On Thursday the 18th of April after our last trek through the jungle we checked out of our hotel and headed off for a four hour drive to the coast. Despite the fact that this is the only road that leads to the coast and hundreds of trucks travel it each day, the amount of potholes wasn’t as bad as I expected. We did however see a scary amount of trucks, tipped on its side in a ditch and dozens of broken down ones. We finally arrived in Tamatave (pron. Tamataaf), the main seaport of Madagascar, and were overwhelmed by the heat, chaos and the amount of people and tuk tuk’s. The streets are filled with beggars, young and old and people trying to sell you their knick knacks. If you are in need of something you will find it here. They literally sell anything you can think of.
We stayed in a place called Royal Hotel, although the name was a little misleading. We were shown to our room, which was nice. We had our own bathroom and even air conditioning and internet. However, it was the all-in-one restaurant/study/bar/storage/living/tv room with tungsten lighting, plastic flowers and outdoor furniture that made this place win the award for tackiest hotel on earth. Luckily the food was a lot better than the ambiance!
We slept well and woke early the next morning to the sound of traffic and people on the streets. I decided to ring the hotel where we were headed and in my very best French I asked the guy if they still had room. Turned out they were fully booked! Luckily there would be more hotels in the area so we headed off in the hope of finding a nice place to stay.
Although it is only 50ish kilometres to where we were going, the road is so bad that it takes about 2 hours to get there. Fortunately the drive was very beautiful and I had to pinch myself a couple times to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. I felt so grateful to be here and to drive past all these typical African villages. Growing up I dreamt of going to places like this and to actually be here and see it my own eyes instead of on TV, felt absolutely amazing.
We arrived in Foulpoint around 12 and before going anywhere else decided to double check at the hotel we had planned to go to if there really wasn’t any room. Since our driver spoke fluent French he would be able to help out. As soon as we drove up to the hotel both of us were gobsmacked by the beauty of this place: palm trees, white sandy beaches, a swimming pool with bar to drink your cocktails, a restaurant and beautiful rooms. We had all our fingers and toes crossed in the hope that we could stay here. As it turned out if we were willing to move into a slightly more expensive room for one night, we would be able to stay here the entire 10 days!! We were so happy!
We unpacked our stuff from the car and jumped straight into the pool. We spent the rest of the day swimming, sunbathing, walking along the beach, exploring, watching a lady get a massage for 4 hours! (not exaggerating) and had dinner at the restaurant that night: A seafood platter, pasta and $1,50 vodkas. This place truly is paradise!
On day 4 we moved into our 3rd and permanent room for the rest of our stay. Today was very hot, so I spent it mostly in the pool, sunbathing, reading my book and listening to music. Because it was a Monday, most people had gone back home and so we had the entire place almost to ourselves. That afternoon we went in search for a local fisherman (although “in search” isn’t quite the right word). Manda Beach Hotel is a huge tourist attraction that the locals profit from greatly. They aren’t allowed on the hotel property, so as soon as you step onto the beach it’s like being a magnet, attracting every single local that is there trying to sell you food, boat trips, massages, dinner etc. We had been wanting to eat out on the beach, so we made a deal with one of the fishermen and would meet him again at 6, after he’d caught our lobster and prawns fresh from the ocean. In the meantime we enjoyed the amazing weather with some cocktails
At 6 o’clock our guy was already busy preparing our food. I can’t tell you how good it tasted!
On day 6 we went to explore the area. There is an old fort nearby we wanted to find, so we set off and walked along the beach before about 45 mins, taking photos, before we found it.
A Malagasy man in his late 40′s took us for a tour. Fort Manda as a place where many Malagasy people hid from the French in the 1800′s. There are canons all around the place and even a few old canon balls lying around. However back in the day, they would often use rice balls instead. These were mixed with rocks and poison, which would kill you within 3 mins!
The walls are built using a wooden structure, covered in a mixture of rocks, stones and egg whites. It’s crazy to imagine how many eggs they would have had to use to cover the entire fort!
Inside the place there is a flag post, a kitchen, an office and even a jail. The large tree, close to the entrance acts as a kind of church. It was very interesting to hear about the history of the island and how the French invaded the place and sold many Malagasy off as slaves to places such as India, while the British were there to save them.
Looking out over the kitchen.
From left to right: Jail, Office and Kitchen.
Note how the door of the kitchen is very low. People back then weren’t much taller than a child nowadays.
Our very friendly tour guide who was full of knowledge
Walking back to the hotel I saw so many beautiful children that I made myself step out of my comfort zone and asked the parents if I could photograph them.
Day 7 started off really great! We had promised to meet up with one of the local guys at 9AM to take us snorkeling through the coral in his pirogue. I had no idea what to expect when we had made the deal wit him the day before, but it was 10x better than I had expected! It was beautiful! We saw so many different fish and other sea creatures. Truly amazing! We swam for about an hour and went back just in time as the weather turned quickly. Blue skies one minute, black and heavy rain the next. Back in our room I realized my arms, legs and hands were cut up from the coral. I felt like Tom Hanks in the coral scene in Cast Away hahah.
Later that afternoon, once the rain had stopped me walked around the village, bought some local food (coconut lollies) from the ladies that sell it on the beach, some bananas and met up with out pirogue guy from that morning to organize dinner for that night: 1 kilo of praws, half a kilo of lobster with salad and rice! It was amazing!
Now this is where the story gets a little awkward and I might possibly share a little too much information, but if it makes someone laugh it’ll be worth it….
Later that night, while it was already dark and the only light available was that of them moon, Lance and I decided to go for a run on the beach. After a few kilometers we were ready to head back and this is when “shit happened” (excuse the pun). From the day I got to Madagascar my stomach hadn’t been very stable and apparently it’s normal for first timers in Madagascar to suffer from diarrhea…. well you can guess what happened next. The running had obviously made my intestines work overtime and there was no way I could hold it in any longer. I sprinted into the ocean and… well…. I’ll spare you the rest, but I can tell you it wasn’t pleasant and neither was the smell. Definitely one of the lowest points in my life. I felt so disgusting and unattractive haha, but so extremely grateful it happened at night, with no one else around to witness it (except for Lance, who just stood there laughing his ass off!)
Drinking vodka and lemonade on the beach under the stars. Does life get any better?!
We ended up eating on the beach about 4 nights during out 10 days away. Every single time the food was to die for! I wish I knew how they prepare the prawns, because the flavors are truly amazing!
The hotel we stayed in.
The beach outside the hotel.
…and how can I forget our little friend, Suzie., who kept us company every night we spent on the beach photographing and drinking vodka