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Travel in Madagascar: strange wildlife and stunning landscapes

Rhett A. Butler on the Masoala Peninsula in Madagascar in October 2012></img><br></br><i>Rhett A. Butler on the Masoala Peninsula in Madagascar in October 2012</i><br></br>
<p>The promise of lemurs, lizards, and a bouquet of biodiversity brought founder Rhett Butler to Madagascar sixteen years ago. He was not disappointed by what he found and was inspired to return, many times to experience the wildlife, landscapes, and people of the dynamic island. In 2004, Rhett founded <a href=></a>, a site that highlights the spectacular cultural and biological richness of Madagascar and reports on environmental news for the Indian Ocean island nation.<br></br>
Rhett’s most recent adventure to Madagascar, in October of 2012, yielded <a href=>a spectacular collection of photographs</a> that can be accessed on<br></br>
Rhett spoke with Liz Kimbrough about his 2012 excursion, the changing island, and what keeps him coming back for more.<br></br>
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Liz Kimbrough: What initially brought you to Madagascar?

Rhett Butler: The wildlife, especially the herps (reptiles and amphibians) and the lemurs. I wasn’t disappointed

Liz Kimbrough: What was the purpose of your recent trip to Madagascar?

Rhett Butler: This was my first trip back to Madagascar since I did some in-depth reporting on the illegal rosewood trade. That reporting landed me in a bit of trouble, but things have settled down so I returned for an update on the logging situation. Of course I also took the opportunity to visit some of my favorite places and take lots of pictures.

Liz Kimbrough: Where did you go?

Rhett Butler: I went to pretty standard places this trip. I started in Analamazaotra Special Reserve and Andasibe-Mantadia, which is just a few hours’ drive from the capital city. Then I went to Tamatave on the way to Maroantsetra for a visit to the Masoala Peninsula, which is always stunning. I stopped at Nosy Mangabe and then flew to Majunga in order to see Ankarafantsika National Park for the first time. On the way from Maroantsetra Air Madagascar managed to lose our bags. We wouldn’t see them for another several days — they finally caught up to us in Ankarana. We spent the last night on Nosy Komba before heading home.

Mongabay's Rhett A. Butler

Mongabay’s Rhett Butler

Liz Kimbrough: Did anything unusual or exciting happen?

Rhett Butler: Nothing unusual for Madagascar. Had some great wildlife spotting, including some creatures I hadn’t seen before. This trip was relatively smooth compared to my past visits. Other than the lost bags, things went mostly as planned. Of course, one of the things about nature is you never know exactly what you will encounter. Accordingly, every hike is unique. You see different animals and experience variable conditions. Sure beats 18-hour days on a computer.

Liz Kimbrough: How have you witnessed Madagascar changing since your first visit?

Rhett Butler: Madagascar has changed a lot. The infrastructure has generally improved, with better facilities for tourists and widely available mobile phone networks (great for keeping tabs on email). In some places, it seems that densities of reptiles and amphibians has declined. I don’t know if this is from over collection or something else. English is far more widely spoken than it was during my first visit. Finally people seem generally better off. Despite the political troubles, the country seems to be doing better than it was 15 years ago.

Liz Kimbrough: What advice would you have to someone who wants to visit the country?

Rhett Butler: Travel in Madagascar requires patience. Overcoming adversity you encounter can be well worth it in the end. Remember that a smile goes a long way and the country has a lot to offer.

Liz Kimbrough: What continues to bring you back to Madagascar?

Rhett Butler: The wildlife is amazing. I also have met many great Malagasy. And the landscapes are stunning. I’ll keep going back as long as I am able.

Madagascar picture index | High resolution slideshow | Gallery

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