Madagascar: Slumming it in paradise

2013-06-12 14:39
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Madagascar on the slow

Sophia van Taak, go! Magazine writer makes like a pirate in the north of Madagascar - take a look.

In the north of Madagascar you can live like a pirate: sailing from island to island and camping on the beach - Sophia van Taak, go! Magazine writer shares her experience

Kalakajoro & Tany Mora

Crabs as big as a man’s fist scurry around in the dark and the beach is full of small mounds of sand that they’ve excavated from their tunnels. A few young fishermen have sidled up to join us around the campfire. One of them strums a homemade guitar and they pass around bottles of Three Horses Beer…

I’m starting to get used to island life. Yes, my coccyx hurts from sitting on the deck all day, and at night the thin sponge mattress doesn’t offer much relief from the knobbly roots of the mangrove trees.
But the discomfort is a small price to pay. We eat our dinners under starry skies, there’s an abundance of fruit and fresh fish - and the anticipation of what the next island may hold is thrilling.


It’s time to make our way back towards Nosy Be. Tonight we’ll camp upstream from the Baramahamay estuary and tomorrow the Izy Salama will sail east, past Russian Bay, to Nosy Komba where you can see lemurs up close.

The local chief gives us permission to camp on a small beach, but he tells us we may not go beyond the sand because it’s holy ground. The remains of a former king’s wooden temple are visible in the long grass.

We’ve just pitched our tents when a man appears out of the bushes. His chest and arms are covered in sticky, shiny streaks of honey and he carries a pole across his shoulders with a bucket on one end and an upturned palm sheath on the other, loaded with honeycomb. Without a word, he breaks off a piece and holds it out to me. When last did I eat fresh honeycomb? I chew the sweet substance, squeezing the warm honey out with my teeth.

(Sam Rienders)


A rat fell on me last night. And we weren’t even camping on the beach! We were in an MIS camp called Mahalina. At least it wasn’t a crab.

The whole island (and its surrounding coral reef) is a protected reserve and one of the most sought-after snorkelling spots in Madagascar, if not the whole Indian Ocean.

A few dhows and luxury catamarans bob in the water around Tanikely and snorkels and fins stick out of the sea.

Sam Rienders)

Before long, a French snorkeller calls me over and points at something on the seabed. I swim closer and there he is: a hawksbill turtle with beautiful patterns on his shell and a smile on his face! I follow him and he lifts his snout, then dives down and swims away. I try to keep up, but the tortue de mer disappears into a school of fish.

Nosy Komba

(Sam Rienders)

It’s our last day in Madagascar and we’re on our way from Lokobe to Nosy Komba, one of the more popular tourist destinations here in the north. Why? Lemurs, of course!

The guide gives me a banana and says I should call them over by saying, “Maki, maki, maki.” (Maki is the French word for lemur.) But I’ve barely peeled my banana and uttered my first maki when a whole crew of black lemurs swarms over.

It’s hot and the lemurs have draped their sleepy bodies in the trees. Their arms dangle. A lemur lifts his chin and then gracefully hops down to sit next to me. We look each other in the eye. Then he leans in close and presses his forehead against mine.

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Read more on:    madagascar  |  travel international

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