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Rough Itinerary Madagascar, Fall 2017

Photo by Micah LeMasters - 2016

Dear Fall Madagascar Students,

We are writing today to share with you a tentative itinerary and revisit some of the main components of our trip that determine the nature of our time together.

In designing the fall Madagascar course, one of our most important considerations is the idea of progression. Our course will have three general phases: the first is Preparation/Skill Acquisition Phase, which is a time to build skills, create group standards and expectations, and set our intentions and goals for the program. Then we move into the Practicing Phase, during which time we continue developing these skill sets, and also encourage the students (you all!) to begin taking more ownership of different aspects of the trip. Our third phase is Expedition and Transference, which shifts responsibility and ownership mostly to the group and individual students, and forces you to rely on your skills, and one another.

The leader team’s design process also works in conversation with Dragons’ Core Values –  Global Citizenship, Awareness of Self, and Leadership– or “GAL” for short. These Core Values are weighed when considering a destination, mode of transport, lesson topic, and many other aspects of the course, from big-picture decisions to little details.

Any good travel plans make room for the unexpected and for the spontaneous. Our itinerary below, therefore, offers an overview of an itinerary which will remain dynamic throughout the course. As our trip progresses, and the goals and intentions of the student group begin to surface and evolve, we will adjust our trip to suit our group’s unique interests and changing needs. In other words, this itinerary will very likely change. We will communicate clearly about changes in the itinerary, but we want you to come prepared for a program itinerary that is, true to Dragons approach, very dynamic. We would encourage you all to begin thinking about your intentions–personal, social, academic, and otherwise–for the trip now, so you can arrive in Antananarivo ready to set goals and share your vision with others.

Week 1: Our program begins in the capital city of Antananarivo where we will spend our first night. Your instructors will meet you at the airport when you arrive on the evening of September 17th. The following day we will take a long walk through the old city before leaving for our orientation site of Ampefy.

Arriving in Ampefy, a quiet highland town a few hours from Antananarivo, we check into a small hotel on the shores of a quiet lake. In Ampefy we will spend several days becoming acquainted with each other, the program, and everyday life in a small Merina town. Here we will also have time and space to set intentions and further explore the framework and expectations of a Dragons program.

Week 2: Leaving Ampefy we will travel south back through the capital city and on toward Ranomafana National Park. Ranomafana is one of the biggest and most pristine national parks in Madagascar. There we will meet with researchers at Valbio Research Facility (an exceptional institution founded by Dr. Patricia Wright, an American researcher) and embark on a three-day hike into the rainforest. While on our hike we will be completing animal surveys for the research center and exploring the beautiful forests in search of lemurs, chameleons and a myriad of other endemic and beautiful species of plants and animals.

Week 3-4: Leaving Ranomafana we will pass through Antsirabe, spending the night in a large town on the southern edge of the plateau region before heading west toward the coastal city of Morondava. We will spend almost two weeks in Morondava, which is a medium sized city situated on the Mozambique Channel. Here students will move into their first homestay families and begin to learn about the lives and culture of the Sakalava Menabe. We will also begin studying the Malagasy language in Morondava. Morondava is home to the famous avenue of Baobabs which we will have the opportunity to visit and walk among the incredible trees that Madagascar is famous for.

Week 5: We will return through Antsirabe and head south to Isalo National Park where we will spend five days hiking through the canyons and grasslands that mark the traditional homelands of the Bara people, who are among the first people to arrive in Madagascar.

Week 6-7: After trekking we will return north to the quiet highland village of Ambatomanga which is about an hour outside of the Antananarivo. Ambatomanga will be the site of our longest homestay (two weeks) and where we will continue learning the Malagasy language while spending time in the rice fields and on the small farms that this region depends on.

During our time in Ambatomanga we will have a number of opportunities to travel into Antananarivo to spend time doing Learning Service projects with several different NGO’s.

Week 8: Leaving the highlands, we travel northwest to the port city of Mahajanga. The city is one of the oldest in Madagascar and has a beautiful board walk that is one of the number one destinations for Malagasy tourists. We spend a few days there exploring the city and the unique cultural traditions that have made the city so important to Madagascar’s history.

Week 9: Leaving Mahajanga we head north to Ambanja and the site of our third homestay which is about 10 miles outside of the town. Antranokarany is a very small, rural, village that is situated in the very center of Madagascar’s cacao growing region. For about a week and a half we will explore the uniqueness of the Sakalava Antankarana culture and learn about cacao and vanilla cultivation while working alongside the local farmers. We will also have the opportunity to volunteer in the local school and spend time teaching lessons and engaging with the young students in the village.

Week 10-11: After our third homestay, we will embark on our student-led Expedition Phase of the program in the northern region(s) of Madagascar. This is a period of the program when students can step-up together to take on some of the leadership roles of the program more fully. The DIANA/SAVA regions of Madagascar hold a large number of incredible places to travel to and discover.

Week 12: Finishing our Expedition Phase, we will return to the highlands and spend a few days during the Transference Phase, wrapping up our course and saying goodbye to each other and to Madagascar.

Looking forward to meeting you on September 17th!

Your Instructor Team,

Micah, Sidonie, and Mohamed