Lemurs are Madagascar ambassadors
THE fossa creatures and the tsingy limestone pinnacles featured in the movie Madagascar are quite real and could well be instrumental in promoting the destination worldwide.
The unusual mongoose like creatures and the odd landscape thrive in the fourth largest island in the world, to which tourists - particularly those in search of an eco adventure - are heading.
Tour operator Boogie Pilgrim runs tailor made tours throughout Madagascar by 4x4 vehicles, on foot, by canoe, catamaran or helicopter, with a focus on nature and eco adventure tourism.
“There’s no real measuring of the impact on touristic arrivals, our statistics are not showing why arrivals are increasing, but in general, we are sure that our destination is more and more popular, so the movie is part of that!” said founder and manager of Boogie Pilgrim, Sonja Ranarivelo.
While the movie and its sequel were spreading the name Madagascar all around the world for free, said Ranarivelo, tourists had to be aware of the many misconceptions that arose as a result of it.
“Landscapes shown in the first movie were imaginary and not corresponding to any real place of Madagascar, and contrary to indications in the film, it has a 19 million population, there are no giraffes, no lions and no penguins at all!” she said.
“Lemurs are our best ambassadors: they are inoffensive, cute and unique,” she said, adding that 80 per cent of the country’s flora, 40 per cent of its birds and 98 per cent of its reptiles existing in no other place worldwide.
The country makes a good venue for filming nature based or human and cultural documentaries, and teams from National Geographic, the BBC and French television have all visited in recent years.
There are no direct flights yet from the Middle East to Madagascar. From Nairobi there are two direct flights a week on Kenya Airways; from Johannesburg: five direct flights a week on Air Madagascar and SA Link, or on Emirates to Mauritius connecting with Air Madagascar/ Air Mauritius to Madagascar twice a week.
“We are offering mostly nature based tours for FIT’s or small groups; for people living in the Middle East, Madagascar is a great contrast destination,” said Ranarivelo. “People are friendly, authentic and have a very different culture. Our biodiversity has made a worldwide hotspot of Madagascar, any plant or animal you’ll see here is unique.”