London, United Kingdom, June 28, 2012 --(PR.com
)-- The multi-national group, led by professional explorer Captain Levison Wood, a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, departed for the famous African Island on 8th May after several months of preparation and completed the 370km trek in only eighteen days.
“It was a unique opportunity to see Madagascar from a beetle-eye view,” said Wood, 30. “There were no paths for a lot of the way and we had to hack through the jungle for days at a time. On some days we crossed twenty or thirty rivers and our feet were constantly wet. Several of the group contracted leishmaniasis and everyone had terrible blisters, but it was worthwhile in the end.”
As the initial thirteen man team set off from Sambava on the east coast to Ankify on the west, the team had to contend with crocodile infested rivers, giant golden orb spiders and blood sucking leeches. Only four team members completed the expedition.
Madagascar is the world’s fourth largest island and although it used to attract thousands of tourists each year, in recent times it has suffered a bad press due to violent civil unrest in 2009 and an unabated deforestation of the original rainforest.
“Madagascar is famous for its endemic wildlife” said Captain Wood, “most notably its Lemur population, but that is under severe threat as the forest is cleared for unsustainable farming. By walking across the island we hope to show the world that Madagascar is a beautiful place to visit but also highlight that is also in danger of being devastated by human interference. In three weeks we only saw four groups of Lemur. They are shy creatures so it comes as no surprise, but we expected more.”
Despite raised awareness as a result of recent media exposure- including the acclaimed BBC’s Madagascar series, featuring Sir David Attenborough, the Island is struggling to encourage protection of its natural environment. “Almost ninety per cent of the original forest has been destroyed,” said Jim Demuth- the expedition cameraman.
The 370 km, three week challenge was dreamt up by Wood back in 2010, when he founded the pioneering expedition company Secret Compass, which aims to promote awareness through exploration and has taken team members to remote areas such as Iraq, Afghanistan South Sudan.
“It was extremely hard work,” says Wood. “Trekking up to 30 kilometres per day through Jungle, across rocky plateaus and following remote rivers. Many of the indigenous tribes had had very little contact with outsiders and some of the villages had never seen a white face- the last foreigners were the French army in 1947.”
The team also climbed Mt. Maromokotra- Madagascar’s highest peak, at 2876m. “The mountain was bleak- a bit like the Scottish Highlands, or the Brecon Beacons in Wales,” said Ali Wilde, expedition assistant. “But it is an extremely remote mountain which hasn’t been climbed very much at all and so was a real privilege to get to the summit.”
The expedition finished in spectacular style. Capt. Wood; Kate Page- the expedition doctor; Ali Wilde, Xavier Aubut and their local guide Max had to run 93 km (55 miles) on the last day.
“We had to wear sandals” said Xavier, 29, a French Canadian from Montreal “because our feet were too swollen to fit in boots. It took 18 hours and was probably the hardest thing I have ever done. But I can proudly say that I was in the first expedition to successfully complete the Madagascar coast to coast.”
Editors note: To read one of the team members' blogs on the expedition please visit www.secretcompass.com. The expedition outfitters are currently taking applications for their 2013 adventures.