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River Explorer Chaz Powell Begins 800km Madagascar Trek

This month, adventurer Chaz Powell begins an expedition to walk not only the width of Madagascar, but also source to sea along Madagascar’s longest river – The Mangoky River. We chatted with Chaz about his past expeditions, why he chose Madagascar for his latest trek, and what he hopes to see and learn during his trek. Learn more about Chaz on his website, Instagram, and Facebook.

Can you tell us about your past adventures?

Chaz Powell along the Gambia River. Photo credit: Tim Roberts.

CP: I have over 15 years of remote travel and expedition experience and have completed many different long distance treks all over the world. Over the last 3 years I’ve undertook and focused on my biggest challenge to date called ‘The Wildest Journey’. This was my mission to walk the length of Africa’s wildest rivers from source to sea in the battle against wildlife crime.

In 2016-17, I walked for 3000 km over 137 days from source to sea along the Zambezi River, and from January to March this year (2019), I walked for 1120 km over 47 days from source to sea along the Gambia River in Western Africa, becoming one of the first people in known history to do so.

Walking the Zambezi Footsteps on the Gambia

Chaz Powell on his recent adventure in the Gambia. Photo credit: Tim Roberts.

What route will you take in Madagascar and what you expect to see or do?

CP: Our 800km journey will begin in Manakara on Madagascar’s East coast, it will then take us through the steep jungle filled highlands on the east before we search for the source of the river near the city of Fianarantsoa. Once located we’ll then begin walking the rivers 540km length until it ends it’s journey on the western coast near Morombe. The trek is expected to take us around one month to complete, whilst facing a number of potential challenges along the way such as high temperatures and threats from potential armed bandits.

I wanted to test myself on yet another wild journey and the river itself interests me, as does the unique wildlife, the culture and biodiversity of the area. I also want to research and document the different wildlife and landscapes we meet along the way.

Chaz Powell during his 137 days walking for over 3000km from source to sea along the mighty Zambezi river. Photo courtesy of Chaz Powell.

Why did you decide to do an expedition in Madagascar?

For myself Madagascar has always stood out because of the hugely diverse landscapes, wildlife and habitats this island has to offer.

CP: I’ve always wanted to hike across the country and explore these places, to listen to the people and witness the environment and see this beauty for myself. To then try and understand if the environments are changing in the remote regions surrounding the river and what can be done to help protect and preserve the unique wild spaces and species.

Will you be using local guides or will you receive any other local support?

CP: I haven’t as yet sought any help from local guides or people. But throughout my journeys, I always seek advice and assistance throughout.

I think a huge part of any journey is about the good people you meet along the way and obtaining any local information or knowledge is key.

What do you enjoy most about trekking long distances?

Chaz Powell camps on his recent adventure in the Gambia. Photo credit: Tim Roberts.

CP: Trekking long distances through remote regions allows you to take on a journey and see the things you’d never really see by just sticking to roads, towns, cities etc. It bestows a huge sense of freedom onto me when setting off into these wilder and more unattainable lands.

By going off the beaten track you get to meet the people who don’t rely on modern ways and you get to embrace the places where animals roam free and nature is allowed to form naturally away from human interference.

You also get to witness ever changing landscapes, where every day is different and new. It’s hugely satisfying and fills me with such elation when I’m on my wild journeys!

During the trek we’re hoping to meet the people, visit the out of reach places and learn first hand about any landscape changes or loss of wildlife and land. But, we also want to understand how the people live and what they rely on to survive day to day. It’s an exciting venture and I’m sure it’s going to be an incredible and eye opening journey.

Update from Chaz Powell

After completing his Madagascar trek, Chaz provides this update:

“Many animals and habitats are under threat in Africa and this was only too true in Madagascar. Most of the areas we walked through contained nothing. The protected reserves are the only places you can see wildlife thrive, and these areas are getting smaller. Around 90% of the people across Madagascar rely on charcoal to cook with, so most of the forests have been stripped down completely.”

This is why it is so important to support conservation efforts in Madagascar that address the needs of  Malagasy people. The most successful reforestation efforts include trees intended for use by local people.

Learn about Madagascar Biodiversity Partnership’s reforestation strategy.

Learn more about Chaz Powell and his Journey in Madagascar