Madagascar RAP: Antananarivo

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. Below, he explores Antananarivo while making last-minute preparations for the expedition.

Antananarivo–the City of a Thousand–was founded in 1625 by King Andrianjaka, who assigned a thousand men to guard it. Spread across the summit and slopes of a long and narrow rocky ridge, at about 1,275 meters (4,183 feet) above sea level, it is Madagascar’s largest city and economic center. Through the centuries and under the French protectorate, the city has accumulated a mixture of wood, brick and more elaborate European-style structures, including the royal palaces, with beautiful porches and flower gardens.

The sun is already high when we wake up and head out into the city, and there is much to do.

While Keith is off taking photos and unraveling some of Antananarivo’s mysteries, I join Ando Rabearisoa, the CI-Madagascar marine coordinator who is leading the RAP, to work out a few last-minute details of the project, finalizing our itinerary and tracking down equipment.

As we walk through the city, we explore some of the markets and fruit stands along the road. We drive on busy roads where cars stop to let cows cross, children play and women wash clothes on the banks of the Ikopa River, which skirts the capital to the south and west.

Soon we head back to the airport, hoping our luggage has arrived–there’s no way to track luggage here, so you have to go to the airport every day until it hopefully shows up. On the way, we stop at a small street stand for our first Malagasy pizza experience. The menu is in Italian, so I feel at home. People wave and smile, stop and ask us where we are from.

The bags have arrived! We head back towards the CI office, but make many stops to photograph the rice fields. Tomorrow we are off to the northeastern town of Diego-Suarez, where we will meet the boat that will be our home for the next three weeks.

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