Eight kilometres from the northwest coast of Madagascar, Nosey Be (“Big Island” in Malagasy) is the area’s largest tourist destination. Here we found another haven of beautiful beaches, lush vegetation (much of it floral), and lovely people.
We joined a group of 14 who hopped on a bus to be taken to the southeast side of the island. But, first we had to check out “Hell-ville, the main port on the island with a lively marketplace. It was named to honour a former French Governor and it certainly doesn’t reflect the character of the town.
The road to Andranogoaika, where we were to walk to a beach and hop into outrigger canoes, cut through great fields of Ylang Ylang trees – used to make perfumes and essential oils. The yellow flowers gave off a wonderful scent and it was interesting to see that they topped all of the trees to ensure easy access for the pickers. The bus stopped so that we could check out the flowers as well as the huge chameleon a man was carrying along the side of the road.
The locals must have laughed as they saw such a group of intrepid travellers climbing into the canoes and paddling across the bay. It was 2.5km to Ambataozavavy and most of us paddled all the way across (with the local fellow in the back doing most of the work, of course). By the time we hit the beach I was ready for a nap and my arms felt like jelly. I wasn’t the only one to yelp when we found out that we had to go back the same way! But…we had the forest yet to conquer!
We were greeted in the village by singing and dancing children…oh so cute. As we walked there were successive groups of kids, some drumming, most dancing and all singing. I had brought pencils and stickers and they were excited to get them, despite the fact that the US$ was what was expected.
Donald, our guide, ushered us along, down a muddy path into the trees and almost immediately pointed out lemurs. The first ones we saw were brown lemurs and later we saw the nocturnal black lemurs asleep above us. We walked about 2 km along the path with Donald pointing out various creepy crawlies when his eagle eye spotted a rather large python. Susan, the fearless Winnipeger who organized the tour, draped it around her neck. I declined the treat 😉
The ship was leaving early that day so we had to decline the lunch that they had prepared for us back in the village (we offered the food to the villagers) and we hopped back in the canoes. All were relieved when we noticed the engine on the lead boat and we were to be towed, in convoy, back to the distant beach.
As we floated slowly along the water we noticed a beautiful looking house on the hillside overlooking the water and it’s own private beach. We were told it was owned by a French family who came from Europe often each year to enjoy the serenity of Nosey Be.
No wonder – it’s a magical place.