a few weeks next Xmas doing some voluntary work out there if I can find a skill that is useful to them.
This was the opening to that book 'Secrets Emerging'
Is it thy will thy image should keep my heavy eyelids open to the weary night
Do'st thou desire my slumbers should be broken whilst shadows like to thee do mock my sight
Is it thy spirit that thou send'st from thee so far from home
into my deeds to pry, to find out shames and idle hours in me. W. Shakespeare
Sorry to have gone on a bit
One of the very few advantages of my being old and semi-retired I guess. The series is so strong; I will be happy to see a fraction of the fauna shown in it.
Thank you for sharing some Shakespeare - his words lend nicely to even modern experiences and emotions. And I am glad you understand the ways in which people can become connected to the places they visit.
I took a look at the itinerary for your trip and it seems super packed! You will be going to some places that I didn't even see. Outside of Andavadoaka (the town in which I lived) I spent the most time in Tulear so most of my suggestions would just be for there. There is a restaurant called L'Etoile de Mer which is really good for dinner, and Gelateria Italiana if you want delicious ice cream (by any global standards). You mentioned fauna but if you have time and want to learn a little about the flora of the spiny forest, the Arboretum d'Antsokay just outside of the city has lots of endemic species and it made my time in the region a bit more intresting. I think I liked the plants of the spiny forest even more than the rainforest, but I probably became biased by spending so much time among them.
I'm glad you have a full day in Isalo - the landscape and pools there are gorgeous!
Make sure to take advantage of the local cuisine as much as possible (ie. eating from the street vendors) as they are super cheap and have some tasty stuff (mofo sakay and bonbon kapiky were favourites of mine). And don't be hesitant to take a pousse-pousse - the drivers want (and need) the fairs so as long as you are not in a hurry, it's a great way to see a city.
Other than that, not much I can suggest I don't think!
Flying out with you and others on the 3rd and really looking forward to it. Have also booked a further week with Dodo Travels flying down to Berenty after a couple more days in Tana. It will be interesting spotting fellow travellers at the airport.
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