Hilary Bradt Receives Malagasy Award during Rainbow 2018 Group Tour
Guide book guru Hilary Bradt awarded the Malagasy equivalent of an OBE at the end of her 2018 Madagascar tour with us
Our October 2018 annual Madagascar Wildlife Extravaganza Tour with Daniel Austin was remarkable in many ways. This particular group had the privilege of being led by a rare and special triumvirate: Hilary Bradt, founder of Bradt Guides and lifelong adventurer, along with respected Madagascar wildlife expert Daniel Austin and ace Malagasy guide Harry Rakotosalama.
Our group delved into the rainforests of Madagascar and met the charismatic Indri, critically endangered Diademed sifaka and saw the likes of the bizarre Henkel’s and Mossy leaf-tailed geckos, which look like toy dinosaurs. They met resident communities and visited the recently created Andrafiamena Andavakoera Protected Area, where they searched for the incredibly rare and enigmatic Perrier’s black sifaka.
There are now less than 250 breeding adult Perrier's black sifaka left in the world. Seek them out in the Andrafiamena Andavakoera Protected Area. © Daniel Austin
You wouldn’t think anything more exciting could happen, but at Ifaty Beach at the bizarre ‘Spiny Bush’, Daniel's phone rang. It was a call for Hilary from His Excellency Phil Boyle, Her Majesty's Ambassador to Madagascar, who was due to attend the group's final dinner. Hilary left the group to chat to him, and after exchanging pleasantries, he announced the wonderful news: Hilary had been selected by the Malagasy presidency to receive the rare and prestigious Officier de l’Ordre National de Madagascar. This award is the Malagasy equivalent of an OBE, and Hilary is only the third Brit ever to have been awarded with such an honour—the other two being Princess Anne and Sir David Attenborough!
Hilary headed back to the group only to find that Daniel had thoughtfully conjured up champagne glasses and a bottle of bubbly to celebrate, and the group burst into a well-earned round of applause.
Hilary thoroughly deserves this award. Over the last four decades, she has worked tirelessly, bringing her knowledge, compassion, boundless enthusiasm and drive in service of tourism to Madagascar through her writing, tour leading, charity work and her many other efforts. She has befriended numerous Malagasy people and has advocated for the protection of remote groups of resident people, continuously championing Madagascar as an incredible travel destination for those into offbeat, light adventure. Rainbow Tours, which has enjoyed an 18- year working relationship with Hilary, prizes these values highly, so for us – and for our Malagasy partners – it was a tremendous honour that the news of her award came during the last day of this tour.
Still going strong: Hilary navigates the tsingy formations in Ankarana National Park. © Daniel Austin
Leaving the tour a day early, Hilary was spirited off to the Palais d’Etat d’Ambohitsorohitra in Antananrivo in the British Embassy flag vehicle for her audience with the acting president, His Excellency Rivo Rakotovao. She entered the building accompanied by both Ambassador Phil Boyle and our Malagasy partner Nivo Ravelojaona, who has also dedicated her life to carefully managed Anglophone tourism in Madagascar.
In a splendid reception room packed with press, she met the acting president. For ten minutes, he thanked her for her exemplary work and efforts for Madagascar. Upon leaving the building, she was flanked by a ceremonial guard of honour, their swords lifted in salute above her head.
Hilary Bradt poses for a photo after meeting acting president His Excellency Rivo Rakotovao. Hilary Bradt (second from left) at the awards photoshoot. British Ambassador Phil Boyle is on the left and Nivo Ravelojaona second from right.
Those thanks are echoed by everyone here at Rainbow Tours. Both our passion for Madagascar and determination to offer responsible, high quality holidays that really get travellers not just to see, but to understand, this multifaceted island have been boosted by Hilary’s peerless efforts in service of Madagascar tourism.
So thank you Hilary, for having inspired so many to seek the weird and wonderful ‘small-scale marvels’ which await travellers to this endlessly beguiling country.
The group enjoyed a ride in traditional pirogues. © Daniel Austin