The people in Madagascar are very poor but resourceful. They build their houses from materials gathered from the forest and their boats are totally made of natural materials. With a few exceptions the boats or dhows don’t have any engines and rely on the wind. Fortunately there are good winds here. In the early morning there’s the last of the night breeze blowing offshore and then most mornings a sea breeze strikes up towards the land at about 10am or 11am and goes on as late as 5pm or 6pm so the fishermen go out with one and come back with the other. Their sails are made of anything from rice bags sewn together to traditional heavy cotton sails with lots of varieties in between. Some have been fortunate to be given an old sail from a yacht and I say to those following us ‘don’t throw away any sails or sail material, bring it here’. Our friends on Adina gave away a sail and were given a live chicken in exchange! The Malagasy are very accomplished sailors and we often find they will try and race us when we’re sailing off shore and one of them very nearly beat us!
They use their dhows for fishing but also as transportation as the roads here are fairly basic or nonexistent.
This dhow is so heavily loaded the guy on the tiller can’t see where he’s going but relies on his fellow sailors to keep a look out. They were fairly close to shore where there was very little fetch because I could see it capsizing in any kind of sea.
Sunday 4th September we left Sakatia for Crater bay. There is a small ‘marina’ there that has quite a few charter boats on buoys. They offer a pontoon for your dinghy (but you need to lock it on) and the marina manager Rudi is Austrian and often able to help if you have a problem on board. We anchored outside the buoys at
048 13.151E with 14.9M under our keel.
Ashore there is a small bar built around some old engines that were probably in use here many years ago. It has cold beer with a limited selection of food and is a good yachtie meeting place. Note the bananas growing above the tables on the left hand side, now that’s fresh!
(For yachts following on behind us, this is the only place that had a theft this year but they were caught and punished and all was well after that. It’s important to lock up your boat and dinghy here but don’t be put off coming, it’s an interesting place.)
Monday morning we went in search of fresh supplies. It’s a 20 minute walk to the road along a dirt track. The houses were very primitive. Zebu carts were being used again.
This lady had set up a stall outside her house to sell some fresh produce. I try and buy one or two things from each person rather than everything from one. It spreads the wealth a bit.
This is their water supply.
Again their kitchens are outside.
We reached the town and found it quite busy. This is the main road.
Oddly enough one of the busiest shops was the Orange phone shop. Mobiles are becoming popular in the towns where there are phone masts but away from the towns they can’t afford such luxuries as a phone.
Next door was the butcher – unbelievable! The meat was covered in flies and we were told if you buy it early enough before the flies get on it , it’s ok! Err no, call me old fashioned but I would rather not share my meat with the flies. Not sure if it’s put in a fridge overnight because it looked fairly fresh but it wasn’t going to be good for our western stomachs.
A bit further down the road was a supermarket called the big bazaar which had reasonable supplies but across the road was the reason to come to crater bay…. a chandler.
It’s run by an Austrian guy called Roland Kofler his email address is email@example.com really helpful and speaks good English. It was surprisingly well stocked. Bill was able to buy some parts he’d been looking for.
After we’d had a look around, stocked up on provisions and had a nice lunch at the Catalan restaurant, we headed back to the boat again.
The thing that saddens me most about these remote countries is the children. These little chaps were playing in the dirt with a handmade toy and a broken one. They seemed happy enough but it breaks my heart. When I think of what the children have back home and how these children would really appreciate a tine bit of it. The odds aren’t good for them, 1 in 5 dies before the age of 5 but the ones we met seemed happy.
One of the few children we saw with shoes on.
As we walked back down the lane we could see the boats in the anchorage over the top of the buildings. On a closer look of the buildings we realised it was some kind of builders merchant. There were roof sections made of palm leaves, different sized logs for the frame work and sides of buildings made of split bamboo.
This poor man was struggling, the logs must have been very heavy.
It would have been interesting to know the prices they were charging for the materials, although the average income is US$5 a day. No minimum wage here.
These dhows were waiting for the tide to re-float them. They are very striking.
Back at the marina this is one of the puppies I wanted to take with me. So beautiful but full of fleas. He’s only this big because he’s feeding from his mother, she on the other hand was skin and bone. Difficult.
Tuesday we motored back to Hellville to see our friends on Norsa and Solstice arrive from Mayotte. We all went ashore so they could check in and then met up later for lunch at our favourite cafe called the Oasis. Built in a Parisian street cafe kind of style the food is very good but the best are the chocolate brownies with a nice cappuccino. Yum
The following day Tintin joined us from the islands and we had drinks on Camomile in the evening to celebrate. Rather a lot of drinks….
…. which resulted in Norman falling in the water! No photos available. Haha
Thursday we motored back to Crater bay for a few days so the others could visit the chandler.
Saturday we sailed back to Sakatia lodge for more delicious food.
A note about Sakatia lodge, it isn’t a restaurant it’s a dining room for guests, which we were welcome to join but the meal is a set meal. We were very lucky that night.
There were two plates this size for the six of us, wonderful food.
It was finished with homemade orange ice cream with an orange liqueur.
Now remember we aren’t on holiday!
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!