Mindat Conference in Madagascar

May 28-June 13


Antananarivo is a long way from Reno, Nevada.  We left on May 25th mid day and initially went to San Francisco to connect to a flight to Paris, France.  We spent the night there and then boarded an overnight flight from Paris to Antananarivo - the capital of Madagascar.  Our flight arrived at 4:00 am on May 28th.  We were met by people from the conference to shuttle us to the Central Hotel about 10 km from the airport.

The conference started officially the next day.  65 people were to attend in this far away place.  There were attendees from Hong Kong, USA, Australia, UK, Germany, Poland, South Africa, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Canada, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and Italy. Quite a diverse group. 

While we all shared a common interest in minerals with this group most of us were eager to see the remarkably diverse animals and plants that make Madagascar a unique place on Earth.  There are more endemic species of plants, animals and insects here than just about anywhere else. There are no poisonous snakes and predator species other than humans are lacking in the ecosystem. One thing, though, that most of us were not anticipating was the remarkable friendliness of the people who are scattered across the country. 

An iconic boabob tree southeast of Toliare.


Here are some pictures of the 2.5 week trip we made to Madagascar. I have also photo'd some minerals I will be offering in the next few days.

A typical scene out the front window of our jeep.  People walking on the dirt road.

A typical housing unit which can be found almost anywhere in Madagascar.

One thing that becomes apparent quickly is that most of Madagascar is a garden for food. Garden plots are found everywhere!

Transportation for most of the local people is on foot or wagon.

Our first excursion was to the Tsaramanga pegmatite known for columbites, beryls and rose quartz. I have never seen so much rose quartz!!

One of the typical National Roads of Madagascar.

The Estatoby pegmatite field in the Sahatany Valley south of Antsirabe. While in the Sahatany Valley we had the chance to field collect if desired
and then to purchase specimens from local people who regularly work the mines for specimens.  Millions of Ariaries were spent that afternoon!

Quartz included with lepidolite crystals from the Sahatany Valley.

I picked up a few of these interesting specimens of muscovite infused with green tourmaline from the Sahatany Valley.

A specimen of quartz with liddicoatite crystals from the Sahatany Valley.

I picked several specimens of the rare mineral beheirite from the type locality in the Sahatany Valley.
This one has a rhodizite crystal also. The beheirite crystals are grayish brown in color.

I also picked up a couple specimens of manandonite - a rare lithium boron species from the Sahatany Valley.

These specimens of microcline with lustrous raspberry colored elbaite are just incredible from the Sahatany Valley.

I found one specimen of crystallized microcline with schorl and quartz from the Sahatany Valley.

A kunzite with extraordinary etch patterns from the Ampatsikahitra pegmatite in the Sahatany Valley.

Sharing pictures and videos with two sisters in the Sahatany Valley south of Antsirabe.

Jeff Scovil with his face in full view instead of a camera pressed against it.

The Ambatonapetrak pegmatite field south of Antsirabe.  Large rubellites found about a month ago created a new rush to dig!

At the Ambatonapetrak pegmatite field.  Oregonian Ken Doxsee
spending time talking with locals and taking and sharing pictures.

On the road to Ihasafotsy - a small village out in the middle of NOWHERE!

Small children fascinated by the light skinned people.

I have never seen as many small children as I have in Madagascar.

John Rakovan with his purchase of a Japan Law Twin.

The 5.5 cm Japan Law twin I purchased in Ihasofotsy.  

Two desperately poor kids from Ambatovak. It breaks your heart to see such poverty.

At the Ranomafana National Park we saw chameleons and lemurs.

Snow white Cefaka lemurs with black faces in a tree.

At the hotel the next morning we were graced with this enormous Comet moth about 25 cm across!!

Anja Parc where we numerous ring tailed lemurs.

The ever familiar breakfast at just about every hotel we stayed at...
a herd of Zebu stopped us.  Wait for the kids at the end of the video! 

On the trail in Isalo Parc. Spectacular sandstone formations!

A pachyderm plant in bloom - note the yellow flowers.

Some very unusual palms found near a stream in Isalo Parc.

A stream we crossed on foot and more of the add palms.

An agave type plant in bloom.

On the trail through Isalo Parc.  Hot and dry!

More sand stone rock formations in Isalo Parc.

More sand stone rock formations in Isalo Parc.

Tour leader Tom Praszkier drinking some water on the trail.

A canyon near the end of the trail in Isalo Parc.

More ring tailed lemurs waiting for us at the end of the trail. 

Leave it to Tom to find any excuse for a party. Vanilla flavored rum and coke!

Window rock for the sunset in Isalo Parc.

Ange Southwood shows the exhaustion of the long walk and hot day as she hangs on to Malcolm Southwood.

The three stooges after our long day on the trail.

Ilakaka village in the distance. All of this sprang up in the last 15 years after the discovery of alluvial sapphires.

Digging in one of a thousands pits for multicolored sapphires.

Looks like a lot of hard work to me for 1-2 grams per cubic meter.

Ok - I can see why they are digging. The sapphire colors are exceptional!

The Malagasy people are big on tombs for the deceased.  Why not put a facsimile of ship on top of one?

On the way to the Nautilis Hotel South African Mike Treloare proclaimed it was time for an emergency beer.

80% of the population of Madagascar sells stuff.  here they are outside the bus trying to sell us junk.

That night we were treated to an all girl drum group by a bon fire.  OMG it
was impossible to not move to the beat of these girl's drumming!    

A view of the Mozambique Channel from a nearby resort we visited for lunch.

Little did I know that that night the "Revenge" would strike me down...

The national tree of Madagascar - the boabob tree.

More Boabobs.

A "modern" ferry crossing on the way to the Tsingy National Park.

A lunch stop at the Mad Zebu bar and grill in Tshirbina.

On a canoe trip on the Manambola River headed to the gorge.

The limestone formation is no match for the slightly acidic (from all the tannins) river.

Stalactitic formations along the river.

The vegetation is controlled by the rock and soil types they grow on.

After a steep climb we were treated to a vista on the Big Tsingy with karst formations of limestone.

Just a few of the unusual endemic plants growing on the limestone.

After the harrowing climb up and down ladders I was ecstatic to see our driver Serge! Take me to the nearest bar now!

In Antananarivo we stopped at the Croc Farm and came across a resident group of Cefaka lemurs.

Cefaka lemurs.

Cefaka lemurs.

Me with chameleons. They have a remarkably strong grip!

Glad there was a fence between them and me.

A 2 cm gemmy heliodor from Mahaiza, Madagascar.

A 6 cm specimen of demantoid from the Anetezambato demantoid-topazolite deposit in Madagascar.

My best find in Madagascar - 4 cm crystalline blue topaz with bluish green elbaite
 from the Ikalamavony pegmatite field near Fianarantsoa, Madagascar.
It was a memorable trip that I will never forget. So much more than these few videos and images.  I will have the specimens obtained posted in the next couple of days. 
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