Ruth Erasmus one of our knowledgeable Senior Travel Consultants recently accompanied a group of nine travel agents from Australia on a familiarisation trip to Madagascar last month. On her return, she shares with us her wonderful experience in Madagascar, the friendships and connections she made with the travelling agents and the reasons why embarking on a “Madagascar Familiarisation Trip” is a great idea.
“In the travel industry we all know the best way to improve our knowledge of a destination and our service to our clients interested in visiting it, is to travel there ourselves. There is no better education than to experience a place and its people first hand. And let’s be honest, the reason most of us work in travel is because we love to travel, and it gives us a sense of satisfaction to enable others to enjoy, experience and explore our magnificent planet.
With this in mind I recently accompanied a group of nine travel agents from Australia on a familiarisation trip to Madagascar. As Madagascar is a large and diverse country it would take a long time to experience it all. We had one week to enjoy the highlights of the south and central highlands – a trip we call 1000 Views of Madagascar; a trip that encompasses a good dose of culture along with a couple of beautiful national parks, some rainforests and some bizarre wildlife. Our one week “highlights package” had us up early every morning, with plenty of time on the road, in order to experience something new each day. Andasibe and Ranomafana, two of the eastern rainforests had us hiking to find lemurs of various descriptions, such as the largest lemur Indri indri, which can be found only in the area of Andasibe. Watching these animals, and especially listening to their loud and eerie whale like calls is a magical experience, allowing a deeper spiritual connection to the natural world, which so often escapes us city dwelling, office working individuals.
Though we had expected to encounter strange plant & animal life in the wild places of Madagascar, and seeing the lemurs and chameleons up close was a real “bucket list” opportunity for me and the agents, for most of us the real surprise of the trip came in a far more human form…”
The people of Madagascar, we discovered, are very hospitable and friendly. We were met with warmth and smiles wherever we went. They are incredibly innovative and nothing, it appears, goes to waste. We visited many small home-industries along the route. From a workshop making small decorative bicycles and cars out of recycled metal, to embroidery studios, wood carving and horn crafting workshops, wild silk weaving and paper making ‘factories’ and aluminium foundries reminiscent of the iron age, there was innovation wherever we looked; people making do with whatever resources were available to them, and making some pretty impressive and very much commercially viable products to boot.
We were touched and inspired with each day’s new experiences and the people we met. As a result our one week in Madagascar will last a lifetime in our memories, and an eternity in our hearts. I think each one of us will look for our next opportunity to return to this unique country and we will recommend it to anyone looking for more than just another holiday, but a real travel experience; one that has opened our eyes and minds to our world. And we can do just that, because we have been there, because we have seen and experienced, and because our lives have been made richer for the encounter we have had with Madagascar.
One cannot truly explain or sell this remarkable place to anyone without having travelled there and first experienced it for oneself.