Thursday, September 17, 2015

Madagascar Part 2: Beaches & Lemurs

Madagascar is a stunningly diverse country.  I split my posts into two the first covering the jungle and canyons, which you can check out here, and below are my photos from the beautiful beaches in Ifaty and Anjajavy.  The highlight in Ifaty was getting to do some whale watching and seeing my very first breach after years of whale watching, but of course I was so excited I didn't take a photo!  But I will remember it forever and I'm glad I watched with my eyes instead of through my lens.  I did get a million other photos that I love from our time at the beaches. 

We spent the last three days of the trip at the beautiful Hotel Anjajavy on the North West coast.  We flew in on a tiny private plane that is the only way to get to the resort and arrived in an island paradise full of lemurs, birds, sandy beaches and tropical fish.  The Relais & Chateau property is by far the nicest accommodations on the island and is managed by a very sweet Frenchman who seems to care very deeply about the island, his guest's experience and conservation.  I could easily see someone spending a week at the resort alone and having plenty to do.  We snorkeled, hiked, bird watched, ate delicious meals, had high tea in the oasis with the lemurs, and relaxed on the sand.  The lemurs are all over the hotel and we got up close and personal with them as they jumped on our balconies and played in the trees above our heads.  We even got to see a few babies, including twins, which is very rare to see them both survive.  The property has a man-made oasis guaranteeing vegetation for the lemurs throughout the year so they love to come and visit (it also guarantees mosquitoes and I got bit up here badly)! 

The hotel has protected 750 hectares of land and is doing a lot of replanting work in the area.  They have a nursery on site where you can adopt a tree and they'll give you a number so if you ever return you can check up on it and see how it's grown.  We adopted 5 trees, one for each member of my family, and picked ones that the lemurs love to eat and play in.  The hotel also does a wonderful job employing and supporting the local community there providing funding for the school and jobs for the people, which is always important to look for when traveling in third world countries.  I always feel a fair amount of guilt when traveling through countries with so much poverty and always try and do something to give back.  It's gut wrenching to not give to the begging children on the streets and beaches when you see such immediate need, but as a member of UNICEF's Next Gen, I know that the greater good is supporting these children and communities through organizations like UNICEF so we don't contribute to the cycle of poverty incentivizing children to beg on the streets instead of go to school.  Staying at eco-friendly and community supporting accommodations that give back to the country their in (rather than a large chain that funnels money directly out of the country) is vital to creating change and supporting conservation through tourism in poverty stricken countries.  I made donations to both WWF and UNICEF when I returned home and encourage everyone to check out the work their both doing in Madagascar to learn more about the country.

It was pretty hard to say goodbye to this island paradise, but I hope I get to return someday and see my trees all grown up!

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