Island Travel: April 2008 Archives
Duane, our executive director, and I will be taking a group of donors on a Seacology expedition to Madagascar in a couple of weeks. We're going to check in on three of our conservation projects: two in the central highlands and one in the far south. We're only there for one week, but it will be a week of wild travel from the High Plateau to the East to the Southern Dry Forest (see map at right). We'll visit two preserves, an orchid mountain and several villages that are safeguarding the Madagascar flying fox.
Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world, and I imagine it seems like a small continent when you're on it. To put it in perspective, if you've ever been to England, it doesn't really seem like an island when you visit. It feels like another charming European country, and the distances between its cities are long. Well, England is 95,000 square miles in total compared to Madagascar's 227,000 square miles, or roughly two and a half times the size of England.
In my last entry I talked about how important it is for many of the communities Seacology works with to create a community center or public building in exchange for the decision to establish a conservation area. In these cases, when the building is finished, an opening ceremony is held at the center followed by a celebration and shared meal. If Seacology expedition participants are able to attend one of these ceremonies during a Seacology trip, they often describe it as an incredibly significant and moving event.
Going back in time from this opening ceremony to when the project began we can understand how such an event can be so moving. Over the course of the previous year or more community members were discussing the project, thinking over the details, drawing plans, meeting with officials, and volunteering their own labor to make sure the construction and conservation process would result in a useful and successful change for their own generation and the next.