Magical Madagascar EcoTour is a wrap!

Diademed sifaka photographed by 2018 tour participant Laura Branan.

By Mary Paisley, Development Officer

Duke Alumni Travel is already accepting reservations (three spaces filled as of today) for the 2019 tour, scheduled for June 9-22, 2019.  For more information, click HERE. For questions or to reserve your space by phone, call Duke Alumni Travel at (919) 684-2988.

With the Duke Lemur Center’s Conservation Coordinator, Charlie Welch, leading the way and amazing local guides arranged by Terra Incognita Ecotours and their on-the-ground Madagascar partner, Pure Tours, the 2018 ecotour of Madagascar through Duke Alumni Travel was a huge success! We enjoyed sharing the experience with 11 participants from across the U.S. The tour was from July 15 – August 1, 2018.

Wearing safari gear and our best hiking shoes, and toting cameras and binoculars ready for the sights to be seen, we enjoyed many forest hikes, moving from site to site via bus, four-wheel drive vehicles and charter planes. The tour took us throughout the eastern and northern regions of Madagascar, including the SAVA region, where the Duke Lemur Center focuses its community-based conservation efforts. We explored Antananarivo, Andasibe-Analamazaotra Reserve, Tamatave-Ivoloina, Sambava, Andapa, Diego Suarez, Ankarana, Montagne d’Ambre and Anjajavy. The opportunity to see lemurs, chameleons, geckos, birds, snakes and other fauna and flora did not cease to bring excited “oohs and aahhs” from everyone – followed by rapidly clicking cameras and excited conversation.

We are still in awe of the warm welcome we received from the Malagasy locals, who waved and greeted us with “Salama” or “Bon Jour, Vazaha!” We were continually impressed by the ever-present smiles and by the many ways we observed local people working in fields and in the villages, to make a living and feed their families. Madagascar is one of the ten poorest nations in the world, with more than three-fourths of the population living on less than $1.25 a day. People survive by farming their own food, mainly rice.

We had amazing Malagasy guides throughout the tour, especially our primary Malagasy guide who traveled with us, Lytah. He was a wonder, speaking with locals in their unique dialects of Malagasy, and explaining the local customs and culture of the people while finding and identifying wildlife for us and teaching about each new thing at every turn.

As for lemurs, YES we saw many, including those you can see only on the island of Madagascar! Finding the indri in the Andasibe-Analamazaotra Reserve was a particular thrill for all of us!

We were treated to special presentations by the Duke Global Health team working in the SAVA region and a special evening discussing vanilla with two Duke graduates from Nielsen-Massey Vanilla: CFO David Knowlton and Emily Silman, a former Peace Corps volunteer who once worked with the DLC’s Madagascar projects through the Fuqua School of Business. In Anjajavy, we also were honored to receive a presentation by Lydia Greene, DLC researcher and Duke Ph.D. candidate; and Marina Blanco, Ph.D., DLC-SAVA Conservation Coordinator on their mobile DNA sequencing/genetics laboratory on the island.

It was the trip of a lifetime! The 2019 tour is set for June 9-22, 2019. YOU DO NOT NEED TO BE A DUKE ALUMNUS/A TO PARTICIPATE! In fact, more than half of our group is typically non-Duke alumni. Please join us next year!

An indri, photographed by Laura Branan.