nosy iranja, madagascar in pictures

This little island is about an hour and a half from Nosy Be island (in the far North of Madagascar) by boat. It’s tidal, so when we arrived it looked like two round islands with a massive beach connecting the two, but as the tide came in the two islands became separated.

There’s a baby turtle nursery (a bit dubious about this) and a village too. Here are some pictures.

 

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Weird & Wonderful Madagascar

So my wonderful workplace has it’s own blog and I thought I’d share a piece I wrote for them on Madagascar. Check it out!

bunniktours

By Amelia Winter

Welcome to Antananarivo… an unexpected gem and a place I was told I would dislike. But it has everything I love – interesting buildings, beautiful scenery, an intriguing history and locals with a sense of humour. It’s a place full of surprises; a built-up city with rice paddies right in the centre of town, traffic jams caused by an ox and cart, groups of young people dressed like they’re heading to their wedding and/or space… so many little things that put a smile on my face (lucky I brought some patience and a sense of adventure).Antananarivo lake
I was told not to expect much from Tana and that’s probably why I loved it. Sure it’s dirty, chaotic and sometimes confronting – but it’s the kind of place where every time one turns their head something out of the ordinary is happening. This, in my opinion, is one of…

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the funniest thing I have ever seen while travelling

Here’s a little tale of roadside assistance, Malagasy-style. It’s hard for a non-mechanically-minded person such as myself to describe so bear with me. It doesn’t help that every time I think about it I dissolve into fits of giggles either.
We were about halfway back to Antananarivo from Andasibe when we pulled up behind a white truck on the right side of the road that had pulled over. We held back as there was a cart carrying building materials being pulled by two zebu coming towards us up the hill and we had to give way. A red truck had also been travelling in front of us and, once the zebu were out of the way, started to make its way round the white truck.
Just as the red truck was right alongside the white truck, it slowed right down and a guy threw what looked (to me) like a small log under the wheel… at which point the front trailer keeled over to the left and I honestly thought the truck was going to roll down the embankment to the side. We (much, much) later found out that, at that moment, the red truck’s brakes failed just as it was preparing to stop to jumpstart the white truck.
So, we now had two big trucks side by side in front of us meaning we were stuck. I was busting for the loo (sod’s law) and we were about 40 minutes from Tana as it was. Many men just stood on the side of the road and did their business but being a lady I was not about to do that so it was in to the thorny scrub for me. Of course as soon as I’d found a suitable spot it looked like we were about to get moving.
But oh, no. We weren’t. We were there for at least another hour while all manner of madness occurred. But rather than bore you with words, I will again let some pictures tell the rest of the story.
End note: As we were leaving, I asked our driver Tahina if this happened often; he just smiled and said “oh yes of course”.
Traffic must stop for this first, before actual traffic jam may occur.
Biker sits there for 20 minutes wondering what to do before realising he can just drive through the middle
Truck (b) nearly tips over because…
 
I thought this was “How to jack up a truck 101” but I have been informed they didn’t even mean to have it sitting off the ground!  Apparently, this is the PARK BRAKE.
What to do, what to do… Six mechanics, 10 truck drivers and 200 onlookers, laughing but offering no solutions, until…
A boy band arrives on the scene
 
 
4WDs (and don’t forget gutless AWDs!) get impatient, decide to mount compost heap to get round trucks
Inspired by 4WDs, Lowrider 90s Citroen tries…
…gets bogged in compost.
Needs a push, or ten.
The queue behind us (constantly honking, very helpful)
This is the third truck, trying to get past the other two
A close shave
We’re on our way!
The locals stopped to watch (and laugh)

chillaxing with lemurs

Well here we are folks, the moment we’ve been waiting for…We’re hanging out with lemurs in Andasibe (and we have been told the proper way to say this is “an-DAS-ee-beh”), about a three hour drive + traffic east of Tana.

We’re staying at the lovely Vakona Forest Lodge which is great; the lodge encompasses several walking tours as well as the very cool Lemur Island, which is a refuge for many different species of lemur.

Nearby is Analamazoatra Reserve, the part of Andasibe-Mantadia NP that is home to the indri-indri, Madagascar’s largest lemur. Here you can see lemurs in the wild.

The National Park itself is a haven for lemurs, which have suffered due to land clearing. The National Park is now a protected area where the lemurs can hopefully thrive again. There are 10 different species in the Analamazoatra Reserve (four diurnal and six nocturnal) and each species lives in groups/families, but they live in harmony with each other as they have slightly different diets and are active at different times.

I think the most amazing part for us, both in Analamazoatra Reserve and over on Lemur Island, was hearing the lemurs call to each other. The indri-indri have an incredible call (similar to a Siamang I guess, if you’ve ever heard one) and the ring-tail lemurs have several, easily distinguishable calls for different situations. Their “alarm” call is amazing: high-pitched from air danger, e.g a hawk, and low-pitched for ground danger, such as a snake. They stand up on their hind legs to make the call and we were blown away by how loud it is for such a small animal!

Just a note: All lemurs we saw are are endemic to Andasibe, with the exception of the ring-tail lemurs, which are endemic to the South of Madagasar only. We were luckily enough to see them because there is a large family on Lemur Island, which is home to Lemurs that have been rescued from various fates.

Ring-tail Lemur
 
indri-indri
Baby lemurs hitch a ride on mum’s back
Ruffed lemur having a snooze
Bamboo lemur, one of the smallest diurnal lemurs

Tana, you’re under our skin

Finally, we’ve found a place that suits us.

Antananarivo is busy, loud and gritty and it both challenges and invites us to learn more. It’s beautiful yet run-down, regal yet dilapidated and it throws a million different thoughts in our faces as we travel through it.

Crazy traffic. ‘Markets’ lining the roadside for miles selling nothing but big, fat sausages or even bigger, fatter ducks. Two guys wheeling a cart full of church pews through the crowd. Minivans with 25+ people in them, some hanging out the back door.

Our hotel is a beautiful converted mansion on top of a hill, right next to the old Queen’s castle and overlooking the whole city. We watched the sunset from our balcony and finally felt the romance that’s been missing from our honeymoon – Tana is definitely not where we expected to find it and yet, here it is.

We’re buzzing. We’ve literally been here for four hours and we are absolutely bursting with ideas and questions – but these are taking a backseat as we’re so over-excited to tell everyone else about it!

As usual, “a picture tells a thousand words” so have a look for yourself…

the ultimate honeymoon packing list

I’m in a spin as to what to pack for our honeymoon. Mainly because there’s a few items on this list I’m yet to purchase. Here’s what I have so far:

1. a big, gigantic, as-big-as-your-house, kardashian-esque hat. And while we’re at it…

2. some even bigger sunglasses. You can never be too sun smart, or stylish; Hello Jackie O 2.0 (yes, rhyme!)

3. thongs/flip-flops/jandals… whatever you call them, I’m talking shoes people.

4. a million pretty little dresses. Most of the ones I like are quite cocktail; I seem to think I’ll be doing nothing but attending dinner parties, and these probably won’t be appropriate for the beach. Which brings me to…

5. some cute-as-a-button playsuits. No salty thigh chafe here my friends.

6. the best fake tan products one can possibly find. I’m very open to suggestions!

7. an umbrella, ella, ella, hey… Rihanna was onto something. So so cute and surprisingly practical (umm… like, when it rains?)

8. bikinis galore. Mauritius is full of those tres chic european types… no boardies in sight.

9. power adaptor. Lest the smartphone/laptop die. three weeks without social media will have me breathing into a paper bag.

10. camera. Hashtag selfie! This will be the month where I can officially start to be a “smug married”… it should be well doumented!

madagascar in 3…2…1…

Well it’s getting closer and closer… in two and a half months we’ll be heading off on our honeymoon. We’re heading to Mauritius and Madagascar; rather than raving on about things I thought I’d just post the itinerary here (excuse the bad grammar, I didn’t write it) with some pretty pictures. Enjoy!
Fly from Australia to Mauritius (Air Mauritius Business Class)
image courtesy of La Palmeraie
Fly from Mauritius to Antananarivo, Madagascar.
Day1 : Dec 24: ANTANANARIVO
Arrival at the international  airport of Antananarivo , Madagascar’s capital . Meet by our representative and transfer to hotel. Overnight at Tana plaza hotel
Day2 : Dec 25: ANTANANARIVO-ANDASIBE
En route to the East of  Madagascar to  Périnet or Andasibe . Stop at Marozevo to visit the  Madagascar exotic reptile farm. Afternoon visit of  Vakona private reserve and its lemurs island, where one can have a closer encounter too with  crocodile and the predator “fosa”.Overnight at Vakona lodge
Day3 : Dec 26: ANDASIBE Analamazaotra reserve
Early start to visit Analamazaotra National park , a part of Andasibe national park . 2-4 hours walk in the forest and  meet the famous Indri lemur , the largest lemurs and hearing their territorial calls  and explore the rainforest with its endemic fauna and flora, various birds, colourful chameleons and plants. Afternoon relax . Overnight at Vakona lodge
Day 4 : Dec 27: ANDASIBE Mantadia reserve
Early start to visit Mantadia reserve, another part of andasibe National park ,  2-4 hours walk in the primary rainforest . Afternoon free. Overnight at Vakona lodge
Day 5 : Dec 28: ANDASIBE-ANTANANARIVO
Drive back to Antananarivo. Overnight at Tana Plaza hotel
Day 6 : Dec 29: ANTANANARIVO-NOSY BE
Transfer to the airport and board the flight to Nosy be. Dinner and overnight at Nosy be hotel in VIP bungalow
Day 7 : Dec 30: NOSY BE
Excursion to Lokobe reserve by local pirogue with picnic lunch .Dinner and overnight at Nosy be hotel.
Day 8 : Dec 31: NOSY BE
Excursion by speed boat to the amazing island of Nosy Iranja with seafood picnic lunch. New years eve dinner and overnight at Nosy be hotel
Day 9 : Jan 01: NOSY BE -ANTANANARIVO
Flight back to Antananarivo. Overnight at Tana plaza hotel
Day 10 : Jan 02: ANTANANARIVO-
Flight back home