Our first full week in Madagascar started with the chaos that is Hellville, the biggest town on the island of Nosy Be. The name means ‘big island’ and is pronounced ‘nossy bay’. It’s thought it was settled as long ago as 1649 by the English but the colony failed due to hostile natives and disease. They have had various arrivals since, Arabs and Comorans, but it finally came under the protection of the French in 1841. More recently Europeans have created a holiday resort of the island with many French and Italians settling there. We anchored at
Hellville was named after Admiral de Hell a former governor of Reunion island further south rather than an evocation of the state of the town. It’s one of the places yachts can check in. A lot has been said about the government officials here and it’s very difficult finding any common ground. There are two locals here called Jimmy and Cool, Jimmy will walk you around the various officials which, if you don’t speak French, is necessary and Cool will mind your dinghy for you as there’s no dinghy dock. It will be moved around but we felt they needed to be trusted and we had no complaints. We work on 4,000 Ariary to 1GBP and Jimmy charges 30,000 and Cool 10,000 for the day to look after your dinghy so we aren’t talking big money. Unfortunately our photo of Jimmy didn’t come out but he’s on the left of this photo in the the red t-shirt. This also shows the chaos where you have to come ashore.
We went ashore first thing on the morning of Monday 29th August and the fun began!!
The first people to see are the police, they have an office/portacabin on the waterfront. They filled in an arrival form for us then said the person to stamp the visa wasn’t there so Jimmy took us to their office in the town. The tuktuk fares are 500AR per person for any journey which was 25p for the two of us. We got off at the bank to get some money out of the ATM. It issued us with 10,000AR notes which are worth about 2.50 so Bill ended up with wads of money in his pocket which is never a good idea. Continuing on to the visa office but the guy we needed to see wasn’t there either. A little word about tuk tuks, forget doors and windows, forget MOTs, forget health and safety, just go for a ride!
We went back to the police dock and said we couldn’t find him and, after various suggestions, all of which would have cost ‘bribe’ money, it was agreed we would go back later. Then it was onto port control who were very efficient and it cost AR61,000 for a 1 month cruising permit for the Nosy Be area. (Note to sailors following us , you only need a permit for the month you’ll be in this area even if you have a visa for 2 months as we did.)
The next stop was the Orange shop to set up a sim for the phone with internet access passing the local prison on the way. Remind me to behave here, can’t imagine the squalor that would be behind these walls.
Continuing along to the market.
Quite a sight. This meat is just sitting out in the open and was covered in flies, fortunately you can’t smell the smells. Needless to say we didn’t buy any. A bit further along the dried fish stalls were just as bad.
The fruit on this stall was very good and I bought a bundle of these lettuces for about 75p.
We made our way back to the port to meet Jimmy at 2.30 to get our visas stamped. The guy still wasn’t anywhere to be seen and it was suggested we go to the airport to find him. I refused that because it wasn’t a weekend and I knew it could cost 30,000 plus in a taxi each way. The police were also after their ‘payment’ asking first for 120,000 but we refused saying other cruisers have paid 80,000 which they accepted. This is only about GBP20 but as we knew it was simply a ‘bribe’ we weren’t happy about paying but you have no choice. If you don’t pay they won’t check you in and can then arrest you – having seen the prison, we paid. We went back to the boat and finally at 4pm he turned up and we were able to get our visas which cost AR100,000 per person. At the end of the day we paid less than GBP100 for the whole thing which was far less than the other countries in the Indian ocean but it all felt a bit tacky. At last we were able to host the Madagascan flag I had made.
The next morning it was back into town for shopping. This is the car park outside the supermarket. Isn’t he lovely? Its called a zebu and they are every where including on the meat counters for sale!
The supermarket had a lot of French products and wine so we had a little stock up. The fruit and veg weren’t as good as the market but we found in the following days that certain days after a delivery the stock was better.
Then it was on to …… guess where?
We’ve got various leaks in Camomile’s water system and Bill needed some tubing. This man was very helpful with his little bit of English and Bill using a little bit of french he managed to get what he needed.
The traffic is a bit chaotic here with a mixture of cars, tuk tuks and zebu carts.
Back at the port we watched the most extraordinary scene where they were loading cars and fairly big trucks onto a local ferry. I’ll try and post a video on facebook. How they didn’t sink I’ll never know. Jimmy was watching and our dinghy had been pulled up onto the side. This is why you need to pay Cool his AR10,000 to watch your dinghy. The truck was held up while our dinghy was launched.
Later that afternoon we motored the 10 miles around to Nosy Komba and arrived just in time to see this stunning sunset behind one of the off shore islands.
The next morning we went ashore with Kevin and Jacqui of Tintin to explore. The village was very authentic and pretty. At first it looked like peoples washing blowing in the wind but we realised it was beautiful hand embroidered tablecloths for sale.
These ladies are doing their washing in one of the troughs that has a fresh water fill from the mountain above. Their houses don’t have electricity or running water. We didn’t ask about the toilets!
This little chap was being given a shower in front of the water trough.
This is one of the local houses. This isn’t one of those contrived villages where every one goes home after work, these are really houses where they all live. It looks like one decent puff of wind and they would be blown down but they are fairly strong. All the cooking is done outside on open fires. This is her kitchen in front of her house. They were so lovely, its a bit touristy but very pretty.
After lunch we took a guide up into the forest to find some lemurs. The first thing we were shown was a ylang ylang tree whose flowers are used to make perfume namely Channel No5 they had a delightful aroma.
We walked further up and saw this beautiful chameleon on a tree.
and wild pineapples growing alongside the path.
Our guide was calling’ maki, maki, maki’ and opening a banana he had brought with us. Then they appeared, first two, then two more and four above us. Such gentle creatures. Lemurs, roughly cat sized, are well known in northern Madagascar. The males are black and the females are chestnut brown.
Male brown lemur, you can tell because of his beautiful white ear tufts and side whiskers.
The guide was holding out banana to them and gave me some to hold up ready to give them. Soon I had a couple on my shoulders looking for their piece of banana, they were very gentle.
Such delicate sweet creatures.
There were some mums with babies further up the tree but they didn’t want to come down.
It was very funny watching them jump from tree to tree. So many of our photos have half a lemur in them.
We were also taken to see some tortoises……
…… and a boa constrictor
Back on the beach this local boat was anchored. It’s made almost entirely in local materials, the hull is made of wood, the mast is a tree trunk and the sail is made of a very tough cotton. Further up the beach was a local boat builder and Bill was fascinated to see the various stages of build.
We headed back to the dinghies. On the beach there were some men building a local house, bet they don’t have a risk assessment!
Not a hard hat, safety shoe or high vis jacket in sight.
Thursday 1st September Camomile left Nosy Komba for Nosy Sakatia stopping at Nosy Tanikeli on the way. It’s part of the national park and you have to pay AR10,000 per person. We anchored at
048 14.209E on a bit of a shelf. We had 16.5m under our keel but only intended to stay for a few hours so weren’t too concerned.
There aren’t many places to snorkel in Madagascar and the coral has been bleached but we decided to get in. This would probably be our last snorkel until the Caribbean next year. The first thing that struck us was the water was quite chilly compared to the Seychelles or Maldives
Then I spotted a turtle swimming gracefully around the coral looking for tasty morsels. At first I didn’t want to go too close and frighten it but it wasn’t bothered about us. I was able to get closer and closer. It was almost a metre long from head to tail. I swam with it for about 20 minutes just watching it. Magical.
After our swim we carried onto Nosy Sakatia and anchored at
048 09.680E with 9m under our keel. This is the beach in front of us, the Sakatia Lodge is right up in the corner to the left of this beach and very welcoming to yachties. The food is more expensive than the rest of Madagascar but was excellent.
The following day we celebrated our 38th wedding Anniversary. We went over to the lodge for lunch then returned in the evening for a delicious meal. This lady made the most fantastic mojito and they were only AR8,000 or GBP2 each
Our meal started with chilled cucumber soup.
It was followed by Calamari with peas in a delicious sauce and duchess potatoes.
When the meal was booked in the morning the staff were told it was our anniversary. When the dessert came the chief had very kindly made a lovely cake for us. It was absolutely laced with rum and delicious. What a wonderful celebration. Next year – Boston!
Mayotte is part of the Comoros group and the island sits inside the biggest natural lagoon in the world. We had picked up a buoy at the yacht club at
The yacht club was very friendly and had helped us with our check in but the best thing was that they had not 1 but 4 front loading, 1200 rpm washing machines with HOT water. I was in heaven, if it wasn’t nailed down it was washed while we were there.
Sunday 14th August was a good day with us making an early start and walking around the Emerald crated on Petit Terre, the little island. We walked right round the ridge along the top and down to the beaches on the other side. I’ll just post some photos for you to enjoy.
A nice panoramic shot showing the ridge path on both sides.
Before we completed the circuit a path leads south towards the beach. This is the beach on the outside of the crater rim but we couldn’t get down to it.
The path continued towards two vent bubbles that have created two beaches. To get down to the beach it’s an almost vertical track and my knees I didn’t fancy it so we continued passed the beaches to the road and walked back to the beach.
The beaches were volcanic black sand mixed with some light sand giving it a grey colour but very hot to walk on. The northern beach was mostly hard rock formed from the flowing lava many thousands of years ago.
The southern beach was more sandy and had many turtle tracks up the beach where turtles lay their eggs at night.
The sea looked very inviting after our sweaty walk but we didn’t have our swimmers with us.
After walking back up to the car park we were lucky enough to get a taxi back to the dinghy jetty.
We spent part of our second week looking for an emergency dentist because I had toothache which was getting worse and worse. Fortunately by Thursday I was sorted with a temporary filling so on Friday we hired a car for the day to look around the island.
There were some nice views from some of the headlands.
The botanical gardens weren’t very good and sadly there was a lot of rubbish strew around the island as well as a lot of ‘dead’ cars but we did find some nice beaches.
Mayotte has some species of the Baobab trees growing next to some of the beaches.
The island is dominated by Mlima Benara the highest peak on Grande-Terra. It’s distinct shape is visible from almost any where on the island.
Our last stop was at a nice hotel that had tables on the beach for a mojito.
Monday 22nd I went to the dentist again to have the root removed and the tooth filled. I was very worried although I shouldn’t have been because all was OK. We went ahead and checked out Tuesday, after a last batch of washing and shopping, and left Mayotte first thing Wednesday morning. I can’t honestly recommend Mayotte, a week would have been long enough, although we found the people were friendly and I got my tooth sorted. The main reason for going there was to avoid the Seychelles to Madagascar run, which has a notorious reputation. Instead our trip from Mayotte to Madagascar was an easy one. We exited out of the Bandrelle pass on the south east corner of the reef at 08.00 with Tintin and Elonisa. There was a light wind so we were able to start off sailing.
By 15.30 the wind had dropped and we had to motor overnight. This amazing sunset was seen in the evening. We continued motoring the next day until about 14.30 when the sea breeze from Madagascar started up and the engine was turned off again. We sailed the last three hours. Although Elonisa had gone on ahead of us being a much bigger and faster boat Camomile arrived just 10 minutes after Tintin again. The journey of 188 miles took 36 hours making it an average of 5.2 kph.
Arriving late in the afternoon our landfall had been Nosy Sakatia, north west of Nosy Be. We had anchored at
In the morning we enjoyed seeing these wonderful pirogues using the last of the land breeze to sail out to their fishing ground and in the afternoon they use the sea breeze to sail back again. They are a magnificent sight but some of the sails are very worn out. Even the little canoes have a sail of sorts on to use the wind. These guys were also paddling hard. For those yachties following along behind us, if you get new sails for your Indian ocean trip don’t through your old sails away. Bring them here, they would make very good use of them.
The next morning Tintin headed into Hellville but we didn’t want to check in until Monday morning so we motored across the bay to Nosy Kisimany to meet up with Tom and Susie on Adina.
Beautiful approach. First impressions of Madagascar are good. One of the things that’s so striking is the lack of rubbish every where. That’s mainly because the plastic age hasn’t fully reached these parts yet – long may it continue.
This wonderful canoe followed us into the anchorage on the way to his village. Again using his sail – no noisy outboards or Thai long tails here; it’s so peaceful.
We anchored at
048 05.182E in 8 metres of water.
Within minutes of putting the anchor down these little chaps sailed over to us from the village. I just want to point out we’ve never been worried about these situations and have only ever encountered friendliness.
They rolled their sail up and laid it across the outrigger before producing a fish for sale that was so stiff I dread to think how old it was. We thanked them kindly but refused it. They were asking for fishing line which we gave them along with some lollipops and they went away happy. The older one couldn’t have been much more than 9 or 10 and his brother was probably about 7.
Adina arrived and we were invited over for a meal. It was a lovely evening. It enabled us to take some nice shots of Camomile in the evening light.
The following day in the afternoon Camomile and Adina sailed across to Hellville ready for our Monday morning check in but that’s for another blog. Adina took some really good shots of Camomile on the way.