Author and travel writer Sarah Tucker visits Madagascar and laments its future
Every year I’m sent press releases that tell me I should visit a place before it loses what makes it special. Vienna, the Maldives and Istanbul have all been on the “go before they go” itinerary, but Madagascar had never been one of them.
The reality is Madagascar is disappearing fast, or, alternatively put, the uniqueness of Madagascar is disappearing fast. The rainforests there have been transformed into terraces of paddy fields cut in huge swathes, with piles of bricks made of the red clay from the soil which fed those magnificent forests, where the indigenous lemurs sing and dance. And they do.
I spent fifteen days there with adventure travel experts Explore and travelled over 1,000 miles across the island. I found that my visit left me with emotions as intense as Hurricane Irma hitting at Force Five.
On the east, it is cool and wet and the forests are still thriving. WWF and other ecologists like Patricia Wright, who discovered a new breed of lemur back in 1997, have made some headway against a corrupt government and ancestral traditions which verge on the quirky to the downright cruel. All cultures have such but, indeed, whilst visiting Madagascar – which is undergoing some sort of industrial revolution – I saw much of the fault in my own culture and its own quirks and cruelties.
On the east coast, it is hot and arid, and more like the Africa I know, but therein lies the tragedy. And it is a tragedy. Once the rainforests have gone – and they will go soon – there will be nothing unique about this special island. Although it is not on the headlines of any news programme at the moment, for those who have visited in the past and choose to go again, you will mourn its lost.
Follow Sarah Tucker on Twitter at @madasatucker.
Poor lemurs. Very sad to hear of the decline.
I’m working with a local ecologist now. It’s truly like Middle earth. An industrial revolution. But sapphires and paddy fields rather than railways.