Insiders

Madagascar Insider: Safari Guide and Environmentalist Lee Fuller on Conservation

Safari guide and Madagascar environmentalist Lee Fuller is passionate about exploring otherworldly ecosystems—and preserving them.

Originally from South Africa, Lee began his career with the luxury safari company Singita and has worked in bush and rainforest habitats across Southern and East Africa (including the Indian Ocean islands) for two decades. An aficionado of all things outdoor adventure (he also specializes in mountain biking, fishing and hiking), Lee discovered the magic of Madagascar and his love of sharing it with others. He has guided numerous nature-focused trips throughout the island, and prior to the pandemic, spent part of each year living on Nosy Komba. “Naturalists will marvel at the endemic fauna and flora, most of which is found nowhere else on earth,” Lee explains. “The people of Madagascar have a fascinating history and are culturally rich beyond imagination.” Plus, “the beaches are magnificent.”

Just off the southeastern coast of Africa, Madagascar is the fourth largest island on the planet and is home to the world’s greatest concentration of unique species. Famous for its lively lemurs, Madagascar is full of fascinating inhabitants and ecosystems (including chameleons, baobab groves and vibrant coral reefs). It is one of the few remaining frontiers for developing life on Earth—and as the environment is increasingly threatened, visiting Madagascar can perform a meaningful role in its survival. Here, Lee talks conservation, what visitors to the island can expect and why it’s crucial to visit.

Lee will lead an intimate expedition to Madagascar for an Indagare Insider Journey, taking place November 4 – 13, 2023. Click here to learn more about the trip and sign up, or email insiderjourneys@indagare.com.

How has travel—throughout Madagascar and to other destinations—inspired and informed your work as an environmentalist and entrepreneur?

Lee Fuller:

“I think that education is the key to saving our wild places. Travel is the best way to educate. We need to experience it firsthand, immerse ourselves, to fully understand. Travel has taught me so many life skills, it has humbled me, it has made me appreciate what I have more and it has filled my days with incredible treasured memories.”

You have been leading groups of travelers on curated safaris since 2010. What is it like to share your passions with an intimate group of travelers?

LF:

“It’s a treat to travel with enthusiastic guests, many of whom have been keen on a particular destination for years. The trips are realizations of dreams, some destinations have been on bucket lists for ages. It’s such a privilege to realize these dreams for guests.”

Our Insider Journey to Madagascar takes place this November, and we are so excited. Why is November such a great month to visit Madagascar?

LF:

“It’s a great month as many of lemurs are having youngsters. It’s also spring, and the transition seasons I find are the most interesting—there is always more going on in nature during these times of year.”

What experiences are you most excited for on the upcoming Insider Journey?

LF:

“There are so many highlights—the wildlife, the people and culture and the variety of habitats (rainforest, spiny forest, dry, deciduous forest). These all blend together into a fascinating journey. Most guests are excited to see and spend time with the lemurs. This family of primates are 100 percent endemic to the island, occurring nowhere else on earth. We’ll meet interesting people on the trip, people who are making an impact at the coal face, people whose lives are dedicated to a cause. This always humbles me.”

What specific obstacles towards conservation exist in Madagascar today, and how does this Insider Journey seek to address them?

LF:

“80 percent of all flora and fauna found on the island is endemic to Madagascar. If we lose it there, it’s gone forever. We need to protect the natural habitats, to ensure the longevity of these unique plants and animals. The challenges on the island are are not unique to Madagascar. The obstacles facing Madagascar are similar to the obstacles facing the rest of Africa, and the rest of the world. Managing people and wild areas goes hand in hand—and looking after communities and wildlife should be done concurrently. There is a great combination of some of the biggest conservation NGOs and small local projects that are contributing positively. We are aiming to create a genuine awareness to the challenges, and to contribute directly to ensuring the continued operation of the local NGOs.”

Participation on this Insider Journey includes a donation to the Mitsinjo conservation initiative. Can you tell us more about the initiative and its impact?

LF:

“It’s a very special initiative run by the local villagers around Andasibe, included in our trip. Mitsinjo works together with NGOs and communities to bring about positive change in the area. They are involved in conservation, community, research and tourism. One of the most visible projects is re-foresting a secondary forest—a forest that has been utilized and degraded. It is where we will conduct our night walks whilst visiting Andasibe.”

Do you have any upcoming projects you are working on that you are excited about?

LF:

“We are planning an Insider Journey to Zambia—another of my favorite countries—which has similar goals and ideals of this trip to Madagascar. I am also involved in rewilding parts of South Africa, creating corridors between all the protected areas and introducing tourism and conservation to create an economy based on travelers and locals, and the wildlife, all benefitting.”

Lightning Round

What is your favorite wildlife to spot while exploring Madagascar? LF:

"The spiny forest of southern Madagascar, the most otherworldly place on this planet."

Do you have any travel rituals?

LF: "Try and brush up on some French (for Madagascar). In general, I always try and learn a few local words before a trip."

Must-have items in your carry-on for a trip to Madagascar?

LF: "Camera and binoculars, head lamp (for the night walks) and some patience! It’s a relaxed combination of island life and the slow pace of Africa, and since it was once a French colony, things change—expect the changes, embrace them and enjoy the ride."

Do you have a favorite recent travel memory or discovery—anywhere in the world?

LF: "I loved spending time in the South Luangwa National Park in Zambia at the end of last year and the beginning of this year. It was a time considered out of season, but I saw such amazing animals (and fewer fellow travelers!)."

How would you describe your current “travel outlook” or philosophy?

LF: "Go, go there now. Not because it will be too late in five or 10 years time, but because the best time to make an impact is NOW! The best time to have planted a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time to plant a tree is today!"

Join Lee in Madagascar...

Lee will lead an intimate expedition to Madagascar on an Indagare Insider Journey, taking place November 4 – 13, 2023. Click here to learn more about the trip and sign up, or email insiderjourneys@indagare.com.About the itinerary:

Just off the southeastern coast of Africa, Madagascar is home to diverse ecosystems—including lush tropical rainforests, baobab groves and vibrant coral reefs—that support the world’s greatest concentration of unique species: over 80 percent of the biodiversity in Madagascar is found nowhere else on Earth. Famous for its lively, adorable lemurs, the island is also occupied by other fascinating inhabitants like chameleons and flying foxes—and new species are constantly being discovered. Many of these creatures are critically endangered, making Madagascar the only and, perhaps, last place to see them in the wild. This precious island is one of the few remaining frontiers for developing life on Earth—and as the environment is increasingly threatened, we believe that travel to places like Madagascar can perform a meaningful role in their survival. See this wondrous place for yourself—and help protect it—this November, with celebrated naturalist guide and Madagascar environmentalist Lee Fuller.

Contact Indagare or email your Trip Designer for assistance planning a trip to Madagascar.

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