After the other-worldly experience at the Avenue of the Baobabs on April 5, National Geographic Orion sailed on through the night towards northwestern Madagascar, for another rendezvous with the island’s lemurs. The seas were lovely and calm, and all aboard enjoyed dinner under the stars.

During the morning of April 6 at sea, noted Malagasy conservationist Serge Rajaobelina gave an inspirational presentation on his work to empower local communities in Madagascar to value and enhance natural conservation. Working with the private sector and emphasizing land rights and land tenure, community involvement and decision making, he introduced a win-win model. These conservation activities have led to greater employment within communities, greater markets for agricultural products and in general greater ownership of national conservation efforts. Following that, cultural specialist Kristy Leissle gave a mouthwatering talk on the links between the modern boutique chocolate industry and Madagascar’s cocoa industry. Drawing on her years of research into the industry and culture of chocolate production in Africa, she enlightened the guests on the economic and health benefits of fine chocolate. The assembled crowd left eager for a hands-on tasting in a few days’ time.

Later in the afternoon, National Geographic Orion made an unscheduled tropical stop at small sandy Chesterfield Island, about 30 miles offshore of Madagascar. An adventurous Zodiac landing in an active surf line was followed by a lovely couple of hours on this lone island, covered with wheeling flocks of terns and surrounded by pleasant snorkeling zones.

Back at sea en route to Mahajanga, Madagascar, the guests heard a second scientific lecture by Global Perspectives Speaker Dr. Patricia Wright, delving into the origins, species differentiation, and lifestyles of the 100+ varieties of lemurs in Madagascar. Her presentation included her usual excellent visuals and whetted the travelers’ appetites for tomorrow’s land excursion in the forested northwestern region of the island. The evening ended with another fine dinner in the best French style, followed by a Madagascar chocolate flourless torte.