Salama (hello in the south)! The next day we left the highlands and flew to Ft. Dauphin, which is on the Indian Ocean on the south coast of Madagascar. We could have driven, but it would have taken days because the roads are very bad. Ft. Dauphin and the ocean were great! We met Sam, another volunteer, and spent 2 days on the beach and a little bit of time shopping in the town. We had lots of fresh seafood including oysters (only Brian), shrimp, lobster and fish. One restaurant owner proudly showed us a plate with 2 very large, very raw squid he had acquired that day. We had lunch at a hotel on a cliff overlooking the beach and the ocean. The hotel has an infinity pool that looks out over the ocean as well, so it was very cool. Breakfast at our hotel was also great, I loved the jam made with fruit and vanilla.
From Ft. Dauphin, we took a 3 hour van ride to go about 54 miles to Berenty. The road is the major East-West route along the coast, and while it was paved at one time, most of the asphalt has washed away and it’s now rutted and pot holed clay. In the rainy season, it is sometimes impassable. We passed through a few small villages, where people waved at us, and we passed taxi brousses loaded with people. One had chickens in cages on the roof and another had a goat! People headed to or from market I’m sure.
Berenty is a private reserve and most documentaries about lemurs were filmed there. Berenty is in the spiny forest. I am not a desert person, but the plants in the spiny forest are very cool. There are also baobabs there, but not the giant ones that you see in pictures. The ring-tailed lemurs at Berenty are very used to people, so they come right up to the open-air restaurant. In fact, they will hop up on your table and steal food if you don’t watch them. The sifakas there are also pretty used to people, and while they won’t come as close as the ring tails, they are around and you can watch them interact. The sifakas walk on their 2 hind legs with their arms raised in the air when they are moving around and crossing the road, very cute to watch.
We did 3 hikes in Berenty, morning, afternoon and night and saw bats, chameleons, lizards, an owl, and 4 or 5 different types of lemurs. Since it is a private reserve, they also have a few things in enclosures – turtles and a crocodile. It s a very cool place, worth the 3 hour drive!
After the 3 hour drive back to Ft. Dauphin, we had dinner at a restaurant on the beach. The next day we flew back to Tana where we spent the afternoon and early evening. Then Brian, Nicole, and I left Alex to spend the rest of his vacation with Sarah, and we headed to the airport to fly to Paris where we would spend another 3 days. It was a lovely transition back to the developed world and a nice break in the 24 hour trip.
Sarah, it was great to see you talk so easily and fluently to everyone, friends and strangers, and to hear your friends talk about you. You have obviously touched the lives of the people with whom you work. Misaotra (thank you) to Madagascar, Clark, Sarah and all of her friends who gave us such a great trip!