Monday 23 May 2011

Madagascar Honeymoon, Post #7: 21 to 27 April 2011

21 April

We leave the hotel at 7:30 am today, to drive into the nearby town, Ranohira, in order to pick up out guide Roxy for our hike in Isalo National Park.

After that, it's a little drive on a dirt road to get to the park entrance. In the car, Roxy tells us about the local tribe, the Bara, in very good English. Some of the more unusual customs in this region include fathers eating their sons' foreskins after circumcision (albeit mixed with some banana, to make it go down better), women having to wait 6 months before they formally announce a pregnancy (this is to ward off any bad spirits while the foetus is still in an underdeveloped state), and boys not being considered a man before they have stolen some zebus from the neighbours.

Eric drops us off and after a short, steep walk, we arrive on top of a plateau, about 800 metres above sea level. Some of the trees we see there were destroyed by a big wildfire a year ago.

Roxy found this scorpion under a rock.


The view from the plateau. You can see Marco and Roxy clambering on the big rock on the right, I preferred to stay safely on the path, away from the precipice, watching black-and-white crows sailing on the breeze.

Close-up of a sandstone rock and the view towards the natural 'amphitheatre'.

It is very hot up here, so the shrubs stay small, but there are thousands of different little flowers growing close to the ground.


To get back down from the plateau was harder than getting up there. There were hundreds of steps hewn into the rock, but in parts there were just little boulders to step on. And did I mention that it was hot!? And that I am wimpy? We eventually made it down into the forest, with Marco gallantly holding my hand in the difficult bits.

A spiny tail iguana and a hoopoe.


Brown lemurs at a campsite. Don't they look sweet...

 ... until they try to steal your lunch! Not ours, luckily, this had been laid out for some more unfortunate people.


Ringtail Lemurs


To get to this natural swimming pool, we had to clamber over big rocks, cross a few small streams and walk along several wet and mossy cliff side paths no wider than 40 cm. If somebody had told me this before, I might not have gone, scaredy cat that I am. But as I was blissfully unaware of the terrain when we set off and did not feel like turning around when I was already halfway there, I was able to join Marco for a swim in this pool that was fed by waterfalls. And I would go again!

Roxy took these pictures for us. It was icy cold, but we had the pool all to ourselves, which felt like a bit of luck when we were heading back and passed about 30 people, all in all, who were on their way there!



Look back up to the plateau and our guide, Roxy.

22 April

We leave Isalo to begin the last leg of our journey on mainland Madagascar. The road is newly tarred and is the best one that we've been on. We will arrive in Toliara on the Mozambique Channel at around lunch time.

Baobab Trees

Not sure how this German beer truck came to be here?

Just before we enter the town of Toliara, we stop off at Arboretum D'Antsokay. This is an extensive collection of Malagasy flora that was started by a Swiss man in the 80s. You can see all the different kinds of Baobab, many medicinal plants and some of the species here are almost extinct in the wild. There are also a lot of birds and reptiles who have made their home here.

We take a quick tour and have a lunch of fresh goat's cheese and steak sandwiches at the restaurant.

The car that the now deceased founder used to go on collecting trips with.

Artifacts in the small site museum. Amongst other things, you can see the shell of an elephant bird's egg. This huge, flightless bird used to live on the island until the 17th century, before it became extinct.

A brick kiln by the roadside. The bricks are cut out of the clay in the rice fields and fired over eucalyptus.

When we arrive in Toliara, we have to say goodbye to Eric, who has been a really friendly and knowledgeable driver. I think there was not one question that he could not answer. He now has two days off before he picks up another couple, who will be doing exactly our tour, only backwards. We arranged the tour through Boogie Pilgrim, a Malagasy travel agency, and we can only recommend them! They were very good when we were arranging the trip, answering all our emails within hours and we felt very well cared for during our time in Madagascar. We were stuck in Antanarivo for one night on 23 April because our flight from Toliara had been 9 hours late and we had missed the connection to Ile Sainte Marie, but Boogie Pilgrim sent us their employee Roland to the airport, who was also nothing but attentive and helpful. Marco and I were both tired and had come down with a bad cold. So, instead of letting us line up at the Air Madagascar counter to argue about reimbursement and a hotel, he just drove us to the best hotel near the airport and said that Boogie Pilgrim would pay for it and then claim the money back later. Excellent customer service, no?! Roland also met us again the next morning, to make sure we'd get on the right flight to Sainte Marie and that everything was on schedule.

24 April

Ile Sainte Marie, a small tropical island on the Northeast coast of Madagascar, we were greeted at the small airport by a zebu cart, our method of transport to the Princesse Bora Lodge.

We checked in and finally were dealt the honeymoon bonus card that I had hoped for: the receptionist told us that they were offering us a free massage in the hotel spa. We booked this for the day before we left and got treated to an hour of perfect tropical bliss each. Alright!

After spending a lazy afternoon hanging out at our bungalow and the beach, we went to the hotel's jetty for a sun downer.

The room was decorated with fresh hibiscus flowers, but the chocolate eggs were handed out by the flight attendant on the plane, as it was Easter Sunday. There were two little chocolate fish inside each of them.

The picture on the lower left is not very good, but when we went for a walk on the beach after dinner, there were hundreds of crabs by the shoreline. You can see their little eyes, maybe.

25 April

We took a pirogue over to the even smaller island Nosy Nato, and went for a walk around. Stupidly, we did not bring our swim suits. The beaches here were so white, and there was no seaweed, which meant no sea urchins. These are the reason we could not swim in the sea at the hotel. If we had not lost a day due to Air Mad, we would have definitely come back here for some hours of relaxing on the beach.

Instead of being lazy by the sea, we went exploring. there were a few little settlements and a light house here.

Do I look happy? Well, that's because I am!!!

After we go back to the hotel, we spent the afternoon snorkeling along the coral reef just off the beach. We both still had our colds, so sadly, we were not able to dive. But snorkeling was very good, too. The corals made a crackling sound in the water, and we saw a scorpion fish, several ginormous sea urchins and loads of different other fish. After, we want to go for a pre-dinner swim in the pool, but are shooed out after  minutes because it apparently needed to be cleaned right there and then. This, plus the loooong waiting times we had whenever we ordered drinks at the bar were the only let-downs during our stay at Princesse Bora.

 26 April

We do not do much on this day, just hang by the pool, read and have pizza and tropical cocktails. We also have our pre-dinner massage and after-dinner stargazing on the beach. Lovely!

This was our bungalow.


This cat (and a mutt, and John, the sausage dog) hung around whenever food was served. No croissant was save!

Some impressions of the hotel.

This naked lady is carved out of the trunk of a palm tree.

The self-serve wine cellar. You could just go in, pick your bottle and bring it to the dinner table to have it charged to your room.

27 April

Our flight back to Tana is later in the afternoon, so in the morning we take a taxi to go to the island's capital, Ambodifotatra.


We first visit this old cemetery. Ile Sainte Marie was a major hangout for pirates in the 17th and 18th centuries and this is where some of them are buried. The most famous one to have been based on Sainte Marie was probably William Kidd.

Tombstone with crossbones.


After the cemetery, we go for a walk around the town. Realizing that this is my last opportunity for photos, I probably document the buildings slightly excessively...

Beer crates and gas cylinders.


The harbour.

We sit down to have a pizza and a drink. The pizza never arrives (we wait an hour and then actually have to leave to be able to make our flight) and we never find out why not, but while we are waiting:

Always the real thing!


This is the view onto the airstrip on Ile Saint Marie. We are flying back to Antanarivo for an overnight stay and then it's back home for us.

Thank you very much for coming along for this trip. That's if you are still with me and haven't lost your picture-viewing stamina somewhere around day 15 or so!

If, on the other hand, you would like to see it all again, go here:

© Annika - All The Live Long Day (unless otherwise stated)

1 comment:

  1. Hello :)
    you´v got really interesting photos here, I love these ones with the monkey :)


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