Monday, May 06, 2013

North West Madagascar

Rounding Cap d'Ambre finally brought us to the lee side of Madagascar, accompanied by white porpoises, dolphins, whales, and sloping degrees of burned earth. The throb of "humpback alley" as we renamed it was still with us when we dropped anchor in the Nosy Hara Marine park: a unique and spectacular group of rocky vertical islands in which lately a new specie of chameleon was discovered.
In the park austere golden baobabs carry witness to the resilience of life by one immaculate single flower, flowers hang to bare rock shaped by millenias of wind and wave.

Deserted red rock and dark blue waters
Unspoilt Madagascar

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Cap d'Ambre - Humback Whale Alley

 Left Antsiranana, ahead of us was the feared rounding of Cap d'Ambre. All the fear-mongering was unjustified, and even though the rollers were easily 4-6 meters high it's a downwind leg fast and pleasant. Rounded the Cape the sea went smooth with the settled winds prevailing all around Madagascar. The sea went smooth and teeming with life, but it was the way leading up to it that was the real treat: hundreds of whales cavorting in the cobalt blue sea.
We had a near collision with a whale charging right into us
It was a glorious sail around the Cape, we rolled and sailed fast with the wind on the beam and a spectacle of hundreds of whales jumping, rolling, spouting and coming close to our keel...

I could have shot one hundred of these sequences, but this one was possible thanks to Ken's 300mm zoom

Ken got a chocolate cake for his thousandth mile

All the whales you can imagine in one day around Cap d'Ambre
She was beautiful.

Nearing Cap D'Ambre: desertic, desolate, lunar and absolutely stunning.

We never understood whether they wanted to sell us a parrot...they sure liked our candies!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Madagascar Eastern Coast

In St. Marie we visited the pirates' cemetery, from which the island reputed to be a pirate base could be seen in the middle of the bay, then walked around a bit. The cemetery had tombstones with several carvings and dedications to bygone tallship captains. One day we could see a whale spraying water nearby so we took the dinghy there and I swam right next to her...I had taken a video which got corrupted...soon after several Zebu burgers we decided to head up the coast. We stopped in Antanambe, a small village nearby one of the major national parks: Mananara-Nord. Having heard so much about Madagascar's natural bounty we arranged a guide for the day after. The day was rainy, the forest muddy and filled with leeches, we hoped for lemurs but all we saw after over 18 kilometers of traipsing up and down in knee-deep mud and vertical slopes was a giant centipede. I am sure any other day we would have been swept away by the beauty...Regardless, we enjoyes the place and especially the sunday roast at the hote. After recuperating from the hike we sailed north again to Diego Suares (Antsiranana).
Diego Suares was the legendary and completely fictional location where the supposed pirate republic of Libertalia never happened. The large bay is accessible through a fairly narrow, and easily defensible entrance, the bay inside is extensive and mostly deep enough for all kinds and sizes of ships, while the city itself rests on a tongue of land extending into the bay. Diego S. has a lively feel, even from our anchorage which is facing the slaughterhouse, it is welcoming all the same and the city is a very characteristic and extraordinary feel. A large navy base still operates in what must have been the main stockage port to plunder all the goods out of Madagascar. Old warehouses and ghostly streets mixed with large markets and colorful crowds on the bustle. The yacht club is  run by a friendly frenchman who let us take water shower and do laundry at his faucet.
Downtown Antsiranana

A ship snapped in two over the reefs by Cap Masoala
See the whole picture set in flickr!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Madagascar - July 2011

Being more exposed to the ocean swells, yachts going around Madagascar rarely bothered in the past with the East coast. Our many french friends from the days of Chagos though think differently and after expressing my skepticism I still decided to take advantage of the wealth of information, besides the thought of doing a much shorter passage of course.
As we neared the coast of Ile St. Marie the weather just gets worse, until the northerly wind and swell forces us to motor up the channel. All the time we are an the lookout for whales as St. Marie is a breeding ground for them, and we are quite sure to have seen some jumping on the other side of the bay. After a six day passage in which the compass acted drunk the whole time we finally drop anchor in the tiny exposed harbor.
Right away a coast guard official is rowed by two mechanics, he inspects the boat and issues a receipt for harbor fees, a receipt other officials will laugh at as a scam on my way out...
The customs guy does my papers first and asks a contribution of forty euros to the customs "coffers", when I decline we settle that I'll bring some whiskey later. On to immigration, where they disappear with all our documents for three hours, but in the end returning with everything done right.
We are quite elated at the idea of being finally across the Indian Ocean, and this elation is compounded by the new smells, faces, colors, and African liveliness. Ambodifotatra is simple and quite decadent but with cobblestone streets climbing up the neighborhoods lined with ragtag shops with an amazing assortment of goods. Everything seems on the verge of falling apart and yet the town is bustling and functional. We soon discover the market and we are shocked at the abundance and variety. Zebu meat here pretty much replaces beef, pork is sometimes available and all the veggies here are free of pesticides and grown completely natural.
The wind howls and the rain just keeps on coming...the whales jump in the distance...