I hope like me you're enjoying these little travel and lifestyle interludes between all the wedding pretty! I know that wedding planning can tend to take over your life before the big day, so hopefully these features inspire you with some honeymoon ideas. Today we're heading to Madagascar - an island off the Southeast coast of Africa - courtesy of Cat from WILD CONNECTIONS PHOTOGRAPHY. I'll hand you straight over to her to tell her story...
Before we left for Madagascar, I contacted a friend who had been out there for a research project during his studies for some advice on how to prepare. One of his comments still sticks with me to this day. He told me "I've met many people who have travelled in Madagascar. Some absolutely loved it and others were incredibly disappointed". I'm still trying to work out how you could be disappointed with a trip to Madagascar. It is true that wherever you are in the country, even if you are staying in the nicest of hotels, extreme poverty is all around you. The Malagasy diet also didn't really sit well with us and we were both ill for over a week of our trip. But still I have no real negative memories of our visit. Everywhere that we travelled we were met my smiling faces and people willing to share stories about their lives with us and teach us about their wildlife. The roads where absolutely terrible and even the shortest journeys sometimes took us hours. But the landscapes and the wildlife that we saw absolutely blew me away. I have so many favourite moments from this trip. The sunrise hike we took to see a group of wild ring-tailed lemurs was one of the best things I've ever done, but I also loved climbing in the Tsingy where all of the jagged, razor sharp rock formations look like something from another planet. And being at arms reach from an wild Indri, the largest of all of the lemurs which is critically endangered, and having it sit there and just look at me back with its big green eyes is something I will never forget. I'm always saying that I love going on adventures and Madagascar was definitely the biggest adventure of my life so far. Not everything went to plan and it wasn't always easy. But that made every experience we had even more meaningful.
Whenever my husband and I talk about holiday destinations we often have very different ideas. We're both pretty outdoorsy and we love adventure and travelling. But when we talk about places to visit next, he's quick to veto anywhere that he considers to be too touristy, to which my defence is "it's touristy because there are lots of great things to see".
During our wedding planning we knew we wanted to go somewhere a little unusual for our honeymoon. We wanted it to be our greatest adventure yet. We'd talked before about Madagascar and decided that it would be a wonderful destination for our "trip of a lifetime". Unfortunately wedding planning rather took over and we agreed we'd leave the honeymoon for a later time. Almost two years later, we finally made it.
When you picture Africa, what do you think of? Perhaps spotting big game on a safari drive or nomadic tribes living in the desert. And there's the negative images too. Of extreme poverty, starvation and genocide. But with such a vast continent comes so much diversity.
The island of Madagascar sits in the Indian Ocean on the southeast coast of Africa. It can be generalised as having two main seasons; a warm and wet season and a cooler dry season, but different parts of the country seem to have their own climates. Where east coast is home to the countries rainforests an has no real dry season, the south west is the country's driest area could almost be classed as desert as very little rain falls. The Malagasy people's heritage is not just from Africa but also Arabia and Indonesia, which is filtered through in to the many different religions, customs and the language across the country.
The island is haven for nature lovers; around 90% of all plant and animal life in Madagascar is endemic, meaning you won't find it anywhere else in the world. Unfortunately Madagascar isn't without problems though. It ranks within the top 10 poorest countries in the world and much of its landscape is dramatically changing because of human activity. Deforestation is happening at an alarming rate. Many of the species living here are so adapted to their unique environments that they simply cannot survive anywhere else and are critically endangered.
Tourism in Madagascar, or more specifically ecotourism is growing. People travel from all across the world to explore the great biodiversity that it has to offer and to see these enchanting and endangered species before they are gone for good. Although Madagascar's national parks are owned by the government, every group that enters is required to have a local guide, many communities are also learning that there is money to be made in the local community by protecting their forests and wildlife and creating their own local private reserves.
There are a few European companies that run trips to Madagascar but when we started planning our trip I knew that I wanted to find a tour company that was run by and worked with locals, so that the money that we spent would stay in Madagascar and directly benefit the people in the communities. We were so lucky with Jenita and the team at Madagascar Natural Tours. From the first email to the last goodbye, they made us fall in love with Madagascar. Not only did they show us some of the most beautiful places in the country but they shared with us their own personal stories of what it meant to them to be Malagasy.
During our 20 days in Madagascar we saw so many uniquely weird and wonderful species, experienced some of the worst roads of all time, were greeted by smiling faces, broke down, learnt about local customs, experienced 36C in the west followed by 9C in the east, saw the world's smallest primate and so much more. Not wanted to forget a moment, I kept a diary during our trip which I have now turned in to a photographic journal. If you'd like to read more about Madagascar, you can find the e-book HERE.