Day 40 - Madagascar
|Saturday, November 18, 2023: Welcome to Madagascar! We arrived before 6:00 AM, dropped anchor in the bay, and started tender operations by 6:30 AM. The captain made an unusually early announcement warning passsengers going ashore that they may encounter boats approaching the tenders with people begging for money, and admonished everyone to not give in to their requests as it only encouraged more people to do the same. You can see two beggar boats already aproaching our tenders in this photo, even though there are only crew aboard at this point.
|We had a private tour with Viv today, so we met outside the Ocean Bar at 7:00 AM. From above, we could see that there had been additions made to the Christmas holiday display that was still being assembled on Deck 1.
|We went to the Rolling Stone Lounge to pick up our tender tickets. There were 31 of us on this tour, so we had three of our members that were 5-star Mariners get ten tickets each. Viv explained to the crew handing out tickets that she was organizing a private tour ashore and they gave her one of the earliest tickets available so that she could get there ahead of everyone else and get things organized.
|By 7:30 AM, they were calling our groups and we proceeded to A deck to board the tenders. They had been calling two groups at a time, and each tender holds more than a hundred passengers, so it went pretty quickly.
|As we neared the pier, we could see a beggar boat alongside the tender that was offloading, ...
|... and beggar boats by the tenders that were lined up to dock after us.
|Soon, it was our turn to dock. They had moored one tender to the pier and put down plywood to cover the large gap between that tender and the dock. Each tender from the ship tied up to this permanantly moored tender and then passengers walked through it, over the makeshift bridge, and onto the shore. Because of the need for this arrangement, the captain had made another announcement saying that anyone who required a cane, scooter, walker, or wheelchair to get around would not be allowed to go ashore here.
|The tender pier was also where the local ferry boats operated, so the small jetty was quite crowded with ferries unloading, ferries loading, and tours trying to embark passengers. Everyone was required to put on a life jacket, and then we waited for our three boats to make their way through the chaos and get us on-board. By 8:15 AM, our group of twelve was on a boat, ...
|... and headed for the nearby island of Nosy Tanikely.
|This beautiful island is home to Tanikely National Park, ...
|... with its lovely sandy beaches, warm water, and reefs that are close to the shore.
|Brenda, who was the guide for our boat, gave us a safety briefing about the limits of the swimming and snorkeling zone, ...
|... and then we were off! We had been given one hour here, and we were planning to spend as much of that time in the water as we could.
|Let's see what's in the water, shall we?
|There were small fish everywhere.
|Teensy weensy fish were swarming around this coral.
|We saw huge raccoon butterflyfish, ...
|... and giant clams, ...
|... and a single black-tipped reef shark swimming along the dividing line between deeper water and the reef.
|You'd think this is a Moorish idol, but you'd be wrong. This is a pennant coralfish, also known as a longfin bannerfish.
|What's Debbie taking a picture of?
|These cute little fish with the black stripes: humbug dacylus.
|We would occasionally swim through huge schools of fish.
|The coral was beautiful. This is table coral with staghorn coral growing out of it.
|Now these are Moorish idols. Note the yellow around the eyes and on the body.
|We don't know what this is.
|These are cool - the long things lying on their side are the same as the calamari-looking things facing up.
|This is a red fin butterflyfish.
|Jellyfish! We hadn't seen any so far for the entire trip, and this time, we each saw exactly one. This is the only one that we managed to photograph.
|After fifty minutes of snorkeling, it was time to go.
|No! Don't make us go!
|While we were snorkeling, our guides had brought over food and drinks from the boat.
|While Tom set our gear out to dry, ...
|... Debbie checked out the food: donuts and bananas.
|Donuts after snorkeling! Yum! They were like cake donuts except a little more stiff and Debbie downed three of them plus a tiny banana. Tom only ate two but only because he wasn't looking when Debbie took a third one.
|A little after 10:00 AM, we headed back to the boats, ...
|... and sped away from the island.
|Every time she wore it, Debbie would say, "I'm so happy that we bought this cover-up."
|After about thirty minutes in the boat, we approached our next destination: the island of Nosy Komba.
|We rounded the peninsula on the northern end of the island and got a glimpse of the restaurant where we'd have lunch later in the day.
|We motored into the bay and got our first view of the village of Ampangorina.
|The boat pulled in close to shore, and we waded onto the beach.
|This tiny dead crab was less than an inch long.
|We filed through the village until we reached this point, ...
|... where we waited for another guide to be assigned to our group for the trek up into the forest. They passed out bamboo walking sticks to anyone who wanted one, ...
|... and after what was only five minutes but what seemed like an eternity in the stifling heat, our guide Flavio led us up the trail, ...
|... past the local hospital, ...
|... and up a very long stone-paved walkway lined with vendor stalls. We eventually reached a wider space, were the path opened up into a sort of crossroads, ...
|... before we continued our climb. It was extremely hot with very little breeze, and we passed people heading down the mountain that looked like they were on the edge of heat exhaustion. Along this stretch of walkway, the vendors were selling tablecloths and other large linen items, and they strung them on lines along the path as a showcase.
|At the entrance to the forest, we saw two of these bright green lizards, the Madagascar giant day gecko, as they sunned themselves on a tree stump.
|There were huge jackfruit growing on the trees all around the forest, ...
|... and we saw a single pineapple growing right by the path.
|The path was lined with brick and was easy to walk on as we climbed ever upward. That's our forest guide, Flavio, on the left, and Viv's husband Tino on the right, who could always be counted on to lead the way.
|There was a sort of low pen ringed with stone walls that enclosed a few giant tortoises.
|As we neared the highest part of our climb, we spotted the first of a large group of lemurs. The black ones are the males, ...
|... and the brown ones are the females. These two were in a tree right along the path.
|Flavio made a combination chirping and clicking noise to draw their attention, and this brave female came closer to investigate.
|It didn't hurt that Flavio had brought bananas along to feed them. One by one, Flavio would call a person up, hold out a piece of banana, and the lemur would climb on to the person's shoulder for a photo.
|We passed on that experience, and instead looked around for all of the other lemurs that were in the area. We saw this mama with a baby on her back, ...
|... and this female who sat quietly by, ...
|... but wasn't at all scared. She let everyone get quite close, and take as many photos as they wanted. No bananas required.
|Some were content to watch us from nearby trees.
|Sometimes the most comfortable seat isn't the most elegant looking.
|A lemur watched from a nearby tree as another group arrived for their turn to have their lemur photo op. Check out the huge termite nest on the branch above the lemur at the top edge of the photo.
|As we left, Flavio gave one of our leftover bananas to a male who was hanging out on a branch over the path.
|Flavio picked up two small spider tortoises that were hiding under a nearby bush. One was male and one was female, and he pointed to the male's concave bottom shell as a way of telling them apart.
|As we descended, we passed another high-walled enclosure that had Madagascar skinks in it, ...
|... and one boa constrictor. A guide was placing it around people's necks and showing them how to hold it while they had their photo taken. Ross demonstrates the technique.
|As everyone was taking turns getting their photo taken with the snake, we saw these red cotton bugs crawling around the forest floor.
|Dead millipede or just sleeping? We didn't disturb it to find out.
|After fifty minutes, our forest tour was over. We tipped our guide and started the walk back through the village gauntlet.
|At the crossroads, we passed the flimsy jewelry stick railing that Tom put back after someone knocked it down on the way up, ...
|... past the rock that was used to dry towels, past the hospital, and back to where we had picked up our forest guide. We stood there in the hot sun while we waited for the rest of Brenda's group to finish their shopping and come back down out of the hills, ...
|... and then we trekked across the village to the beach, ...
|... where some people sat in the shade and waited for their groups. Vendor kids pounced immediately, ...
|... so Debbie went to go look at the nearby tide pools.
|Fish traps? Lobster baskets? Whatever they were, they were impressively woven.
|Here's the peninsula that we saw as we were arriving, ...
|... and that means that we are at the restaurant.
|They had a long table set aside just for all of Viv's tour people.
|Tino brought a tiny bleached skull by the table for show-and-tell. Well, just show. We took turns guessing what animal it used to be.
|Our guides passed out water, World Cola, and huge bottles of Three Horses beer for us to have with our lunch. Cheers!
|It's amusing to us that Three Horses Beer has an acronym of THB, an inside joke of Debbie's from college.
|They also brought around bottles of Punch Coco, a coconut cream rum drink that was very delicious.
|We all chugged the beer we had already poured into our tiny glasses so we could refill them with Punch Coco. Cheers again!
|Lunch was served family-style, with plates of carrots, potatoes, and cabbage, ...
|... coconut rice, ...
|... crab sauce for the coconut rice, ...
|... fish, ...
|... more fish, ...
|... peppers, ...
|... French fries, ...
|... and shrimp skewers, zebu skewers, and bread. Whew. It was a lot of very delicious food, and we ate heartily. Zebu is an animal very similar to a cow that tastes like beef.
|It was a beautiful restaurant, with a nice breeze blowing through the entire time, and we had a nice time talking to our tablemates.
|They brought sliced mango and tiny bananas for dessert, ...
|... and a bottle or two more of beer. It had gotten to the point that as soon as we filled our glasses, everyone at our end of the table raised them for a group cheers without having to be prompted. Cheers!
|One of the other guides brought out a bottle of homemade vanilla rum for people to sample. You could tell it was homemade because it was in a Martini Rossi vermouth bottle. The woman next to Debbie tried it and said that it tasted extremely strong, almost like vanilla moonshine.
|After lunch, we made our way down to the beach to board our boat, ...
|... some of us more reluctantly than others, ...
|... and headed away from Nosy Komba.
|We were the lead boat this time, and Tom felt like he was fleeing the henchmen of a Bond villain as the other boats of our group followed behind in our wake.
|When we returned to the pier on Nosy Be, chaos still reigned. Brenda suggested to our boat captain that we go around this big ship to the right, ...
|... where we were able to disembark in relative comfort. Yay, Brenda!
|There was a tender already waiting, so we boarded across the makeshift plywood bridge, through the first tender, ...
|... and took seats in the bow.
|Twenty minutes later we were back in our stateroom. We'd purchased a bottle of the Punch Coco from the lead tour guide who was trying to get rid of the extras. We were amazed that ship security let us through with it in our backpack. So far, we'd not been stopped bringing anything aboard which was contrary to everything we'd read before we'd sailed.
|By 3:30 PM, we were leaving Madagascar behind. The island on the left is Nosy Be and the one on the right is Nosy Komba. We'd had very few expectations for this port, especially since we were only going to be here for seven hours, but it turned out to be a great day.
|Debbie put some last minute touches on the LEGO daily calendar, adding a shark and a turtle since we'd seen those during our snorkeling trip earlier in the day.
|Dinner in the dining room was a special Culinary Council dinner, ...
|... with different items on the menu being prepared by various chefs on the council. We ordered starters, and then Tom ran upstairs to the Shore Excursion desk in the Crow's Nest to switch our tour in Maputo. We had a walking tour booked, but Debbie had looked at the weather forecast for that day and it was going to be 100 degrees. No, thank you. Tom booked the Taste of Maputo instead, which involved an air-conditioned bus and an air-conditioned restaurant. Much better.
|For the main course, Debbie ordered the Club Orange special of scallops with lemon and romesco, served with corn grits and green beans.
|Tom ordered the roasted spice-crusted prime rib with wild mushrooms and horseradish mousse, served over a vegetable stew.
|Tom got the artisan cheese plate for his dessert, which featured pepper jack, bel paese, manchego, and old Amsterdam. The wavy bread was toasted Italian bread sliced very thin. It was a very cool effect.
|When we went out on deck later that evening, we could see the glow of the setting sun far off in the west. That's the crescent moon shining brightly over the rail on deck nine. We spent a little time looking for meteors from the Leonid meteor shower, but it was still too early in the evening for that. It was a completely clear night and there were thousands of stars visible. Soon, we would need to start looking for the Southern Cross and the False Cross as we headed further into the southern hemisphere.
Copyright © Deborah Schilling/Thomas Bundy