Nosing Around on Nosy Be Madagascar

Nosy Be was a tender port, no docking facilities, so we took tender boats to reach the shore. Over 800 people were scheduled to leave the ship on various shore excursions, so patience was a virtue. Our tour to see the lemurs was very popular, with over 300 people participating, so we were broken up into 21 different small groups of 12 to 15.

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Once we reached shore, we transferred to 21 individual speedboats for a twenty-minute ride to a small island that is off the east coast of Nosy Be, our destination being the village named Ampanngoriana.

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We had a wet landing, which meant we got out of the boats and waded to shore. Thank heavens we found out, by chance, about this twist before we left our ship and brought crocs and flip-flops with us to make the water trek ashore.

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We walked through the village on our way to see the black lemur. (The males are black and the females are brown.) The villagers had all their wares and handicrafts displayed along our route and we were encouraged to shop after our nature walk. The tablecloths, fabrics, tee shirts, carvings, shells, and other items were lovely; and the native people were out in force watching us as we ambled along, took lots of pictures and chatted briefly with them.

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The thatched roof huts of bamboo they live in are quite primitive and, for the most part, they are used as a shelter from the rain and to sleep in. The rest of the time the people are outside socializing, working on crafts, fishing, preparing food, and gardening.

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There were newer homes (made from stone) being constructed in one part of the village.

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Laundry chores are hard work: hand scrubbing the clothes and then laying the wet garments on hillside rocks to dry in the hot sun.

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The kids in the village were very friendly and photogenic. The little girl in denim below had been given a piece of chocolate candy by a fellow passenger and loved every morsel of it.

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And this little boy loved having his picture taken, so we shall let you choose which version is your favorite. We loved all three. He certainly does have attitude!

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The lemurs were present when we arrived in their habitat outside the village. The lemurs are not caged but live freely in the surrounding jungle. They have been conditioned with food to interact with humans. The male lemurs (black) are much more shy than the females (brown) who willingly take food from your hand, but we did not see anyone petting or holding them. In fact, the lemurs, one at a time, would approach the handlers when called to take a piece of fruit and then sit on a branch to eat it.

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There were so many people trying to see the lemurs and feed and photograph them at the same time that it was hard to get good photos of them in the dense vegetation in which they live.

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From this station we walked up fairly steep hills stepping over tree roots and rocks to see several more animals – chameleons, boa constrictors, and large tortoises. With the heat and humidity we all struggled to make the trek without mishap and to see all there was to see.

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We walked back down the rocky hill out of the jungle to the village. MJ watched a young lady painstakingly apply face paint. Many of the women in the village had their faces painted in intricate designs, and no two appeared to be the same. Each was unique. We met interesting people in this little village. The women appeared happy even though their lives cannot be easy. The kids were a fun bunch with which to share our day.

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One man on the excursion had a medical emergency and the speedboat we had come to the island on was used to transport him quickly to the doctor. So our group spent an extra hour on the beach waiting for our boat’s return. We had a shady place to sit with a cool breeze while we waited. Then we waded back into the water to board our speedboat for our return trip.

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The line for the tender boats was very long when we got back to the pier so we had a 45-minute waiting to take our turn. This time it was standing in the sun on hot cement, not as pleasant as we had it on the beach. Eventually we returned to the ship where it felt like a giant refrigerator when we boarded. We were glad to be back.

It was an interesting day and, as we reviewed our many photos later after showers and a brief rest, we realized just how much we had seen and experienced. We enjoyed the animals, the scenery, the people, especially the kids, and being able to learn about the culture and the lives of people from Madagascar. We wonder what Malagasy people had to say about us after we left and how they felt about our visit. Our guide said that only five cruise ships a year visit their village. Neither of us bought anything, but hopefully other members of the tour enriched their economy a bit.

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Nosy Be is the largest island about five miles off the northwest Madagascar coast; and Andoany, aka Hell-Ville, is its commercial center. The nickname comes from a French mariner Admiral di Hell, Governor in Residence of Re’union who also gave his name to that island’s Hell-Bourg. In 1841 Sakalava Queen Tsiomeko, signed a treaty with de Hell ceding the island to France. Although the Malagsy name is official, everyone knows the place as Hell-Ville.

Nosy Be is Madagascar’s largest and busiest tourist resort. The volcanic island has an area of about 120 square miles and the peak on Mount Passot is 1,079 feet high.

Madagascar has a very diverse geography. The east coast has lowlands leading to steep bluffs and central highlands. In the north there are mountains of volcanic origin. The west coast has many protected harbors and broad plains, while the southwest is a plateau and desert region. There are two seasons: it is hot and rainy from November to April and cooler and dry from May to October. Southeastern trade winds dominate and there are occasional cyclones.

Madagascar’s long isolation from the neighboring continents has resulted in a mix of plants and animals, found nowhere else in the world. Some ecologists refer to Madagascar as the “eighth continent.” The eastern, or windward, side of the island is home to tropical rainforests, while the southeastern and southern sides of the island, which lie in the rain shadow of the central highlands, are home to tropical dry forests, thorn forests, deserts and shrub lands.
Residents of this part of the world enjoy a fascinating mixture of cultural traditions, which can be explained by their diverse ethnic backgrounds. Most the residents claim to be
Christians; there is an underlying animist element. Ancestor worship is still very prevalent. Death also holds fascination for these people and elaborate tombs are considered essential. After a person dies, the spirit leaves the body, but is thought to retain a tacit link with it.


One Response to “Nosing Around on Nosy Be Madagascar”

  1. I live this post…everything about it. The pictures are terrific…all the kids, the lemurs, the face paintings, the expressions. Wonderful!

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