Charlie's Bird

living the dream with Charlie and Thandi and chirping all the way back to the nest.

Archive for Madagascar 2016

Madagascar part 3

…so some observations about our holiday…

  • Madagascar is hot! I am very glad we went in spring, not summer. The days were typical coastal – mornings were stunning, hot and steamy (30+°C) , by lunchtime the wind picks up, then just as you think its too much, the sun starts to set, and the wind drops. We had quite frequent storms at night – hard and fast!
  • The mosquitoes scoff at South African repellants – I was bitten half way to malaria! So take those drugs!
  • The poverty is quite overwhelming.
  • The sea water is extremely salty!
  • My daughter was a wreck by the end of the holiday – the fish in the sea, along with their predators terrified her; the food was not familiar (fish twice a day, every day, most days), the sea burnt her eyes when we did coax her into the water (note to self: take swimming goggles next time, and the cheapy snorkelling kit from Sportsmans is useless!) But she is a trooper and made the most of it.
  • Sea legs are awesome, but land sickness is a bugger!
  • It is truly a paradise!
  • I can definitely praise the company who did all our bookings – http://www.madagascat.co.za – they were great!

Madagascar part 2

…and so it was that all about a Saturday morning we were dropped off at Tsara Komba Lodge on Nosy Komba. The picture below is as we approached the lodge – you can just see the lodge popping out amongst the trees.

dsc_0381

What luxury! We were welcomed on the beach by Xavier, and then since we had arrived very early, we relaxed on the deck with a welcome cocktail – and at this stage we trying to find our land legs! img_6509Once our rooms were ready, we all headed off for a shower and a refresh, which was divine! dsc_0391On the yacht, our bathrooms were tiny and we were limited to cold showers, which really wasn’t an issue, given the temperatures (rather glad we were there in Spring, not Summer!) but a luxurious long hot shower on land was delicious!

Then it was time to start to explore our incredible surroundings…

img_6513 Relaxing on a lounger on the swept beach, under a brolly of palm leaves, with a crisp white towel – watching the tide go out – could I be luckier?This day really was about relaxing, and desperately trying to find our land legs!

Sunday dawned, hot and still!After breakfast we retired to the deck built over the rocks img_6518img_2152 reading, relaxing, until the boys and the girls needed something to keep them busy – so off they went in a little canoe, to go and see if they could find the snorkelling reef, 3 bays away…img_2147 great fun!

Monday we had arranged a great excursion to Nosy Be – we visited LemurLand – a bit of a controversial spot, but where the Malagascy are making attempts to conserve their threatened lemurs, protect their chameleons and tortoises, and raise some funds from the tourists. The area incorporates a botanical garden, because Madagascar has huge diversity in climate – from tropical rain forests in the north to desert in the south – beautiful. There is also a ylang ylang distillery – Madagascar is the world’s largest supplier of ylang ylang for the perfume industry – and a rum distillery. img_2173 img_2188 img_2215 dsc_0411 the ‘field/orchard’ of ylang ylang trees, from which the local women harvest ripe flowers every day  dsc_0538the collection of flowers, getting prepared for distillation.

We were then taken to the sacred tree – it is a huge fig tree, ficus religiosa, and after being appropriately attired, we were walked around it, exploring the nooks and crannies.img_2230After a delicious lunch at Chez Lou Lou on the beach, we were taken to the highest point of the island – it was quite something to see the vocalic crater lakes and the 360° views across the bays…dsc_0559

Another 2 days were spent chilling on the beach, img_6673tanning on the deck, playing petanque, eating and drinking more than we should. The lodge had a french trained Malagascy chef, so we really ate the most incredible food! Although I will admit to fish and seafood fatigue…

On the Thursday we headed off on another excursion, this time accompanied by Raymond, one of the waiters, who is affectionately known as Raymond the Fish, and we were there to confirm that, when we watched him spearfish for our lunch!img_2276img_6637 We started in a tiny fishing village, where the gross poverty and inequality of Madagascar was very evident. The girls enjoyed the lemurs! img_2261Then after Raymond had successfully secured our lunch, we headed to a little deserted island, where they braaied those fish right on the beach for us, and served us a magnificent lunch on the beach.img_6651 Another little trip to see an enormous baobab tree and then we headed across the bay back to the lodge.img_2266

Another night, another cocktail…img_6689

Friday was a quiet day again, and one where I started to reflect a bit on our holiday, and what going back home was going to mean to me, and I have to say, the morbs arrived… Saying that we had a very special dinner that night on the deck over the rocks – beautiful crayfish for us, and a special pizza treat for the girls! Super special… img_6690 img_6696

Our last full day on the island was spent snorkelling at Nosy Tanikely again- it was amazing! I am a reluctant snorkeler, and even I was blown away by what we saw and did, and spent about 3 hours in the water! Incredible 15+m visibility – leopard shark, turtles, all kinds of fish. As I said in Part 1, gopro footage to follow! Loved, loved, loved it! A worthy end to our holiday!

And all too soon it was time to come home – What a beautiful place, what an awesome holiday!

 

img_6709 img_6699 img_6730

Madagascar part 1

…so that you can be prepared for it, there will be 3 parts to this tale…

So, on the 18th of September we departed from a very chilly ORT in Jhb for Nosy Be airport. A 3 and a ha;f hour flight, which was very comfortable. As we neared Madagascar, and started to see the land below us, with all it’s little islands was so exciting. The airport is in the north of the island, so we got to really have a good look at Nosy be. And what an exciting taste of what was to come it was. Incredible!

We landed, temperatures were about 32°C (after departing in 7°C!) survived a taxi drive to the coast and then a quick trip on the water taxi and we boarded MakiCat – our home for the next 6 nights.  After an introduction to the crew (Stefan, Noël and Frederick) and a briefing on the rules of life on the boat, it was costumes on for a refreshing swim! and then it was time to watch the sun set..

.img_1868 img_1884

Watching the sun rise was a special treat after a windy and noisy first night on the yacht. Given weather conditions, our captain elected to head south, and so off we went – heading for Lemur Island – a protectorate with various species living on the island. A walk through the tropical forest saw us meeting many lemurs, much to Thandi’s delight! Snorkelling followed and then it was back onto the boat for lunch. After lunch we headed further south and eventually put our anchor down in Russian Bay. A fascinating spot, in terms of history. During WW2 the Russians had a base in Madagascar, preparing for the African invasion they intended to mount. In Europe, the war ended and peace reigned again – however the news took rather a lot longer to filter down to this little spot, so for many months after the end of the war, the Russians were still ‘fighting’ their war. Many of them never made it home, and their graves are in the area of this bay. Incredible.

img_1898

Day 3 saw us heading to Nosy Iranja – a spectacle unlike anything I’d seen outside of a travel journal – 2 islands connected by a 1.2km white sandbank – wow!!! As we drew closer to the islands it got more and more exciting to watch the horizon with its white stripe. It was stunning! We were dropped off on the beach – snorkelled and swam and enjoyed some time on the beach. It’s one of the main breeding grounds for the turtles, so there were plenty of them in the waters – so graceful, flying through the water. After a spectacular day, it was a trip across some quite wind swept sea into a wide river mouth on the mainland. We anchored in the peaceful waters of Baramahamay Bay. The locals came to visit us in their canoes and we bought some of the delicious honey they collect from the bees in the region.

img_1935 my sailor girl!

img_1943img_6452 the approach

img_6431 img_6450 on the sand bank

Day 4 and after another spectacular sunrise we sailed north again to a marine reserve – Nosy Tanikely. I can only say wow! A well preserved coral reef, teeming with fish and the occasional turtle too, absolutely stunning. The boys managed to score a little dive with Stefan the skipper – they had an unique experience diving down past the drop off. Us girls spent some time chilling in the sun, then it was back to the boat for lunch again, and then an trip south to beat the wind and an anchorage again in Russian Bay.

img_6456sunrise in the bayimg_2039img_2042 Nosy Tanikely – Go pro footage to follow…

Day 5 and we headed North again – the crew dropped us off on a stretch of beach 13km long – white sand, droopy palm trees, no people! Incredible! We loved the warm water and spent lots of time swimming and then slowly roasting in the sun… Bliss. Frederick, our cook, then arrived with a picnic lunch for us – a delicious prawn curry, served on those beautiful white sands… After lunch, we started heading north again, and eventually docked in the small harbour off Ampangorinana, the main village on Nosy Komba – one of the bigger islands between Nosy Be and mainland. We stopped in at the village – a walk around and a beer in the local pub – the best part was watching the cantankerous french owner yell at the local children who made it a game to try to come up the 3 steps into the bar! Our girls were fascinated by them! A slightly noisier night than we were used to was spent in the harbour.

img_1988 the beach they take photos off for the travel magazines!

img_1991our yacht!img_2047enjoying a cool drink at the beach barimg_2051the harbour

 

Day 6 and we headed to a nearby island and were taken on a guided tour of the rain forest – we got to see chameleons in the wild, several more lemurs and with great excitement, a boa constrictor. Flip, those things, despite being non-venomous, are a bit scary looking! the walk also introduced me to the tenacity of the Malagascy mosquito. Yoh, munched alive! Those buggers scoffed at the peaceful sleep and tabard – could almost imagine them using it as eau de cologne or deo! Nevertheless, an amazing walk and experience. We then had a chance to explore little private island, Nosy Varona, a small bungalow, a beach with a small reef, and a boat, that’s all it was. Stunning to spend some time there, watching the world pass us by. we then looked for anchorage, and when the wind proved to be too strong for our original plan, we anchored off the village on Nosy Komba again, another trip to the beach bar, this time with a gin and tonic and more giggles with the local children.

img_2061the teeny chameleon! img_2062can you spot the tree lizard? img_2066the boa constrictor img_2069Nosy Varona – €1000/day!

A big rain storm hit us that night, much to the relief of the locals, since it helped douse an inaccessible fire on the island that was starting to threaten homes and lives. Our girls had even helped with a rain dance!

And so it was that our time on MakiCat had drawn to a close, and it was time for the crew to drop us off at Tsara Komba lodge, our next home…

 

 

Jiggedty Jog

…home again! My, oh , my, was that an incredible holiday! Madagascar is gorgeous. I’ll do a blow by blow in days to come, but for now, I will give you some pictures of our beautiful holiday!

img_1869 img_1901 img_1912 img_1948 img_1962 img_1988 img_2019 img_2081 img_2093 img_2132 img_2173 img_6563 img_6653 img_6675