Madagascar & Sri Lanka

The Jewels of the Indian Ocean

Madagascar and Sri Lanka: The Perfect Wildlife Trek

There are several reasons to combine a trip to Madagascar and Sri Lanka. Between air travel and proximity, the logistical planning of the trip will be easier than you might expect. However, one thematic characteristic ties these countries together: the abundance of wildlife and the concomitant safari experiences.

 

Sri Lankan safaris offer a range of wildlife—from the abundance of leopards (see pic below) in Yala West (Ruhuna) National Park to the birdwatching and 800-meter drop-off at World’s End. Visitors to Sri Lanka will also have the opportunity to see some of Earth’s most interesting creatures, such as the elusive sloth bear and the Slender Loris. Often just a few hours’ drive from Colombo, Sri Lankan safaris offer some of the most unique wildlife experiences on Earth.

 

 

Madagascar offers similarly exceptional wildlife. The country’s separation from mainland Africa has led to the unique development of flora and fauna. In fact, 5% of all animal and plant species known to man live only in Madagascar—70% of the fauna and 90% of the flora are endemic. A trip to this part of the world is not complete without stopping in one of Madagascar’s several national parks. From the lemurs of Indri (see below), Parc National d’Andasibe to the humpback whales at Ile Sainte Marie, a Madagascar wildlife safari will offer a wide range of land-dwelling and aquatic wildlife you don’t want to miss out on.

 

 

Safaris are a phenomenal way to experience a country’s wildlife and culture. If you’ve already visited Madagascar and Sri Lanka, you have likely already caught the safari bug. Looking for additional safari experiences? In the past, I have suggested that friends tack on an additional country to the Madagascar and Sri Lanka trip. My personal favorites are Tanzania and India. If you want a trip in a different part of the world, this safari company has a very cool range of experiences available. Their guides and planning strategies are some of the best I’ve ever seen.

Rothschild is certainly on the expensive side, as are Micato, Scott Dunn, and Zicasso which round out the top 5 or so every year from sites that rank these things. I mean, for a family, this can be a $50,000 gambit if you are in the market for some of the better ones around. But don’t think this is the only way to see Madagascar or Sri Lanka. Or Africa for that matter. There isn’t a ton of in between. You are either backpacking and roughing it or you have your feet up like a queen. The former just requires a lot of gumption and research and street smarts. The other you just need capital. So first figure out who you are. Then if those names above are still too expensive, shoot me a note and I’ll point you in some proper directions. With the epidemics in Madagascar right now, you likely either need to wait or be willing to go elsewhere and there is just so much elsewhere to go to.

 

Great Customer Experience Will Create Lasting Dominance for This Pet Company

My wife came downstairs this weekend and proclaimed “We are only buying from Chewy from now on.”

We have a one-year-old dog named Russell. Russ. Rusty. Russellmania. I should stop. Rustoleum. Okay that’s it. Russtaurant. I…I need help. He is my wife’s child. I’m still not willing to admit that publicly, but I have grown accustomed to his face.

These past eight years, it has been our post-Christmas tradition to head to a cabin in the North Woods of Wisconsin on frozen Pipe Lake with our friends, where it has routinely been -20. This year we are bringing Rust Belt.

And that Russet potato needs something to keep warm. This thing my wife bought is not as bad as you are picturing:

It is actually this thing.

Well it was too big for him.

My wife was hunting for the return label for Chewy. She was a bit put-out that you could not print it from the site or an email. She headed upstairs to make the call and print the label.

Back to the beginning
The customer service rep, we will call her Denise, asked my wife if she had followed the directions on the website for sizing? (I had seen her with the fabric measuring tape on our confused Tim Russert the week before.) My wife said that she had. Denise asked if she used all the various straps and cinches? She had and in fact we both had.

Denise then proceeded to enlist my wife’s help in editing the website for this particular product so that they had the sizing correct going forward. She mentioned that the changes would be live on the site soon. #RealHeroDenise

But we still needed this coat. My wife explained that we had to have it by Dec 20 and expressed concern that the new (smaller) one wouldn’t arrive in time with a traditional exchange. Denise said she would ship a new one, then credit the big one when it arrived, and throw in a 10% discount. (Why are discounts always thrown?)

 

I Know, I Know
This is all very tedious, one-off stuff that makes its way into content all too often but is rarely the experience at scale. Well first, yes it is tedious, but I’m not convinced it was an isolated incident. If it was, then that lovely, problem-solving hero CSR—Denise, if you remember her from earlier—went rogue and probably hates that we have written about the incident. But I’ve been at this long enough to feel out what is policy and what isn’t.

And full transparency, we have been buying stuff from Chewy for right at about a year, but mainly chew toys and such. We haven’t spent much money, which is to say we aren’t any version of gold star loyalty members.

In looking closer at Chewy, their CEO, Sumit Singh, was GM of Amazon Fresh before taking the leash at Chewy. We have written extensively about how incredible Amazon is at customer experience.

 

Don’t Deny These Children
Our pets have become or have been said to be our children (even when you have children). A trip to the Pet Store, online or off, is closer to a trip to the pharmacy or the pediatrician than with expendable income spent on hobbies. And Chewy understands that they are solving crises with our children, and they have aligned their customer experience to match the psychological state that many of us bring to the conversation when the issue is with our pets. Chewy is building loyalty one customer interaction at a time. And it’s going to work for them.

And it’s going to make it hard for anyone else who doesn’t live up, to keep up.

Top 5 Things to do in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is an often-overlooked country in Southern Asia—passed over for more well-known destinations like India and Thailand, Sri Lanka actually offers some of the most interesting and pristine wilderness and cultural institutions in Asia. Read below for my top 5 “can’t miss” destinations in the country.

 

 

Sigiriya: Sri Lanka is home to seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and Sigiriya is one of the most popular. The Lion Rock Fortress was built in the fifth century AD and has served as both a royal palace and a Buddhist monastery. Regarded as one of the most important urban planning projects of the first millennium, Sigiriya offers some of the oldest landscaped gardens in the world. While you’re here, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the “mirror wall.”

 

Arugam Bay: Regarded as one of the world’s best surfing destinations, Arugam Bay offers picturesque views of the Indian Ocean complete with coconut palms and solitude. Though many of the area’s buildings were destroyed in the 2004 tsunami, the Government’s Ministry of Defense Coastal Conservation Department has worked to recover and repair the bay.

 

Visit the Leopards in Yala: Sri Lanka is known for its diverse wildlife, but there is no creature more iconic than the leopard. Most easily spotted in Yala, located off the island’s southern coast, visitors can book day-long safaris to see these magnificent cats. Yala National Park is Sri Lanka’s most populated leopard sanctuary; you are almost certain to see one.

 

See Blue Whales: Sri Lanka’s southern tip is close to the continental shelf—an area frequented by groups of Blue Whales. Nowhere else in the world do these creatures swim so reliably close to land. If you want to see one for yourself, visit Dondra Head; from January to April, Blue Whales pass here on their way from the Bay of Bengal into the western part of the Indian Ocean, feasting on krill and squid as they go.

 

Sample Tea in the Haputale Mountains: Sri Lanka is never far from its colonial English past. The country is full of terraced tea estates, where you can try samples of freshly-picked herbs and spices. The launching place of the Lipton tea empire, visitors should head out early in the day to view the Hill Country’s gorgeous overlooks; afternoon fog often cloaks the surrounding mountains.

 

Top 5 Things to do in Madagascar

Madagascar is larger than most people think—at nearly 250,000 square miles, it is the 47th largest country by size. With this much land—and, notably, a lot of sea access—the country offers a range of unique experiences for locals and travelers alike. Below are my five favorite places to visit in Madagascar.

 

 

Avenue of the Baobabs: If you don’t know what a Baobab is, don’t worry—you’re not alone. Baobabs are large, unusual trees endemic to the island of Madagascar. It is an endangered species threatened by the growth and development of agricultural land. These trees have massive, cylindrical trunks that can measure up to three meters across. Covered in smooth, reddish-grey bark, they can be almost 100 feet tall. The Avenue of the Baobabs is a prominent group of these trees lining the road between Morondava and Belon’i Tsiribihina in the Menabe region of western Madagascar. The landscape draw travelers from around the world; if you find yourself in the area, this is something you do not want to miss.

 

Beaches: Madagascar is an island—it goes without saying that this country offers some of the most beautiful and accessible beaches in the world. From Nosy Nato, a classic tropical island with white-sand beaches, to Anakao, an iconic stretch of turquoise water and pearly sand, you are never far from an unforgettable beach scene.

 

Big Tsingy Stone Forest: This natural attraction is one of the main draws for Madagascar’s environmental tourism. The Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve is located near the western coast of Madagascar, and it is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is the world’s largest stone forest, filled to the brim with spiked towers or eroded limestone. Despite the area’s cold and inhospitable appearance, it is home to several types of bird and lemur.

 

Whale Watching: Travelling to Madagascar is not often associated with whale watching. However, this country offers some of the most spectacular views of humpback whales in the world. Head to the eastern coast to visit Saint Marie between June and September to see these massive mammoths breach throughout the day.

 

Antananarivo: This city, the capital and largest in Madagascar, is one of the most interesting places on the island. Nearly three million residents comprise the metropolitan area, and it is home to the largest number of universities, nightclubs, art venues, medical services, and other social service institutions on the island. Between the Botaical and Zoological Garden, Andafiavaratra Palace, and the Pirate Museum, a trip to this wonderful city is well worth the stop.

 

 

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