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Journey to the centre of BV

by Jo Hudson, Conservation & Research Assistant, UK

I left London very early on a cold and damp morning towards the end of April – both excited and a little apprehensive of what was to come. Having worked with BV for a year and a half, it was now high time that I got to see firsthand all the pioneering work that we do – so I was off to Madagascar! Excited because I was going to one of the most alluring places in the world for a conservationist, apprehensive because I was now about to the meet people I had spent a long time working with remotely – and also because it was going to be a long journey.

Leaving the somewhat chaotic streets of Toliara

Leaving the somewhat chaotic streets of Toliara

17 hours after I left my flat in north London, I was in the capital city of Antananarivo. Not for long though, as 6 hours later I was catching another flight down to Toliara – our logistical base in Madagascar. It was time to meet the Toliara team! Of course everyone was lovely, and apart from the few people I had met in London, most were new (but not unfamiliar) faces. In typical fashion there was a power cut at the office so there was time to get to know the staff better – and to find out more about what they were working on.

Zebu browsing in a field

Zebu browsing in a field

After a pleasant evening spent in the company of Taylor (Communications Officer) and Brian (Conservation Coordinator), it was time for another long journey, this time to our main project site in Andavadoaka – about 200km north of Toliara. I was joined by Rado (Terrestrial & Fisheries Scientist), who proceeded to (miraculously) fall asleep on the 8 hour drive. For me sleep was impossible because a) it was quite bumpy (the road is 90% sand), b) it was very hot, and c) most importantly I was fascinated by the world outside my dusty window. Having come from the end of a long, cold British winter, watching the glaring sun-drenched landscape whirl past was a marvel; from zebu (horned, humped cattle such as you might see in India) to sand dunes to fat baobabs to the first glimpse of the turquoise ocean. I even managed to take some photos, which was an achievement considering how much the car was moving.

That first sighting of azure water was magic

That first sighting of azure water was magic

After what seemed like a very long time, we started to pass through villages I knew the names of, and once we passed through Befandefa, I knew we couldn’t be far from our destination. Andavadoaka was both familiar and alien to me, having been looking at site photos for a long time but never been to the place myself – I would suddenly glance on a beach scene, or the Club Aloalo hut, and have a sense of déjà-vu.

Soon we were pulling into Coco Beach, our base in the area, and being greeted by the expeditions staff who were a lot more tanned than I remember from their briefings in London. After being deposited in my hut, I went down to the bar, joined the staff and volunteers, and watched the sunset. A far cry from the busy streets of London, but I couldn’t wait to get stuck in with BV work in situ. Tonga soa!

The majestic baobab, the iconic tree of Madagascar

The majestic baobab, the iconic tree of Madagascar

Up next from Jo’s time in Madagascar: Treasure Island…

Jo Hudson

About Jo Hudson

Jo helps to coordinate and support BV's conservation programmes, as well as managing communications across the organisation. She also coordinates Blue Ventures' Independent Research programme and helps to run the community based aquaculture regional network.Outside of BV Jo enjoys cooking, photography, being outdoors as much as possible and seeing as much of the world as she can while partaking in adrenaline fuelled activities.