My Travelling Group and the Food We Ate

Birders Birding Mark Smith photo

I found others bedeviled by same fascination with Madagascar. We were fourteen birders who ranged in age from our 40s to 70s and were generally fit and experienced travelers. We included several medical people, one keen botanist, four couples, six women traveling with one or more friends, and one woman whose researcher son had discovered a new endemic plant in the country. Our tour leader and professional guide, Mark Smith, had lead many Madagascar tours for his company, Mark Smith Nature Tours. His remarkable ability to find and identify the birds was balanced with a keen interest in other wildlife and plants., Rivo Rarivosoa, our local guide, was an excellent naturalist who was proficient in English, French, Malagasy and Japanese.

I doubt we did justice to the heaps of rice we were served. Malagasies eat a kilo of rice per day per person. While they would have eaten the meat and vegetables as a side to the rice, we did the opposite. Near the coastal areas, we had delicious seafood, from the charred whole snapper-like fish to shrimp, prawns and mangrove crabs. Zebus provided many tasty meals as well. In the hot desert area where zebus were being used as draft animals, they were gaunt and wiry, but in the rainforest, they were sleek, well fed on the fast growing tropical plants. I suspect those were our meat source. The free range chicken was always tough but flavorful and we ate a good variety of highland vegetables including potatoes, carrots, beans, peas, cauliflower, tomatoes, lettuce and cucumbers. For dessert, we had every restaurant’s version of bananas flambé, and even a pineapple flambé. Occasionally, we were offered fresh tropical fruit, crepes or flan.

The waiters were French trained and after an early breakfast and long day, we were ready for a quick dinner and bed, not a leisurely dinner. Our guides did their best to hasten the service.