Hi. I've just come back from a trip in S.America and this is my first thought on my next trip.
I would like to go to Madagascar. The last few years I've taken a massive interest in ecology and evolution. I understand the Galapagos Archipelago would be great regarding these interests however I would rather see the more in your face creations of evolution, ie, rather than looking at the size of beaks on finches in the Galapagos, see the weird and wonderful Lemurs of Madagascar and the generally more mind boggling array of dazzling endemic species.
Has anyone got any info I could do with to start off before my research?
And if anyone could tell me of their experiences, that would be really great, thanks.
[ Edit: Edited on 04-Apr-2011, at 13:12 by si403 ]
Cost is probably the first factor to consider. Visiting the Galapagos is a more expensive proposition than visiting Madagascar. You're probably looking at (well) over $1000 return to reach Quito from the UK, then ~$400 for the return flight from Quito to the Galapagos, ~$100 for the National Park entry fee, anywhere from ~$1000 to ~$4500 for a boat cruise (the only decent way to see the islands) depending on itinerary/comfort level/quality of guide, plus tips/snorkel hire/etc.
Madagascar is cheap to travel in, but getting there is expensive. You're looking at at least $1000 return from Europe. Even from Africa (I think flights only go from Nairobi and Joburg) it's hardly cheap - I paid over $700 return from Joburg to Tana when I visited in 2009.
The two experiences are quite different, though. It's difficult to see much of the Galapagos unless you're part of a boat cruise, meaning you are subject to the cruise's itinerary, so you can't just do your own thing. In Madagascar, you can simply hire a guide and then the rest is up to you - the length of time you spend in a park, the wildlife you concentrate on finding, etc. The Galapagos is heavily regulated (though some would argue not heavily enough ...) and it feels like it - Madagascar much less so (though this isn't necessarily a positive either ...)
Distances are long in Madagascar and public transport is slow - you'll be lucky if you get a taxi-brousse (local minibus) averaging more than 40km/h. Expect long waits while the taxi-brousse fills up with passengers. Fortunately comfort is not as bad as in, say, Ethiopia or Mozambique.
The wildlife experience is also quite different. The thing that strikes any visitor to the Galapagos is just how unafraid the wildlife is. You can literally fall over creatures if you aren't paying attention. This is of course due to the wildlife not having developed a fear of being hunted by humans. This lack of fear is not at all evident in Madagascar, as the animals there were hunted for hundreds of years.
Both places are fascinating. I'm not a big birder, so the lemurs/chameleons/frogs of Madagascar held most appeal for me from a wildlife point of view. There's little in the way of human history in the Galapagos, whereas the story of Madagascar's colonisation by man is plenty strange. The Madagascan landscape is also astoundingly varied.
I blogged my trips to both places but on another site (!) - I can send you the link if you're interested.
Hi and thankyou that information was excellent, just the sort of thing I was looking for. I would love to read your blogs if you can PM the links that would be brilliant, thanks.