September 06, 2018

As a South African, it becomes quite hard to find a destination that’s slightly friendlier to the pocket. Madagascar is one of those places, which comes as a pleasant relief with regards to that. It goes without saying, that you might not have a luxurious ride in a Land Rover across the mainland, but who said a 14-hour ride in a taxi bus isn’t an interesting story? 

Getting there.

Looking at the map, Madagascar seems like a relatively close destination for South Africans, and yes, it is. However, finding a cheap direct flight is another dilemma (so you would find it cheaper to travel up to Addis Ababa and back down to Ethiopia, which if you lucky you can find a flight for R5999 round trip). Travel time will then roughly be 20 hours, instead of an easy 4 hours for a direct flight.

 I look at it this way: As they always say, time is money. So, for the time you are saving with the direct flight - it comes at a price. Whereas the additional time you spend travelling with Ethiopian airlines - I start to see it as them paying me for all that additional time. It’s one of those moments where one is just forced to see the glass half full. 

Just landed.

First up on the island-hopping gallivanting was the island of Nosy Komba - which has a total surface area of 25km2. Directly translated Nosy Komba means Lemur Island. The peak reaches 660m and my feet were itching to summit this little peak.

The only way to access this island is by boat. You can catch the boat from Nosy Be (one of the larger islands, and probably most developed in Madagascar). At the port, you soon realise you are in a different place. There is a hustle and bustle, and everyone is eager to get your bags onto a boat, so hold on tight to what you have. Leaving the little port of Nosy Be, one escapes onto the deep blue warm waters of Madagascar surrounded by peaks of lush green forests on either side. There is a saying in Madagascar that goes ‘Mora Mora’ meaning slowly-slowly. Nothing here seems to be rushed and its quite a mind-set shift from the fast-paced city life. Also, there are no cars!

Waking up after my first night’s rest in Nosy Komba was an interesting experience. I was getting myself tangled in the mosquito net and overwhelmed from the heat, but as I stepped outside there were pristine clear waters, with not a trickle of wind and only lush forests all round. It was also due time to test pit the WILD-FIRE mid-cut boots from HI-TEC, as they were just looking too new at this stage.  We started our ascent after a traditional local meal - made up of a large portion of rice, a small spoon of sauce with some zebu (local beef) and grated cabbage and carrots. A rather tasty endeavour to say the least.

As I slipped on the WILD-FIRE’s I felt at home: the comfort and support to the ankles was real pro in these boots. The climb up hosted a few technical rocky areas where the boots faired extremely well in the grip department as we headed up a large distance of slippery clay-like surfaces. What made the climb challenging was the temperature and the heat. Reaching the top just before sunset was a magical feeling. We spent the night up there, went on a night walk to spot some of the reptiles and inhabitants of the forest and let me tell you - there was no shortage of snakes, geckos, chameleons and spiders.

Next up on our island-hopping itinerary was the island of Nosy Sakatia. It’s another small island just off Nosy Be. It was such a treat seeing the large green turtles that fed off the sea-grass during high tide. And just a short boat ride away, we found ourselves on new shores. Our plan was to spend a night here kayaking around the island and of course, going for a snorkel with these amazing green turtles. We also enjoyed a leisurely kayak around the island gliding over the clearest waters I have come across in my life, even spotting a few turtles over head while we were doing so.

Upon our return the chef had the table prepared and after our kayak a good meal was most welcomed.  We were in awe of the food - whole fish, freshly caught and grilled on the open flame with a tomato, ginger, garlic, lemon and chilli sauce. It didn’t stop there. The dish was accompanied by: vanilla – saffron rice, crab, shrimp kebabs, zebu kebabs, cabbage, carrot and avocado salad and fresh pineapple for desert.  

Full tummies didn’t stop us from going for another snorkel. After swimming out a decent distance someone spotted the first green turtle and then they were everywhere. I took this photo with @larismania to give a comparison of size. It was one of the most magical moments.

The adventure continues.

We ventured to the island of Nosy Mamoko, a sacred island located off the Mainland of Madagascar. At first, we were not sure as to what sacred meant, but we were soon informed that it meant no shoes or no going to the toilet on the island. This led to a few awkward moments when you run into someone appearing from the waters at 12 at night, but I think we’ll just leave it at that. We were to set up camp on the beach just over the high tide mark and the skies were just… indescribable.

There was a moment where I was awoken at night thinking I’m sleeping in the ocean! Luckily it was just the high tide at its highest point - only like a casual meter from the tent. After a surprisingly soothing sleep we ventured onto Russian bay where we would embark on a hike to explore the change in fauna and flora.

Slipping on the WILD-FIRE’s made me realise how much I’ve missed their comfort. It was a vast change in scenery as opposed to Nosy Komba. There were open fields of bush and scattered dense forests, but not nearly as lush as Nosy Komba and Sakatia. Our path took us along the rift of the mountain which was roughly 600m above sea level (after which we descended back down to walk along the shores).

The little things.

Madagascar is quite full surprises. We were making our way back and a local came running to us trying to grab our attention to show us something. We followed him to a deep hole in the sand, still not too sure what we are looking out for and then we saw a mound of eggs inside, with one starting to hatch. In no time the baby turtle broke free and started the journey to the wild waters, soon followed by the new familia of brothers and sisters. Below is an image of one turtle making his way to the ocean, and by no means was this an easy shot to get, I can easily put these guys up against Usain Bolt.  A moment I will cherish forever.

The best for last.

We decided to leave the best for last… Nosy Iranja. Many a times you see a photo of a destination, but rarely it matches what you see in real-life. Nosy Iranja on the other hand felt as if I stepped into a postcard. Two islands connected by a stretch of pristine white sand, surrounded by crystal clear turquoise water and lush forests. I can easily say that it is one of the top 5 most beautiful places I have ever stepped foot on. Being the last destination on the itinerary; our plan was to hike to the lighthouse designed by Gustave Eiffel himself. The photo below is of Nosy Iranja taken from the lookout point. Other than that, we couldn’t help ourselves but spend hours relaxing in the warm waters of Nosy Iranja.

The End.

Madagascar teaches one to be open to change. Things almost never run according to plan or time, yet it always gets done. The beauty and the friendliness of the people is truly special and most importantly “mora-mora.” Take it easy and enjoy the simpler things in life. 

Written by Alex Oelofse

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