After an inglorious start to part three of our Madagascar adventure yesterday, this morning redeemed itself. We thought we had some excursions booked through our travel agent, but the hotel seemed to know nothing about it. And because we were not picked up by a GMT+3 driver yesterday, no pick-up time was decided and no information was provided. So we had a bit of a sleep in and figured we would clarify this morning. We woke up to a clear day (after last night’s storm) with a beautiful beach right outside our door.
Here is a shot from our front door and our ‘rustic’ bungalow.
We enjoyed a nice buffet and were lingering over coffee and tea when one of the lodge staff came up and said our taxi was here. Huh, guess today’s plans were actually booked but not through the hotel. A quick sunscreen, change into bathing suits and off we went to the other end of the island. We had booked a two island tour. Nosy Komba has endemic black lemurs and Nosy Tanikely, another ½ hour boat ride to decent reef for snorkeling.
Medi is both our driver and our guide here on Nosy Be (although he spent a lot of today on his phone!).
We drove from the north end to the south west end of Nosy Be island so we could pick up our boat for the day. It was a small panga style fibreglass 20 footer with a hand pullstart old outboard. We are not sure our boatmen were super experienced. Actually scratch that, they weren’t. They didn’t know to turn the key on to allow the motor to start and later left the outboard tank pressure screw closed so they starved the engine as the pressure increased inside the tank. Dave grew up playing with outboards and just by the sound of the engine was able to understand there was not enough fuel. My grandfather Bob King told me that “You can’t be a good Christian and own an old outboard.” As the poor guys kept wrapping the starter rope around the flywheel and pulling with no start I wondered what they were muttering under their breath… Not good clean Christian words I’m sure. It probably took them about 15 minutes to get the engine going and then it was smooth as glass cruising over to Nosy Komba.
We did an easy beach landing and after Medi arranged a local woman to cook lunch for us we did the tourist walk through a village with lots of things for sale. This used to be a simple fishing village, but recently with all the tourist traffic (there is even a cruise ship that stops here), they have become a handicraft Mecca. There are beautiful hand sewn table cloths for sale as well as a ton of wooden carvings, some very colourful artwork and Ylang Ylang essential oil.
Up the hill a bit from the village we got to meet the other locals. Nicknamed Maki for their noises, the endemic black lemurs here are quite cute (only the male is actually black, the females are a reddish brown).
They also know tourists have bananas so they are friendly and will jump on your shoulders. They are wild, but used to being treated to fruit. Although, when it is mango season, they often will not come out for tourist bananas. We arrived a bit late, after several other tourist groups had already been through the park – thus there were a few lemurs up in the trees who had had their fill of bananas, and wouldn’t come down for more. Lemur prerogative, I suppose – nap more important than more food.
We both got to play with a few who still wanted treats.
Just up the path is a 36 year-old Seychelles tortoise named Caroline. She liked being cuddled.
Vanilla orchids grow in the park. Vanilla in Madagascar is very expensive. The species of bee that pollinates this type of vanilla is found only in Mexico, so the work is all done by hand (as with so many things in this country). We were told people have been killed over vanilla (stealing/defending your farm etc). The black plastic is covering over the been to protect it from drying out.
They also grow pepper here. Black, green and red peppercorns were for sale everywhere. Here is pepper a plant.
There was also a tree boa which we saw and photographed but didn’t want to pick up or get anywhere close to. Not a highlight for sure. This one is only two years old and still quite small. Our local guide assured us that he wasn’t dangerous to us – nope, still not going to hold it. We were both really glad that we have come to Madagascar in snake hibernation season, so we didn’t see any of these in the wild.
Back at the village we enjoyed a huge lunch. Skewered shrimp, crab, some sort of white fish and bread. None of which Dave eats. However there was also an amazing avocado slice, tomato and carrot salad (there must have been 3 whole avocados in there) as well as delicious coconut rice. All portions were huge. There was enough food for 6 people, which we repeated several times, but Medi wouldn’t eat with us.
We stuffed ourselves and then headed back to the boat to head over to Nosy Tanikely (means small island) to snorkel. The ocean is easily close to 30º so no worries about just going right in.
We saw three sea turtles which were either hawksbill or green. Google thinks both are common here. They sure didn’t care about us. When we get to some better bandwidth we’ll upload some video of them.
We saw some giant clams too. Smaller that the massive ones on the Great Barrier Reef but still 1 foot across or so.
Lots of spiny sea urchins.
And tons of small hard corals with their fishy caretakers.
After the great snorkel we headed back to port and back to our hotel for a nice dinner and an early sleep. Tomorrow we head off to Nosy Iranja for another beach and boat day.