Greetings from Antanarivo for the last full day.
Today was less biological and more about the people and culture of Madagascar. We journeyed to the site of the old palace for a bit of a history lesson about the Merina people of this area.
It was quite sobering to realise that much of the environmental devastation that we have observed was commenced under the Malagsy Kings. However it was wonderful to see a remnant of the original forest at this sacred site.
If there has been one major lesson from the trip is that we must use our resources sustainably. Once gone they can't be replaced and humans eventually suffer.
Madagascar should be a rich country, but the fear is that we are witness to a rapidly disappearing biological wonder.
I am sure the students have been affected by the wonder of what they have seen.
The chaos of Tana was evident in the 2 hours it took us to get to the palace, which was in truth a hill fort from which the king ruled.
After lunch we played tourists and ventured to the craft markets. These contained everything from oil paintings and silk screens to giant ammonites and insect collections.
Well we shall see u all back on the flip side.
Well folks we are back in Antananarivo after a few days in the rain forests around Andasibe.
The country side on the east coast is markedly different from that of the west.
We stayed in bungalows outside a small village.
The first day was a drive out to some primary forests. The distance was only 17ks but it took over an hour and a half due to the nature of the track.
The Forrest itself was spectacular and we were always amazed at the ability of our guides to spot chameleons and other wild life.
Dezy our travelling guides knowledge of the area and the fauna was staggering.
Despite the continued rain and the 3 hour hiking up and down muddy hills the students were fascinated by the forest.
The afternoon was a relaxed one with Andy running a reflection session that evening.
The following day was a trip to a less isolated forest where the lemurs were more accustom to people.
In a short time we had spotted Sifakas, brown, woolie and everyone's favourite Indri. No doubt all will become familiar with the Indri's distinctive call as the students have adopted it as their own.
Finally it was time to head to Tana, which took 5 hours despite being less than 150ks away. During lunch Andy video interviewed all the group so stay tuned to the opwall website in the near future.
Andy was blown away when Jasmine sang an original song which he recorded for the video.
Needless to say we were all sorry to see Andy and Dezy leave that evening.
After a good nights sleep in Tana we head east to Nofy and the rain forests.
The trip was 9 hours by 4x4 with the last part proving quite gruelling and testing the drivers skill. This was followed by an hour and a half boat ride up the fresh water canals. The difference between the east and west of the country is amazing. Our Malagasy guide, Daisy, is fantastic, as is Andy the Operation Wallacea rep.
Currently we are at Nofy in beach bungalows and any weight loss due to jungle hiking and a diet of beans and rice will soon be lost as each meal is three courses.
The students have been great and the stark changes in the county side have alleviated any of the pain in the travel. Today will bring a couple of jungle walks that promise to be very different to the last week.
We are about to head to the rain forest and low and behold it is raining!
Very different from the dry forests of the west.
Saturday night we arrived back in Antananarivo after a relatively quick 9 hour bus trip. The distance covered was only about 300ks but the road conditions are so bad that the average speed is around 40kph.
The week in Mariarano and the secondary camp Matsedroy were very intensive, with the students walking around 15ks each day. These were broken down into 3 sessions, the first from 6:30am to around 12pm. The second short at 3pm and the final usually 7pm to as late as 12:30am depending on the activity.
Remember we were in an isolated area and Matsedroy camp was a 2 hour hike from the main base. All supplies were brought in by Zebu cart. So the order of the day was shanks pony.
The activities consisted of herp( reptile) survey, lemur survey, bird netting and spot surveys and invertebrate surveys. Students were able to photograph and handle a variety of fauna.
Meals mainly consisted of rice with beans cooked in a variety of ways.
Despite the long hours, heavy walking and rough conditions the students handled it all amazingly well. Their enthusiasm was commented on by the opwall staff and they did the college proud.
Good morning! After a restful sleep we are getting ready to travel north from Antananarivo to Mahajanga. In Madagascar things happen slowly and the journey of about 600km is going to take 12 hours! But that gives us plenty of time to observe our surroundings here.
Breakfast now and then the adventure begins.
Well we finally arrived in Antananarivo after a marathon 6 hr bus, 11 hour plane, 5 hour layover and then an epic 3 hour small jet ride. Everyone feels good despite the huge journey.
The view from the air as we came in was spectacular and it has filled us with enthusiasm to see more of the country. Since we have to get up at 4:30am tomorrow for a 12-hour trip, this is great! The trip itself promises to be memorable.
We are not sure about the WiFi access over the coming week, but rest assured there should be plenty of photo opportunities.
So tonight will be an early one.
Well we have finally made it to Madagascar. We are in a hotel 10 ks out side the city. For those who have travelled through the back waters of Indo the scenes would be familiar.
Mr Jodah's French has been put to good use from ordering our meals to sorting out transport and money.
The flight into Madagascar was quite cramped although only three hours. Students will be having an early night tonight with kick off at 4:30 am for a 12-hour journey to the research site. The country from the air looks amazing so we are looking forward to getting started.
Hopefully we will be able to get some WiFi access to keep every updated, but rest assured the students will have some great photo opportunities.
9 students, 2 teachers and the land of biodiversity.