As promised, here is the second part of our adventure in Madagascar: from Nosy Be to Diego Suarez & back to Antananarivo. If you missed week 1, check it out here!
The landscape changes, but it remains beautiful all the way. The other change worth noting is the how people greet each other, which changes in different parts of Madagascar. Around the capital, it's "Manao ahoana", moving towards the North, "Salama" and "Mbala Tsara". Malagasy is the only language spoken throughout the country, but there are 18 dialects spoken in different regions.
Day 8: Andilana beach, Nosy Be
Andilana beach, considered one of the best beaches of Nosy Be, is indeed a beautiful spot. It is a bit touristy, with artisanal stalls right on the beach, but not too crowded (by my Mauritian standards). We loved the sight of Malagasy fishing boats on the beach: something that I believe, gives the beaches an edge over others.
Walking on the beach, we met Morel, a Malagasy man) who proposed fresh coconut, which we gladly accepted for breakfast. Morel also held a small shop on the beach and seemed to be a jack of all trades: he also offered to prepare freshly caught calamari (which he showed from his bucket) with “riz coco” coconut rice, the famous staple of Madagascar, for lunch. For a mere 10,000 Ar (3 euros), we booked before going for a stroll towards the Southern, more quiet part of the beach. It was Saturday and there was no one around! Satisfied with lunch, we asked Morel to prepare a dinner on the beach. Candle-lit, under the veranda of his beach stall (closed at that time), dinner was excellent King prawns and a Carangue (tropical fish).
Only 3 km to our hotel, being dare devils, we decided to go back by foot. We passed by groups of Malagasy people, not understanding the language we did not feel very secure, but reached the hotel safe and sound.
Day 9: Nosy Be to Nosy Komba
Early departure from the hotel for Hellville, onwards to Nosy (island) Komba. We bought very good Pains au Chocolat & Fresh juice at Oasis, before taking the boat to the islet. After a short boat journey, we arrived in the main village: there were stalls of artisanal products everywhere: paintings, tablecloths with hand-made Malagasy broderie, masks etc. We visited a few rooms and finally opted for “Chez Juliette”, recommended by travelers we met. Our room was a hut, right on the beach, costs just 20,000 Ar (6 eur) per night!! The most budget-friendly and value for money room ever!
For once that a guide was not mandatory, we went alone for a 3h hike, getting a bit lost in finding the path. It was quite a tough climb, due to the heat. We followed the path, without going down to other villages, since we did not have much time before dusk.The fright of our life: snake crossed our path! We remembered that the guide in Ankarafantsika said they were not venomous and do not attack here... frightening nonetheless!
Back to the village, we had a late lunch at Assany’s, beside Juliette’s place: Zebu sandwich and chips which were not too bad. On the beach, we met Jo, a fisherman who offered dinner with grilled fish which was ok, but didn’t beat Morel’s. Jo is a nice guy, who enjoys chatting.
Day 10: Nosy Komba
People wake up quite early here! We heard noise from the village around 5.30. My friend was feeling very sick in the morning: stomach bug, it seemed… probably combination of fatigue, drinking water from the tap in Nosy Be (because it looked “ok”!) the day before and the artisanal rum that Juliette proposed. We tried to have a lie-in hoping that he gets better. After breakfast, served in front of our beach hut by Assany, followed by a delicious “prawns sauce coco” with “riz coco” & fries, we went for a walk on the western beaches, adventuring barefoot, on the rocks to reach 2 small desert beaches. For diner, we had Calamari & Zebu at Gilo’s- a bit upmarket, but worth it!
Day 11: Nosy Komba- Ankarana park
Our boat trip back to the mainland was in a traditional pirogue, with Juliette’s son & husband. It was a nice as it also allowed us to see a more of Nosy Komba. For Breakfast in Ankif, we skipped the famous fried fish and opted for fried banana cakes (half bananas wrapped in flour dough), quite good but oily.
The journey from Ankif to Ankarana took about 5 hours and was very bumpy: so many large potholes that the drivers have made paths beside it! We stayed at Aurelien’s at the entrance of the Ankarana park.
Day 12: Ankarana
For the park visit, we shared a guide with 2 German travelers. We visited the “Perte de rivière”, the vast plain of grey Tsingys, passing on the suspended bridge, a cave and saw some scorpions, under the rocks and even a snake, on which I accidentally walked. I was lucky it was just its tail and it didn't seem to feel it. It amazed us that trees grow in such a hostile environment.
Back to the village, we rested a bit before heading to the sunset viewpoint on a hill, 4km away, with Francky, our guide. The 4km walk was quite tiring, after the day hike in the heat of Ankarana park. We enjoyed the moment on the hill, with a Malagasy beer before heading back in the dark. Diner at Aurelien’s was very good with the “Zebu brochette”, rice & tomato sauce.
Day 13: Ankarana to Joffreville
Aurelien reserved places in a Taxi Brousse for us: just beside the driver, so we would not be too squeezed. The journey took around 4 hours to the Joffreville intersection, on a national road which was in very bad condition! We then took a shared taxi to Joffreville, a very old car, not comfortable, but ok. The village is seems to be abandoned, like a ghost town, with some ancient colonial buildings. We stayed at the “Relais de la montagne” – no other choice in town.
Day 14: Parc Mt d’Ambre
To reach the parc, we walked about 3 km, with the receptionist from the village- she does this everyday! We opted for the “moyen parcours” (medium) in the rainforest. The majority of the hike is done on a big path, accessible by 4x4. We did not really feel “in” the forest. Some other tourists did the tour by 4x4 and got out every time the guide saw a chameleon…
Our guide showed us 4 chameleons, one of which was the smallest on the planet, which she found hidden under dry leaves: it is indeed tiny!
After the visit, we made our way to Ramen, via Diego Suarez, in Taxi brousses. They are not the most comfortable and can be sometimes crowded, but it's the best way to experience Madagascar, in my opinion.
In Ramen, we booked a small hut at Badamera before going for a walk on the beach at sunset. It is a small fishermen village, in the North of Madagascar, not far from Diego Suarez. There are a lot of restaurants by the beach, from huts to more fancy. We preferred the small hotelys by the beach, with excellent and cheap food- unlike typical hotelys on the roadsides. Our cheapest 3 course menu was 3 euros per person at Martine’s! We booked the trip to Mer d’Emeraude with Martine’s husband, who proposed a discounted price, since we were a bit hesitant. I'll tell you more about this sea excursion in the final part (3) of our adventure!
This backpacking trip was not done "Mora Mora" ("slowly slowly" in Malagasy), as we wanted to discover the most possible in the North. However, it did not feel rushed at all. Everything went more or less according to plan, surprisingly!
If you have any thoughts or questions, I would love to hear them: please leave a comment below.
For the last week of our Malagasy Adventure, Click Here!