Madagascar – August 2007
I arrived, finally!
My journey had been such a nightmare that on being told the plane from Tana to Nosy Be was full I proceeded, in what Tim later referred to as a ‘Vaughan like fashion’, to demand I was on the flight. I succeed and on boarding one passenger was seated in the cockpit due to Miss S Vaughan’s outburst.
Wendy and Sophia’s Jungle Adventure
My first day consisted of a stroll around aptly named Hell Ville, an afternoon motor around the bay and an important lesson from Olly on how to drive and start the dingy.
We laughed from start to finish. It began with a trip into town and an excellent example from Olly on how to bargain; the price of the six towels he wished to acquire actually went up during this ‘bargaining’ process! Wendy and I then started of our journey by car and pirogue; and having paddled for the better part of an hour to our guides rendition of ‘row, row, row your boat’ we were more than relieved to arrive at the remote village at the entrance to the Lokobe nature reserve. We were extremely fortunate on our walk to see all three types of lemur found in the jungle, as well as a boa constrictor, lizards, chameleons and a small frog. Following the delicious authentically local lunch our guide helped Wendy and I to recap on what we had learnt by singing his own, unusual version of Old MacDonald…or Old MacDonaldy. Wendy and I giggled the entire way back and thoroughly enjoyed regaling the crew and Olly with tales of our highly recommended trip.
Welcome to Hell Ville
They arrived in the morning and in spite of Uncle Olly’s suggestion that they walk through the village to get a feel for Madagascar; he himself was so desperate to leave the delights of suitably named Hell Ville that we set sail almost immediately. During our sail; the fishing rods spun and Milo eventually succeeded in reeling in Boo Too’s biggest ever catch: a 50 kg sail fish. We sailed on to Nosy Iranja which was spectacular. The sand and sea the most marvellous contrast of golden whites and aqua blues. That afternoon we went ashore and discovered that in fact the island was a resort; Tim negotiated a deal with the uniformed security guard that if we all returned that evening for a drink in the bar we could swim and wander the beaches. We did just that. One couldn’t help but notice the turtle’s nests dated and labelled with the number of eggs laid; we were all intrigued as to when they might hatch. One of the many highlights of the trip came that afternoon when our questions were answered and a turtle nest was unveiled by the sanctuary’s officer. We all eagerly watched and snapped away with our cameras as we helped the turtles take their first few steps to the sea. So excited by the experience we keenly arranged to return the following morning with the others to share this remarkable experience.
A River Runs Through It
Having all observed the turtles beginning their journey of life we set sail for The River. Joni and Milo carefully navigated the depth of the river by tender to bring us to a rustic, rural village. After lunch we went to explore and the friendly greeting we received was almost overwhelming. We were instantly surrounded by children who adored being photographed and giggled away at the digital images. The village was a hive of activity with games of football, hairdressing and shells and crabs immediately for sale. The afternoon saw a trip up the river in the dingy to admire the truly untouched landscape. That evening we sailed back to Nosy Iranja to anchor for the night.
A Lazy start and a relaxed breakfast before we set off to Russian Bay. Just when we were at what seemed like the furthest point from land a nokia ring tone was heard….Tim was picking up his messages. There was a flurry of activity as mobile reception was briefly received in the Indian Ocean; the wonders of technology. Sadly the diving expedition was not the most spectacular but we made it to Russian bay in time for the sunset and a pink moment for Tim.
Before Weena was even up Tim was up on water skis zipping around the bay. Let the fun and games begin….I went next, followed by Milo and then I just had time to drop a ski and do a lap around the boat before breakfast. We then went across to the shore to investigate the remains of the Russians….quite literally all that was left was the grave yard and a crumbling fortress wall. It was a beautiful setting and once again we eagerly snapped away with our cameras. On returning to the boat we were greeted by Milo and Miai sitting far above our heads on the boom. More antics began as a swing was constructed; we took it in turns, with Tara going first, to ‘walk the plank’ along the boom and swing out catapulting ourselves into the water. Joni, who had obviously had some practice at this entertained us all as he swung, spun and flipped into the water. Wind surfing was next on the agenda and I was keen to learn; setting off was one thing, turning around and retuning to the boat was quite another. Following another delicious lunch Milo took to the wind surf before a snorkelling expedition rounded off our day of water sports.
It’s Party Time!
Tsara Bajina was small and absolutely beautiful. The turquoise waves gently rolled onto its white sand beach. Little umbrellas were placed all along the beach and honeymooners and families sat idling in the sun. Just before sundown the group got off the boat and headed for the mini paradise. Walking up the sandy hill in the middle of this isolated hotel the view took everyone’s breath away. To our great delight waiting for us at the top were drinks for all. As the sun set the whole group seized the moment as a photo opportunity. Spontaneously posing for pictures everyone had a great time admiring the view and sipping fruit punch. Dinner at Tsara Bajina was a task at first because the menu was in French luckily Raoul came to the rescue and translated what was about to be a delicious meal for us. After supper we all went downstairs to the bar where there were great festivities of singing, playing the guitar and local rum shots for everyone. A few went back to the boat whilst others stayed and danced the night away. The ones that did go back had the delight and shock of watching Tim attempt to get on board but failing as a great big wave came and knocked him overboard. Recovering just fine Tim casually hoisted himself back on to the tender. Thank goodness for no injuries. Stumbling back on board after a few good hours of dancing and chatting at the hotel the rest of us recuperated and had a restful nights sleep.
The Four Brothers
Setting off at around ten the next morning the group is soon informed that they are going to visit giant rock formations called the Four Brothers. The diving group (Oliver and Weena) set off to do a fantastic dive near these four vast rocks. The rest of us decided to take a closer look at the boulders. Drawing nearer and nearer to them we realised many birds had made their homes in the coves of the rocks. Fascinated by the huge surfaces and the flocks of birds flying high above our heads we all listened intently to Wendy as she described what a perfect rock it was to climb. Sailing away from the Four Brothers was captivating as the giant rocks looked like something completely different as you got further and further away. Tim came up with the thought that they looked like large balls of dough pleasantly sitting in the middle of the sea.
We then sailed close by the western end of Nosy Mitsio past the most amazing rock formation I have ever seen: A huge array of organ tubes rising out of the sea – it was quite breath taking. Anchoring in the afternoon in Mitsio Bay some of us went ashore to visit the little village there. Coming back with pictures of dancing and prancing little children made all of us who hadn’t had the energy to go more than a little jealous. The following evening we planned a big barbeque. Sending the younger members of the party off to collect firewood for this special event the adults indulged in one of Tim’s pink moments. Olly invited a couple of other boats to join the barbeque so we had plenty of great company. As soon as we got off the dingy and stepped ashore some of the village children came running to join in as well. The barbeque was a mix of fantastic food and singing songs with Weena from as many musicals as we could remember. Soon more and more children from the village turned up and helped to finish off Jen’s delicious pasta salad. The night came to a close with all of us feeling completely satisfied and utterly sung, danced and played out. The girls all went back to the boat to enjoy and giggle away the night by watching Bridget Jones’ Diary: No male attendances.
As we sailed to Lokobe Nature Reserve the group waited in anticipation after hearing from Sophs and Wendy that they had seen huge snakes slithering in the trees above their heads. Before we knew it the same thing was happening to us. Our guide had an incredible eye and had clearly been doing these tours for quite some time. We climbed higher and higher into the forest and saw chameleons, lemurs and worst of huge all snakes. Looking left and right none of us could spot anything but to our amazement our guide found us some spectacular animals to admire. He picked up a water snake and we saw three boa constrictors. They slyly glided above our heads. As we all tiptoed underneath them one of them decided to drop elegantly just as Weena took her first steps beneath it. Jumping backwards in fright all of us prayed it wouldn’t move another inch. Trying to be as quiet as possible we moved deeper into the forest. Watching lemurs jumping from tree to tree after we had woken them up from their afternoon’s nap we crept out of the jungle and paddled back in the pirogues that had taken us ashore. Getting on board after our great adventure Boo Too departed and anchored at Ampangorinana village at the NE end of Nosy Komba.
Nosy Komba to Hell Ville
In Nosy Komba we discovered another village with no roads and rather primitive. There were all sorts of stalls with local craft for sale. In the middle of it was a back packers hotel with a bar and we saw many other foreigners not unlike us coming over from Hell Ville to experience the atmosphere. As Tim loves to help the local economy we spent time examining the goods for sale and made some purchases, we then headed back to Boo Too for a leisurely swim. Waiting for us were four of Oliver’s biggest young fans who had just paddled him ashore in their canoe. Scott took them all doughnutting which they thoroughly enjoyed. The children then came aboard for some sweets. After an entertaining afternoon of jumping off the boat, swinging the children and teaching them hand clapping games they went home. I’m sure they still miss Oliver very much. Later we were visited by a man selling a giant octopus; an excited Jen bounced up from the kitchen and immediately bought it. In the early evening light we sailed over to Hell Ville and a few hours later we were all enjoying a delicious sea food curry.
Don’t want to leave
The trip had been so fantastic that words cannot describe how much fun we have all had. There is no possible way to thank Oliver and Boo enough for their hospitality and generosity. Every single second there has been something exciting and new around the corner. I’m sure all the others would agree that there has not been a moment of only average excitement because the whole experience has been truly wonderful.