Edward Tucker Brown may be an unknown name to you (at the moment), but after reading this – we are convinced that you are going to travel to Madagascar, stay at one of his amazing properties just to find out more about his love and passion for Madagascar!
What brought you to Madagascar in the first place?
Edward: Having worked for 6 years in London for 2 big safari companies based in East Africa and travelling all around the area, I decided it was time to explore tourism in a less tourist-filled area. I speak fluent French and so decided to go to a French speaking country, I had an offer from both Gabon and Madagascar and I chose Madagascar, largely because I knew so little about it and knew no one that had ever been there!
What do you love about Madagascar?
Edward: Madagascar is an amazing country, what I love about it is that every few miles you travel the scenery, wildlife, people and culture change and we have 18 distinct ethnic groups each with their own dialect (read language for the Antandroy!). The vastness of the island (which is bigger than France), means that it has wide-open spaces and in general is thinly populated. The people are genuinely warm and happy, always waving laughing and smiling, ready to help out wherever they can. It is an explorers country and there are still many places that rarely see foreigners if you are willing to leave the few beaten tracks that exist here! One of the things that I love the most is seeing the expressions on our guests faces as they see something they have never seen before, from a Leaf Tailed Geko in the Forests of Manafiafy to simple exchanges with villagers collecting water from the Mandrare River for the long trip back to their villages as they have been doing for hundreds of years.
Why did you decide to open up your two camps, Mandrare and Manafiafy?
Edward: After working for a year in Antananarivo as General Manager of a Travel Agency, I felt that what was missing in Madagascar was the East African style of tented camping, right out in the bush and off the few standard tourist routes. My original idea was luxury mobile camping and Mandrare River Camp was my second site, we welcomed our first guests in June 2007 and from there the site became more popular and hence we changed to a permanent camp in 2010. We also opened our lodge in Manafiafy in 2010, the area is spectacularly beautiful and in partnership with a French family that owns the site we set up Manafiafy lodge, again it is really off the beaten track but set in the surrounds of the local fishing community. This gives guests the chance to be right amongst the wildlife and local communities, but also have the levels of comfort that they can get in a good hotel. This is our real ethos, small and intimate and surrounded by the real Madagascar, the same level experience you can get with a backpack walking to remote areas, but with great food, service, guiding and accommodation.
What’s been your biggest challenge working out there?
Edward: Logistics! From the capital to my camp and lodge near Fort Dauphin is a 34-hour drive, so getting in supplies is the real challenge, many things are ordered in Johannesburg, trucked to Durban, shipped to Tamatave, driven 12 hrs to Tana and then another 34 hrs down to the South – meaning it can take weeks to get things that we need! But the upside is that the Malagasy are amazingly dedicated and hard-working people and are always ready to help out and come up with solutions to the problems we face.
And what’s been the most rewarding aspect of it?
Edward: I love showing Madagascar to our guests and seeing them immersed in the experience of the country. We have had guests who have actually been reduced to tears in our school visits, where they see the gratefulness of children, just receiving a pen and notebook which cost a few pennies in the UK but is a major expense to their families in rural Madagascar. Many guests comment on how happy the people are even though by western standards they are amongst the poorest in the world, guests are humbled by their happy simplicity, life is tough but community and family hold it together and people are content with what they have – it is a world away from the hectic lives and busy schedules that occupy the minds of our guest when they are at home.
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