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