Baobabs, beaches & Lemurs holiday in Madagascar

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Departure information

This trip can be tailor made throughout the year to suit your requirements
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Responsible tourism

As the pioneers of responsible tourism, we screen every trip so you can travel knowing your holiday will help support conservation and local people.

Environment
The company that organises this holiday is a multi-award-winning responsible travel company. They try to ensure that nothing they do at home (in UK) or abroad compromises the environment or wildlife or exploits people. They believe in ensuring that travellers are well-informed, as an informed traveller tend to be a more respectful and sensitive traveller. They also believe in giving back to the country, people wildlife and environments which are affected by tourism.

Vakona Forest Lodge has a private reserve opened in 1996. It includes both a reserve for Nile crocodiles living in Madagascar, and “islets” where several species of lemurs now live freely including about 20 Vari lemurs (Varecia variegata) that had lived in captivity in private homes and which have be taken in by the reserve. They were mostly in poor health following their captivity in cramped cages. Today, the Vakona Reserve is working on a conservation programmed for endangered species in association with the Ministry of Water and Forests of Madagascar, with the aim of making them reproduce in their eco-system safely.

Our lodges use solar powered water heaters where ever possible, ensure solid waste sorting and composting is done on site and use sumps to filter liquid waste before discharging to sewers. Grey water is used in the lodge grounds where possible. Biodegradable cleaning products are bought and used as much as possible. There is also a strong sense that plastics usage should be eliminated. The lodges and hotels we work with prefer to use no plastic packaging, replacing them with paper and cartons or baskets of local materials for the transport of all their purchases.

For every person that travels with the company, it plants trees through The Travel Forest initiative. Depending on where they plant and the requirement of the specific area, they plant either indigenous trees or a mix of indigenous and non-native species. Planting non-native seedlings may seem counter-intuitive but doing this can often help any remaining indigenous forest from being cut down (e.g. for fuel) as some non-native trees grow much more quickly than indigenous types. They particularly aim to save ancient or older indigenous forest, through offering an alternative option for fuel requirements of local communities. In addition to this benefit, their Travel Forest initiative helps with such things as planting for water-course retention, soil erosion, shade and even food – all depending on what is planted and where. They have planted almost 100,000 trees to date in various degraded locations including the Andean mountains in Peru, northern Tanzania and Malawi. This has always been done in conjunction with the local communities who plant and then tend the seedlings. Trees are far more important to the health of this planet (and us) than many people imagine. This global Travel Forest initiative can and does make a big difference.

The UK head office has a good policy of recycling, reducing and re-using (electricity, paper, plastic etc). They also buy only fair-trade goods such as tea, coffee, and use biodegradable detergents etc. They also make a point of buying only top eco-rated equipment (e.g. monitors).

As part of our commitment to the environment we have a programme to plant trees in Tanzania, Malawi, Peru etc. through the company’s foundation. This was set up to help alleviate poverty, conserve endangered wildlife, and protect earth’s environmental diversity for the benefit of us all. All the projects have a link with tourism in some way, and many benefit the wider world as well as local people, through conserving areas of natural beauty. We don’t just look overseas when considering the environment, even at the office the team planted tress in the fields surrounding the buildings to celebrate the company’s 21st birthday in 2019.

As a company we think about our partners overseas carefully. The company ethos is to use properties around the globe that have a similar ethical stance to ourselves. If they can use local suppliers for their provisions, be it food or furnishings then they do, and all offer a variety of menus including vegetarian and vegan/plant-based options. Our partners support the use of solar/renewable energies, and many are looking at ways of switching their current supplies to more eco-friendly options in order to be more efficient. The use of solar, water and air are options in use or being explored, as well as grey water run offs. Energy efficient appliances and practices, card operated in room lighting, low energy bulbs, and a change in laundry practices, are all in operation, and show just a few of the initiatives used. Our partners also use local staff within their properties. Many live on-site in seasonal properties for example reducing the travel emissions of the company, many come from the local villages and communities surrounding the properties. This includes everyone from house keeping to management and the guides that are from the locale.

Due to the nature of the holidays provided by the company, it is impossible to eliminate all flights but where possible we use the minimum flight hours an itinerary can operate with. The packages we have on offer include rail portions in some areas, which keep emissions low, many walking options and shared transportation.


Community

The Impacts of this Trip

Our lodges and hotels on this itinerary all support their local villages. They employ people from the local villages, buy fruit, vegetable and fish, and work with the communities to provide experiences for guests that show the culture of the island.

Each of the lodges supports the local schools in their areas with equipment and buildings. They also are involved in the support of the medical teams in their communities and hospitals, providing funding for training, equipment, new beds, and clinics in villages. They support facilities for disadvantaged children as well as mothers and young women in difficult situations. Hospitality training programmes are in place offering disadvantaged local students the opportunity of a career path away from the land or sea.

In terms of information, all travellers are given guidelines on Travelling with Respect, which includes advice on cultural aspects of your travels as well as protecting the environment. For any community-owned or run project, they also have a Community Tourism Information sheet for travellers to help explain how to get the best from the experience, and what to expect (good and bad). For trekkers, the company have a Porter Policy in place, a copy of which is given to clients. They are also have a Responsible Wildlife Viewing guide too. For anything more specific, e.g. rules about visiting gorillas, this information is also given to clients. In addition, they offer more information about the native people and cultures in a destination country, which all adds to a traveller being more aware.

The company works with partners on the ground in each destination, and only uses local guides. They also primarily promote locally-owned services (hotels etc). They have eco-rated about 300 properties worldwide which they work with closely, so they are very clear which accommodations have good environmental and social responsibility credentials. This information is used to ensure that any traveller wanting to ensure they are really making a difference, can choose between one property and another on eco-issues.

They also promote community-owned projects and services where applicable and possible. Indeed, they were instrumental in setting up two community-owned ventures in Tanzania and Peru.

The company backs a charity with funds and administration. This is a registered UK charity whose principle aim is to relieve the poverty of indigenous communities in areas outside of the UK which are affected by tourism. The charity backs poverty alleviation, education, cultural preservation and conservation projects within these regions. It has backed schools, clinics, micro-business projects and more. It is a charity we encourage our travellers to donate to if they would like to give something back.

Climate

1 Reviews of Baobabs, beaches & Lemurs holiday in Madagascar

4 out of 5 stars
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Reviewed on 12 Dec 2019 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


The most memorable (positive) was to see the wildlife - lemurs, birds, chameleons etc etc in the parks and reserves. The tour guides were excellent and very informative, and in most cases were the local guides at each location. The most memorable (negative) was the abject poverty across most of the country, the severe depredation of the environment and the awareness that
much of the wildlife that we saw was endangered or on the verge of extinction.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


This trip requires a huge amount of road travel (over several days this was between 6 and 10 hours). The roads are terrible so you need to be in a very good 4x4 vehicle (as we were) with a/c and a driver who can make progress as quickly and smoothly as possible. Also, for much of the trip you are a long way away from any medical facilities or shops of any sort so make sure that you
have whatever supplies you need. The hotels we used were good to very good and the food satisfactory - mostly fairly bland and westernised. The water is not drinkable, so be prepared for at least one bout of 'holiday tummy'! Downtown Tana is not safe (or particularly attractive), epitomised by being provided with a security man armed with a taser to escort us to and from a restaurant only 200m from the hotel. Also we suffered a theft in the market on our first day - not a pleasant introduction to the country.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


To a limited extent. The hotels and reserves provide employment for small numbers of people (given the very low literacy levels in the country these jobs go to the better educated). More importantly, tourism is the industry that brings in most cash to the economy and the need to develop tourism requires considerable emphasis on environmental issues and preserving the lemurs (e.g. it is now illegal to hunt lemurs and eat them - and this seems to be enforced reasonably effectively). Continuing to attract foreign visitors is essential to any development in the country and, in particular, to ongoing conservation. However, current numbers are tiny - only 300,000 visitors a year for a country the size of France.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


It was both amazing and shocking. The service by the local travel company was excellent, and we saw a great deal of what we went to see. The shocking part was the poverty and the realisation that things are getting worse rather than improving, not least because of ubiquitous corruption.

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