The northern coast of Madagascar is known for its richness in marine biodiversity, yet its northeastern side is still relatively unexplored. In order to collect biodiversity data and identify priority sites for conservation, CI-Madagascar has organized a Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) survey of the region. As part of an international team of marine scientists, CI’s Marine Climate Change Manager – and seagrass expert – Dr. Giuseppe Di Carlo will spend the next three weeks exploring ecosystems, documenting species – and reporting back to us about what the team has found. Read about the first leg of his journey here.
It’s five a.m. when I leave a still sleepy DC, the roads wet from the night’s rain. Two hours later I meet Keith Ellenbogen, the photographer who will be documenting the expedition, at JFK airport.
Between the two of us, we have five cases full of dive and computer gear, camera equipment, underwater video setups and a lot of bags to collect samples, fish, algae and small invertebrates–perhaps even new species. We quickly make a name for ourselves at the check-in counter, as not only are all our cases overweight, but exceed the maximum allowed. So we start shuffling equipment in front of a small crowd of curious passengers.
But finally we board our plane that will take us all the way to Johannesburg and then to Antananarivo (Tana), the capital of Madagascar. It will be my first visit to the country. The journey begins.
We set foot on Madagascar at midday under a very hot sun. It’s 85 degrees out. After getting through customs, we discover that none of our luggage has arrived. Will it get here on time? We are scheduled to leave for the RAP on the 25th. Keith is freaking out as all his expensive camera and video assemblages are lost somewhere between New York and here! But we try not to think about it and head to the CI office to meet with the staff.
In the evening, almost fully consumed by jetlag, we watch the sunset from the highest point in Tana Andohalo and look over this beautiful town that lies across 12 hills and is surrounded by rice fields, populated by more than 2 million people out of the 20 million who inhabit all of Madagascar.