[MUSIC PLAYING] ERIN CANTRELL: Since I was little, I've always wanted to go to the rainforest and study biodiversity. And so it was a really great opportunity to do that. And tree climbing is your entry into that.
ZOE MAISEL: I've never done any big international travel like this. So I thought this would be a really great way for me to travel with a group of people who I'm comfortable with in a community that I know.
COREY NG: I think the lemurs brought me here here mostly. Yeah. Super into lemurs.
JERRY DIAMOND: I've never been in a true tropical rainforest before. So that was super cool.
JASON JONES: Seeing as much of the world as I can. It's getting a broader perspective on the way people live their lives and putting things into context.
DAVE KATZ: I really like collaborating with different organizations. There's been tons of collaborators, I mean, from the beginning.
KEITH LUSCINSKI: We're in Madagascar enjoying the cultural aspects. But we're also climbing the trees. The two main types of trees that we're climbing here are the baobab trees, those iconic, very fat trunked trees with really interesting views to them, and then the tropical rainforest trees of the East coast of Madagascar in Ranomafana National Park.
ERIN CANTRELL: I've never been tree climbing. So it was tree climbing in a completely new climate. Never been to the Eastern Hemisphere or the Southern Hemisphere. So just everything is completely different.
ZOE MAISEL: I've done tree climbing just through the classes. But this seemed like a really cool way to expand the skills because they're just completely different trees than the sycamores we climb at Stewart Park.
TAMMY KLOCK: Climbing the baobab trees was an awesome experience, getting up to them and seeing them and looking out over it. It wasn't as physically challenging as I thought it might be.
KEITH LUSCINSKI: They were pretty interesting trees to climb. The were a lot simpler to climb than we thought they would be.
ZOE MAISEL: There was a lot of good handholds just on the trunk of the tree, which I've never seen before.
COREY NG: We basically climbed a tree as if it was a rock face.
KEITH LUSCINSKI: It was an amazing experience of grabbing into these little pockets. It was exactly like rock climbing.
ERIN CANTRELL: You get up in the tree. And you just look out for miles over this landscape. And there's just these giant baobabs everywhere.
COREY NG: And you can just see all the stars. And that was the most stars I've seen in my whole life.
ZOE MAISEL: I really liked traveling from Tana to Morondava and then to Ranomafana after because we saw a lot of different parts of the country. When we started in Tana, it's a big city. But as we were driving, it was clay, a lot of green rice paddies.
JASON JONES: It was really interesting seeing, I guess, the perspective that you get driving through the whole countryside from the capital to some remote area where we were climbing trees.
COREY NG: It's very mountainous. And because of that, they've got these terraced farms, where I think it's mostly rice.
JERRY DIAMOND: You know, you've seen them in pictures before, but not in person out on the side of the road. And that was pretty sweet.
TAMMY KLOCK: The jungle was incredible, just being in that surrounding, in those environments, the beautiful waterfalls, the trees, the vines, everything.
KEITH LUSCINSKI: When you go out and climb in the rainforest, I mean, you're dealing with vines and undergrowth and all of these other plants that are keeping you from even just seeing the canopy to know what branches you're going for.
COREY NG: We went up in a tree. And then, across the canopy, there were these two lemurs just screaming at each other. The most awful noise I've ever heard. They're pretty big, pretty gnarly creatures. That was a pretty awesome way to end the trip.
DAVE KATZ: I started working with a couple of the Madagascar Center for Biodiversity students. Incorporating the Malagasy people with our Cornell community has been really an enjoyable thing.
TAMMY KLOCK: I love the people that we've dealt with locally. They're just all very kind. It means a lot to me. It makes me very sentimental.
DAVE KATZ: In the end, this project has involved six or seven large institutions' cooperation and cooperation. And that's a really exciting thing for me.
KEITH LUSCINSKI: The reason that I teach these courses, it's not for the money, and it's not for the tree climbing for myself, it's for teaching other people. It's, I think, the reason why I got started doing it. And it's still the reason why I take off time from work to come here.
JERRY DIAMOND: They were all fun and interesting and were more than willing to laugh at some of the stupidest things.
ERIN CANTRELL: But also, learning, this is going to help me in my career field. I'm in environmental science, so we talk about rainforests and all this stuff constantly, kind of like glorify it. But now I've actually seen it in person.
JASON JONES: I think it's a great way to get people stoked about something is having them learn it in some kind of crazy environment like this.
COREY NG: If you're considering it, I'd say definitely do it because I'm really happy that I did it.
ERIN CANTRELL: It's something I've wanted to do since I was little. And it's been a great opportunity.
ZOE MAISEL: It's been really fun. I'm really enjoying the trip a lot. And I'm sad that it's ending.
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Last winter break, eight Cornell Outdoor Education instructors traveled to the remote reaches of Madagascar to climb the Baobab trees, explore the tropical rainforest canopy and teach local Malagasy researchers safe tree climbing techniques. The effort also served to aid in the study and preservation of critically endangered tropical forest habitats.
Learn more about Cornell Tree Climbing Institute's expedition-style courses at