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krisek Ile Sainte Marie - A travel report by Krys
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Ile Sainte Marie,  Madagascar - flag Madagascar -  Toamasina
6735 readers

krisek's travel reports

Tropical idyll, home of world’s friendliest people

  12 votes
Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Nosy Boraha is the Malagasy name for an island, which really is known as Île Sainte Marie. No-one in fact uses the local name though. That was my immediate destination after spending just one night in this fascinating country.


Ile Sainte Marie travelogue picture
I was taken by a driver from a hotel where I made a booking. We drove through little villages along the sandy track, little palm-tree and bamboo houses of the local people standing amongst the green banana trees, hidden in the large green leaves, along this deep redbrown sandy road – exactly what I expected from Madagascar! The villages on the way from Nosy Boraha airport are extremely picturesque with so much exotic spirit and tranquillity that it makes a simple human being, like me, dangerously breathless.

Most of the village life concentrates on the road and on those minute village market squares between houses. The houses, or rather huts, are built on stilts and are not higher than 2.5 meters (8.3 feet). Some families may own more than one, however majority is happy with their 3x2.5 m (9.10' x 8.3') lodging. So the village looks like a playground for dolls, it is so fabulous!

When I checked in at the hotel, I was the only guest there. I had the freedom to choose my own bungalow. I was very nicely surprised by the service and décor of the place. Absolutely positively!

Unfortunately, on my second day on the island, I happened to be a witness to something I only read about before in a book about Madagascar and other African cultures. Since the invention of the lavatory appears not to have been universally recognised everywhere on Madagascar, people relieve themselves on the beach. There was this lady at wise age walking along the beach and approaching the water’s edge. She was wearing a large white t-shirt or a blouse (I did not get a chance to advance very close) and a large yellow scarf, used as a skirt. She definitely saw me walking towards her with my sexy camera but just covered herself with the scarf she was wearing so she could not see me and did what she had to do. I was so happy the thing she was doing did not last very long! She never thought of waiting until I was gone and could not see her and just went with her ‘business’ right in front of my eyes.

Favourite spots:
Ile Sainte Marie travelogue picture
I cannot put my finger on a favourite spot on Nosy Boraha. I loved the entire island. Perhaps the area of the first church on the island in the capital Ambodifotatra. And I loved every spot between the villages, where I met the locals, who kindly greeted me with a perfect smile and shook my hand. I have never shaken hands with so many strangers in one place, not even at a lavish reception.

I have been very kindly invited to a birthday party of a lady teacher from the village school in Mahavelo. The cake, although I am not sure of what and how made, was delicious and the half French – half English conversations were very pleasant and funny. Jagul, Tarzan, Betsy-Bette, Monica and Cherie were among the people at the table. They spoke so much more English so I was finally sorted! It was a great relief to me, as I was getting very tired. I have never learnt French in my life and only French comedies taught few, some, I’m sure, completely inappropriate and politically incorrect phrases.

What's really great:
Ile Sainte Marie travelogue picture
My Spanish was helping me a lot, but, please! Most of the time, I have to admit, I was not actually sure what I was saying. Never mind about replying to the right question, or were these questions?

On Nosy Boraha there are just two historical sites, one of them is the Cemetery of Pirates – some guidebooks state that this is an impressive place but I could, as always, argue. Maybe it is because I haven't read enough of books about pirates and such. Well, there are mostly graves from 1800s but only one with the classic skull and crossed bones. However, it is nicely located, overgrown by some mysterious kinds of plants and with the view to the pirate island and the first Christian church in Madagascar, the second historical site on the island. Access to this somewhat mysterious place is, albeit, difficult – and absolutely impossible on foot whilst high tide. Even during dry season, though short enough, the stones over the passage are very slippery as the ocean covers them on high tide.

Sights:
Ile Sainte Marie travelogue picture
The locals, to ease the way for the vazahas (the whites), had placed an old thick rail over the small tidal channel – it is, however, also under water on the hide tide thus very slippery on the low tide.

When I was approaching the signpost to the cemetery, a young local guy stopped me with a smile and asked if I wanted a guide to take me there. Now, not for free of course, so we started negotiations. The guy was speaking French and some very little English, but I decided that some company was a good idea.

After having agreed the price, we set off. First, through a damp alley of trees very close to the Ambodifotatra’s bay – I could actually see the water through a dense bush. Then, farther, the way led through a chain of canals, through the rail and slippery stones. The way eventually diverted from the vicinity of the bay and took me via hills and yards overgrown with coconut palm trees. Few houses appeared on the way as well, and the boy knew the people.

Accommodations:
Lakana Hotel
Lakana Hotel
When I checked in at the Lakana Hotel, I was the only guest there. I had the freedom to choose my own bungalow. I was very nicely surprised by the service and décor of the place. Absolutely positively!

Something’s telling me that the personnel must have been very bored with nothing to do so I guess they kind of liked to feel useful again, perhaps. Not that I was too demanding or anything. I just wanted some food in the evening and omelette sandwich for breakfast in late morning.

Some bungalows have been built on large stilts at the ocean. They are small but kind of cosy with their doors and a small balcony facing the west, providing for an immaculate sunset experience. It is although risky with those narrow wooden bridges. Light is only provided at certain hours and deep in the night it is completely dark, seriously dark and quiet. Only an odd squeaky plank of wood reminds that one is still on the bridge. When inebriated, one may land on the bottom of the ocean... Easily!

Nightlife:
Ile Sainte Marie travelogue picture
The girls I met at the birthday party wanted to go discoing. So we went. Tarzan drove us – again you can always count on Tarzan – and Jagul went on his motocross-style motobike. The discothèque was only 5 kms away from the bar and it was named Fatabe Loisiris. It was the largest one on the island, but not the only one as stated in guide books. The discothèque was very folk and packed with youngsters wearing their best wardrobe jumped to the rhythm like from the film 'Jewel of the Nile' with Douglas and DeVito. Quite a nice place, it is – although it was already very dark, around midnight, when we got there so it might have made the Las Vegas impression – stunning by night, not so stunning by day. The music came almost from the most recent top French charts (including all international artists) and Malagasy very recent top, I believe. Lighting came from late 70's but was married to the disco hut very nicely.

Hangouts:
Ile Sainte Marie travelogue picture
But before we went clubbing, we stopped at a hangout bar. Pool was the first game we played. Quite cosy bar with a wide range of drinks and music videos played back from surprisingly good quality VCR... Well what a pity that the owner kept a lemur on string! On Madagascar, they've got smaller balls for the pool game so it is easier to pot but I definitely did not expect to play that well to win with those Malagasy pool wizards. They actually suggested this game, so I was very suspicious.

Table football was the second game they made me play. And believe me, I know how to play it, but it's been since I had my tenth birthday that I last played this game. It's just too embarrassing! And they are using different balls to ours, since we always used the table tennis ones. Their techniques and skills were nevertheless most impressive. They must have been training every night to screw the pale vazahas, methinks.

Restaurants:
Ile Sainte Marie travelogue picture
I ate at the Lakana Hotel. The chef must have been a magician. She was unbelievably good! And she would cook what I asked! Particularly all those different soups, ducks and zébu! I could not wait for seafood, though!! As promised by the chef, I got enough of it and quickly understood why the ocean believed to be sacred!

One night I was eating out, it was a difficult decision as the food at the Lakana was incomparable, delicious, fantastic, luscious, fingers-liking. I decided to stop on the way back from the capital city at one of the advertised eateries, private eateries right on the shore of the ocean. I ordered shrimps on rice, and I kind of regretted that because they were very small and still in shell! Mixed with sauce and rice and still in shell. It was an interesting sensation, crunchy and I had never experienced that before. I did stuck to my chef after that!

Other recommendations:
Ile Sainte Marie travelogue picture
The east coast of Madagascar has, in contrary to the rest of the island, two dry seasons: in May and October (sometimes already in September and until late November). Disclaimers in many climate books however state that it may rain all year round on Île Sainte Marie due to the nasty trade winds from the equator. The rest of Madagascar enjoys the dry season between May and November, highlands in central part of the country only through to October.

When it rains on Nosy Boraha, there is very little to do. It is a small place with beautiful beaches and villages but nothing more. In the rain (read – bucketing) it is not possible to cycle either because the quality of the road doesn't allow for it. Neither is it possible to drink from a coconut as no-one would attempt to climb a wet palm tree. I wouldn’t I suppose. But one can always try to empty the bar, sipping all the local made rum-based cocktails...

Published on Monday February 18th, 2008


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Fri, Mar 14 2008 - 03:47 PM rating by alfonsovasco

discovering the world! thank you

Sun, Feb 24 2008 - 01:25 AM rating by jorgesanchez

What a nostalgi! I rented a bicycle and spent two days in that lovely island. Very well written!

Wed, Feb 20 2008 - 12:08 AM rating by rangutan

Always a delicious footnote :-)

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