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krisek Cap de Mine - A travel report by Krys
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Cap de Mine,  Madagascar - flag Madagascar -  Antsiraðana
6642 readers

krisek's travel reports

A secret place at a tip of Madagascar.

  9 votes
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Discovered by chance, Cap de Mine and its secret and defunct military installations were a true adventure. It was not on the map and I took considerable risks venturing there without a compass, map or a guide. It was unforgettable.


Cap de Mine travelogue picture
I arrived in the northern part of Madagascar, I wanted to relax. This was my last item of the holiday before going home. Despite planned beach leg of the trip, I could not sit on the sun doing nothing in this beautiful part of the world. I had to keep discovering things. After reading about a bay, called Dunes Bay (Bay des Dunes) that had been said to be very nice, I embarked on a trek. I did not want to miss the old lighthouse standing at the mouth of the Diego Bay at Cap de Mine either.

The way to the lighthouse, Cap de Mine and Bay of Dunes was passable only via a French-Malagasy military base. The pass permit was easy to obtain from the hotel – Miguel, the acting manager of the Ramena Nofy hotel, was the star. The base was in complete ruin and civilians normally lived on the beach. Only two guys were dressed in military uniforms, one of them, at the gate, had a machine gun but, as he whispered in my ear, the gun was not loaded because they ran out of the ammunition a year before. I am not entirely convinced it was necessarily true. He, seeing my overweight camera, asked me politely not to take any pictures of the base and I promised to keep my word.

Rest of the soldiers were dressed just in shorts and sometimes T-shirts. They were trying to occupy themselves cutting the remains of grass, filling potholes in the asphalt with the sand from the mountain, or just chatting.

One of them, named Angelo asked me to take a picture of him and then to send it back to the base for him. It was quite funny how he was posing with the spade and the plastic bag being used to transport the mountain sand. He also took the bottle of water I had with me to fill in the exposure. He was very serious but really simpatico. I asked him if he wanted a T-shirt. He did. I gave him six T-shirts and a pair of shorts for running. He was so happy, particularly with the pants. And I was happy that my rucksack was a lot less heavy and that it made room for souvenirs to take back home.

Favourite spots:
Mer Emeraude - behind the entry to the bay.
Mer Emeraude - behind the entry to the bay.
On the way the Dunes Bay I lost my way in the bushes. The guide book actually stated that I would need a guide but I did not believe it, well it served me right! I then decided to climb a hill to see if I could see where I was. It was not an easy climb, with my super heavy camera swaying on a belt from my right arm, a bag with spare films, travel documents and passport, money and bottle of water on the other arm. I just thought that I must be a stubborn Capricorn to be having to climb there. When I looked down, I had to say to myself: 'right, I'm never gonna make my way down, not here anyway'. So, when already on the top I decided change my mission and to look for an alternative way down.

At the top of the hill, I discovered that I was nowhere near Dunes Bay but also two other things that were not described in the guide books: ruins with remains of six massive guns from WWII and a magnificent view to the entry of the Diego Bay and Mer Emeraude.

What's really great:
Cap de Mine lighthouse
Cap de Mine lighthouse
The spot, however, should definitely be available for visiting not because of its enormous attractiveness but also due to its historical importance. The view was truly exquisite. I was not sure how many pictures I should take of it.

Again, no picture could ever express how outstanding the view was. I had seen so many splendid things and views in my life but this one shocked me. I suddenly became so happy that I lost my way to the stupid Dunes Bay. This one was definitely more adventurous and more interesting. It’s like discovering something new.

I remember that the guys at the gate to the base told me not to take any pictures of the base (actually, ruins of the base) I promised not to take any pictures of the base but I was not sure about the hilltop. It looked to me like it was outside the base, and therefore civilian. I could see many traces of zebu and goats, mind you – they may have belonged to the army as well. But the base was not visible from there.

Sights:
Sakalava Bay
Sakalava Bay
There were many other places to see around Cap de Mine: Ramena, Orangina, Sakalava Bay and the capital of the region - Antsiranana, for example. I stayed at Ramena for a few days, so I explored the village and the beach well. I also went for a short visit to Sakalava Bay to see the very sociable family of crown lemurs. The Sakalava Bay was very nice, tranquil beach in a form of a bay but had palm trees. The sand was white and the water emerald. It was not very easy to get there and the walk might be hot during the day as there was no shade on the entire route.

The Cap de Mine area was not particularly endowed with spectacular sights, apart from the incredible Diego Bay of course. However the nature was generous to plant a few species of baobab tree around as well as other weird species of plants found nowhere else on Earth. And it was calm and so remote - a perfect escape!

Accommodations:
Ramena Nofy - main building, view of the restaurant's terrace
Ramena Nofy - main building, view of the restaurant's terrace
To get back from Cap de Mine, I just followed the path full of Zebú's and goat's droppings to the still fully operational lighthouse. Not exceptionally attractive but situated superbly on the rocks. Only when I noticed that there was no way that I could find my way to the Dunes Bay, and while the sun was approaching the horizon, I realised I should rather be on my way back. I still had to find an alternative way back from the hill. I hiked through a thick bush, but I eventually found my way before sunset.

I decided to stay at Remena Nofy (Fihary Hotely). They had modern bungalows with comfortable facilities and excellent restaurant serving perfect seafood and an amazing, freshly done (while you wait) papaya juice. Pity it was not directly on the beach. The beach was not far away, anyway. Just two minutes walk down from the hotel.

The main reason why I decided to stay there was the personnel. Miguel was very friendly from the very start. Gave good handshake and spoke quite good English.

Nightlife:
Cap de Mine travelogue picture
One day, Miguel, his girlfriend Vony and I decided to go out together after the sunset. At the beginning, we went to see the local disco L'Oasis in the Ramena village, right on the beach. Miguel promised hot atmosphere but before 11:30 pm it did not really kick off as most locals must have spent all their money on the Independence Day extravaganzas, a day before. So, we quickly decided to go to Antsiranana (Diego) to one of the two night clubs.

We went to the larger of the two, called Tropical. It looked really civilised and the DJ played decent music – intelligent mix of Malagasy and international hits. It had two bars located opposite one another across the round dance floor. Drinks were indecently expensive for Madagascar (£1.50) but it soon got hot and we stayed until 2.30 am. The atmosphere was excellent, people were going mad on the floor and the party kicked off for good. It was one of the best nights of this holiday.

Hangouts:
Ramena Beach
Ramena Beach
The beach in Ramena was my favourite hangout spot. It was not as isolated as other beaches nearby, was close to the village, which allowed for socialising with them. The locals used the beach for everything. It was a fishing spot, a harbour, a playground for children, a washroom, a bathroom (certain parts only), a gym, and a place to party. Most of the time, I just mingled with the local children. They would follow me around anyway. One day, I bought a bag of lollipops from a local boutique and took it to the beach. They could not believe that I was giving the sweets for free! They were so happy!

But the beach had little bays too, where I could hide and enjoy my solitude. Giant rocks created those bays, access to which was only possible on low tide. One had to be very careful not to stay too long as the next window of opportunity to leave the bays was approximately 12 hours later.

Restaurants:
Crown Lemur is drinking my papaya juice
Crown Lemur is drinking my papaya juice
Absolutely excellent restaurant right down on the Ramena beach with tables with a view right to the sea was Amaraude. The menu was dominated by fish. The trick with the restaurant was that they could cook anything (within reason). When lobsters were officially not in season, they still could organise a fisherman, who would catch some, and they would prepare them according to your instructions. It never hurt to bring your own seafood acquired from fishermen.

The restaurant at the Ramena Nofy hotel was excellent, too. Their prawns were unbeatable and the selection of juices, particularly papaya and papaya mixed with orange were matchless. The service was very efficient and friendly.

Sakalava Bay also had a restaurant adjacent to the lodge. They specialised in lobsters. Even out of season. The grilled lobster menu (£7.50) was the best lobster (two whole lobsters to be exact) I have had in my life - grilled with greens. They went down extremely well washed with papaya juice. Just perfect!

Other recommendations:
Ankarana's Grand Waterfall
Ankarana's Grand Waterfall
Ankarana Special Reserve was relatively well known and well established park to visit. It featured primarily caves, dry rain forest and tsingy.

In the park, I went into one of the most beautiful caves I have seen to date. More beautiful than those in Poland, Slovenia, Majorca, Cuba, USA... Furthermore, it was still wild, you needed a guide and some form of light. The best were torches as candles could be blown off by the low flying bats. With candles it would also be difficult to see the bats. I have never seen so many bats in my life and also three different species at a time. One of the species were quite large bats, very impressive how they were organised. Tens of thousands of them! Plus the noise they made contributed to the incredible atmosphere of the caves.

Montagne D’Ambre National Park, a beautiful rich tropical forest full of amazing plants, most of which proven to have some medicinal qualities was great, too. Fern trees looked like they came straight from the Jurassic era!

Published on Saturday November 8th, 2008


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Thu, Nov 27 2008 - 01:51 PM rating by marianne

reading is almost as good as going there

Tue, Nov 11 2008 - 10:04 AM rating by achalek

Wow, great job... like usually.

Sun, Nov 09 2008 - 12:09 PM rating by gloriajames

another 5* report.... btw... loved the crown lemur pic!

Sun, Nov 09 2008 - 07:59 AM rating by rangutan

Just perfect! :-) Way out location. [4.6]

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