What is the origin of your innovation? Tell your story.
My parents emigrated to Madagascar when I was nine. I grew up in Antananarivo, went to French school and spent a lot of time in the Malagasy bush. My father ran an export business in exotic plants so I was surrounded by nature from an early age. In 1978 my parents purchased the BUSHHOUSE property. We spent a lot of time sailing in the tropical seas around the island and my school holidays were spent roaming the island in our 4WD.
In 1986 after a brief attempt to live in Europe, I was lucky enough to land a job as translator for the German primatologist Bernhard Meier, who became famous the same year for his discovery of a new species of lemur in the rainforest of Ranomafana.
My first step into the tourism industry was a job as management assistant at Palm Beach Hotel (now closed down) in Nosy Be in 1986. As one of the few Germans resident in Madagascar I worked as a free-lance tourist guide for those travel agencies that had a largely German-speaking clientele.
My Malagasy husband Thierry and I started our first tourist activity on the Canal of Pangalanes: The BUSHHOUSE – a guesthouse with three rooms! – opened in 1987! At this time tourism in Madagascar was still in an embryonic stage and we pioneered trekking tours in the Isalo Ranges, which were later declared a National Park.
Based on these experiences we created BOOGIE PILGRIM (the name coming from the pilgrim/adventurer figure in the Elton John song) and we became Tour Operator receptif in 1988. We offered excursions into all of Madagascar’s National Parks, river expeditions on the Canal of Pangalanes, and 4WD camping trips into the big South as well as to the West Coast. At first Thierry and I were driver/guide/cook/captain all in one. Between circuits I lived in the Bushhouse to manage and supervise the construction of more cabins.
The birth of our first daughter Betty in 1990 forced us to modify our itinerant lifestyle a bit.
Somehow this nature/adventure based tourism was asking for a more sustainable and ecological approach. Not that we followed marketing trends or slogans! Our first step was to integrate the local population around the Bushhouse. In 1994 we organized the construction of a public school in the village next to the hotel with financial assistance from the German Embassy. It was time to upgrade our equipment and the Bushhouse got solar power to work lighting and ham-radio.
In 1999 we established the first Luxury Tented Camp Lodge in Madagascar located in a remote valley not far from l'ANDRINGITRA National Park. TSARA CAMP is based on a South African concept used in the "Big 5" reserves. Although we function only during the six months dry season we got involved with the construction of a school and a medical clinic in the area. Many of the employees were recruited in the nearby villages and trained in First Aid, Basic Hygiene, alphabetisation as well as reforestation.
BOOGIE PILGRIM became a member of the US Ecotourism Society and we are now recognized private partners of national and international institutions working for environmental protection in Madagascar such as WWF, USAID, GTZ-KFW, CI, PEREGRINE's FUND, ANGAP, ONE, the Malagasy Environmental Ministry..
With the birth of two more daughters we concentrated more on activities around Antananarivo and surroundings. The Ranarivelo family is fortunate enough to own a beautiful 27ha property consisting of lakes and forest, only 4 km from Antananarivo’s CBD. It is a refuge for birds – more than 50 species have been recorded – and a paradise for birdwatchers from all over the world! In 2001 a family association named APT was formed with the aim of protecting Tsarasoatra Park., and the property has been recognised by RAMSAR, an international organization for the conservation of wetlands. As APT's secretary I am responsible for the arrangement of visits, promotion and development of TSARASOATRA Park.
Our latest project is closer to our ecotouristic aspiration: ANJOZOROBE. This family property, a domain of 3000 ha of high plateau primeval forest harbouring 12 varieties of lemurs, 82 species of birds and a variety of rare plants, was opened to the public in August 2002. As part of a forest corridor, this vestige of 60.000 ha gets international protection. Organisations like PNUD (United Nations), CI (Conservation International) and WWF (World Wildlife Fund) are involved and are looking for private and public assistance.NGO Partners have undertaken scientific studies to establish an inventory of animals and plants, collecting DNA of lemurs, locating and counting species etc. There are more than 40 km of forest walks on the property, all mapped and described. To integrate the local population, activities such as the production and sale of wild honey, the distillation of essential oilspink pepper have been created. Some villagers have been trained to become guides and track maintenance workers or to work in the hotel industry.
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Last Name : RANARIVELO born GOTTLEBE
First Name : SONJA
Date & Name of Birth : 17 MAI 1967 in Kassel
Citizenship : German
Civil Status : married, 3 children (17, 12, 6 years)
GRUNDSCHULE BÜCKEBURG (1978), LYCEE FRANÇAIS
DE TANANARIVE (1985), UNIVERSITE PAUL VALERY
MONTPELLIER (1987). Diplôme : BAC A2
Languages : German : mother language, French : fluent, English : fluent, Spanish : scolar, Malagasy : speaking
Other competences : Hôtellerie, Ecotourism, Trekking, Camping, Event organisation
Hobbies : hiking, water sports (kiting, windsurfing, snorkeling),Books & Music
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Madagascar: a destination that will never leave you !
Boogie Pilgrim let you discover this destination "out of time".