Island of Time – 8 Days
Madagascar is a land like no other. The fourth largest island in the world also happens to be the oldest. Over 167 million years ago Madagascar was a land-locked plateau in the middle of Gondwana, the mega landmass from which all the world’s continents eventually broke away. Originally splitting away from the African continent still attached to India, Madagascar broke from the India subcontinent 65 million years ago to become the first island.
With more time in isolation than any other land mass on earth, Madagascar evolved over 200,000 unique species of plants and animals including 8 entire plant families, over 1,000 species of orchids, 350 species of frogs, 370 reptiles, 5 families of birds and approximately 200 mammal species unique in the world. There is simply no other place like it.
The island’s lemurs scientifically referred to as “prosimians” (before monkeys), represent an entire branch of our human evolutionary tree that survived nowhere else but here. They probably arrived as stowaways on floating rafts of vegetation from mainland Africa at a time monkeys were evolving to replace them. Today, Madagascar’s lemurs represent nearly half of all primate species on earth. The first humans did not arrive on the island until a mere 2,000-years ago, but their impact on the land has been much more massive.
This extraordinary journey takes students well off the beaten path to Madagascar’s largest and richest rainforests. The Masoala (literally “eyes of the forest”) peninsula supports 12 species of lemurs and many other endemic forest species. Coral reefs fringing the peninsula are pristine and support many species of sea turtles. Off shore bottle nosed porpoise, spinner dolphins and humpbacked whales breed in the surrounding waters.
Students on this trip will cruise up remote rivers by launch and dugout canoes visiting hidden villages. They will experience one of the world’s richest forests on day treks and night walks, snorkel over coral reefs and explore remote islands, secret lagoons and estuaries in search of Madagascar’s extraordinary natural treasures.
Service projects will include planting seeds in a nursery and trees in the forest that bear fruits favored by endangered animals, cleaning sea turtle nesting beaches and providing school supplies to poor village schools. Madagascar is one of the poorest countries on earth with 90% of the population living on less than US$2/day, yet the Malagasy are some of the happiest and heart warming people you can ever hope to meet.