All who live under the sky are woven together like one big mat.
Lunch stop in Belo
All who live under the sky are woven together like one big mat
Early start to get in the queue of vazas (foreigners) at the Tsingy de Bemaraha Park ferry to cross the Tsiribhina River. We endured a very bumpy ride back to the Queens Bar Restaurant in Belo for the lunch we ordered 3 days ago on our way through. Life is mora mora (slowly, slowly in Malagasy) in Madagascar so best not leave these things to chance!
The Zebu (Malagasy cattle) with peppercorn sauce, french fries and legumes went down nicely. The atmosphere was electric as there was very loud Malagasy tunes blaring out at a stall across the road, the kids were dancing to the beat having the time of their lives. A lady came past with a washing bowl on her head carrying live ducks and I found a small boy blowing up a condom, hopefully mistaken for a balloon. Belo certainly had a lively vibe and brilliant people watching territory!
Another ferry ride was in order to leave Belo which fit our 4 cars and a few local passengers. Once we disembarked, just another 1.5 hours to see the Sacred Baobab.
The Sacred Boabab Tree
This sacred baobab tree is a place of worship. In Madagascar, it is believed that ancestor spirits live in the trees and forests to watch over their kin, relay messages to and from God, and grant blessings. We could see bottles of rum and honey at the base of the tree which are offerings by family paying homage.
The 1000 year old majestic tree towered above us and the swollen trunks are just huge, I wasn’t surprised to discover they can store up to 120,000 litres of water. Whilst some of our buddies bought souvenirs, we waited in the car and gave some bon bons to the kids, which became a little bit of a riot as word got around. Note to oneself, hand out goodies when there are only a few kids in sight!
Sunset in Boabab Avenue
The race was on to get to Boabab Avenue or Alley before the sun went down. We made it! The 260m tree lined road between Morondava and Belon’i Tsiribihina was stunning and you can appreciate why the Boabab trees, known locally as renala (mother of the forest) are world famous.
Just watching the sun go down casting different golden lights onto the trees made my day. The orange sky lit up, the thick tree trunks and wispy branches became silhouettes against the dramatic sunset, no trip to Madagascar is complete without this experience.
The baobab trees used to rest within a dense green forest but has suffered much deforestation for agriculture. As the first step to preserving the national monument of Madagascar, Boabob Avenue was granted temporary protected status in 2007 by the Ministry of Environment, Water and Forests. There is no payment to visit this site so the locals make souvenirs to sell and the kids will bring you a chameleon to hold in exchange for some Malagasy Ariary.
Located 400km from South Africa on the coast of the Mozambique Channel you will find the Kirindy Private Reserve. It is roughly 50 km from Morondava, north of Baobab Avenue.
We headed there on the hunt for more wildlife mainly endemic to Madagascar. We weren’t disappointed as the first animal we sighted was the endangered Fossa, the largest predator on the island. They say it is half dog, half cat in appearance but it is a relative of the mongoose family. They have unusually long tails to help them balance in the trees as they hunt lemurs, their prey of choice. We were careful not to go too close as they can be aggressive with humans too.
As we leisurely walked around the dry woodland forest we were on the lookout for lemurs as the park supposedly contains around 32 species, and there it was, a nocturnal Red-tailed Sportive Lemur high up in the tree in the daytime. How’s our luck?
Next up was the common brown lemur chilling in the trees but after this our luck ran out. We stayed put whilst the guide went on the lemur hunt to report back without a sighting of the sifaka lemur. I had to keep moving I was getting bitten alive by insects so cover up your ankles, that’s all I’m saying! There was a snake slithering around in the bushes by the path but he was just going about his own business.
There were loads of interesting trees… did I really just just say that? Can’t believe us foreigners have a tree named after us; the Vaza tree. Vaza means white foreigner in Malagasy and this tree peels like we do in the sun hence the name. We stumbled upon a rather phallic looking tree which caused a few giggles amongst the group. There is security to watch over the park as illegal logging takes place of the precious palisander (rosewood) and ebony which can only be found in Madagascar. Not sure how easy it would be to casually walk out with a huge tree under your arm.
Beach stay in Morondava
The town of Morondava was really our base to see the local sights. As you drive through from the direction of the Boabob Avenue and Kirindy Forest, you pass through a lively market street with so many different kinds of stalls; food, shoes, electronics and more! There is a chaotic happiness about the place, everyone wants to smile and wave.
The other end of town was the sleepy Nosy Kely beach where we stayed at Le Sun-Beach Hotel which was a wonderful place to chill after some busy days exploring. Great little haven right on the beach with very welcoming staff and delicious cuisine in the restaurant.
The sea isn’t so clear in this stretch of Madagascar but we went for a dip anyway. As we had our own yoga teacher on tour, we made use of the deserted beach in the morning for a session on the beach. The Vezo tribe reside in the coastal villages of southwest Madagascar and can be seen bringing in the fishing boats each day before sunset for local restaurants and their families.
The evenings are relaxed too but if you fancy live music and atmosphere, L’Oasis is your place whether you are into reggae music or not. Jean Le Rasta, the owner, will greet you with a huge smile and the biggest dreads I’ve seen in a long time. The live band was awesome with free-styling reggae singers going for it every night of the week. My friend Rick made a special guest appearance with ‘You Raise Me Up’. I was unsure about his song choice I have to admit… I ate my words, it was epic and the live band joined in, singing the song in Malagasy. Wow…Misaotra Morondava (thank you in Malagasy)
>> Discover more of Madagascar; read about Tsingy de Bemaraha Nature Reserve.
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>> Trip organised by Trekkup
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