OnSafari: Islands Summary

OnSafari: Islands Summary

Islandsof IOThe islands of the Indian Ocean have a combined biomass so different from the rest of Africa that traveling through them is incredibly exciting and illuminating.

But this 25-day trip is not for many of my clients, however they may claim to love Africa.

Island ecology provides the clearest explanations for evolution, obviously not limited just to the islands of Africa. But knowing what my clients and I do about Africa, it illustrates for us in particular the wonders of evolution, much less providing such incredibly new and often surprising experiences. It is those light-bulb flashes of insight that so satisfy the intellect.

But that requires a level of curiosity and intellect more commonly associated with at least semi-serious research than holiday-making. The avid birder, the serious geology hobbyist, a detailed lover of primatology – no question they would go ape over every one of these 25 days.

(I’m limiting this blog to the natural history of the area, but the politics and history carve many similar exciting parallels in social evolution.)

See my previous blogs for more detail about everywhere we’ve been, but here’s a summary:

No better example probably in the world of the loss of a healthy biomass to development. So you can look at this in two completely different ways: first, Mother Earth has been trashed; or two, an impoverished society has been lifted out of poverty.

These incredibly opposite viewpoints provoke an acrid debate: man or trees? Also, are these two viewpoints the ultimate contest that all the world must face? Or is this unique to Mauritius, to islands?

In my opinion it isn’t unique to Mauritius, to islands. Islands simply accelerate everything: evolution, development or poverty. So you can understand how exciting it is to experience this first-hand, to see the tireless work of so many people in the tiny Ile aux Aigrettes to retain a tiny, tiny bit of natural ecology in this already tiny island otherwise mowed over for high-rise banks.

(If you go to Mauritius, take the time to go to Rodrigues. This is a Robinson Crusoe Island simply fun to stand on.)

Because this strikingly beautiful island had no good ports until more modern technology developed, it was basically unwanted for centuries except by pirates. That has retained a richer, more divergent biomass than most islands have, today.

Much of it hangs precariously in the balance, but it is still hanging! The only reason is because of the fiercely difficult terrain. You can’t build a bank on a mountain spear.

Reunion is also different from all the rest because it is not an independent country, but a part of France. The state of social services that provide a level of everyday comfort to the citizens and tourists not available on other islands provokes sensitive questions about the western world’s empires.

… is the odd man out. Much less developed, much poorer, much less organized and wholly unreliable, doing anything in Madagascar much less vacationing there is a challenge far greater than on the other islands.

That being said, it is a wondrous place. It is more different from the rest of the world than anywhere else I know. Walking through many of its forests is like walking into an unreal, alien or virtual reality. Yes, people come for the lemurs, but few realize lemurs is a group of more than 100 very different animals, creating an array of life that is explosively amazing.

As I often tell my clients, the Seychelles is not worth visiting as a principal destination. We ended here, because it is the perfect anecdote to the rugged touring of Madagascar.

The forests of the coco de mer palm and healthy but critically rare birds like the black parrot are compelling attractions that draw me. But I know what most clients will remember is the resort we stayed at, truly an exceptional experience. There are also many beautiful beaches. But both are available in many, many other places in the world.

The entire 25 days was a challenge, yet at the same time often rewarded by some of the most beautiful scenery and most luxurious accommodations on earth. The contrast between a difficult day in Madagascar and our final days lazing on the soft white sand of Anze Lazio in the Seychelles just can’t be overstated.

Balance was achieved; I’m satisfied and I think my clients are, too. But frankly I’m really itching to get into the African bush that has been so much a part of my life: I’ll be there next week! Stay tuned!