I know this is late, but I am finally writing about my trip to the beautiful island of Isle St. Marie off the east coast of Mada. So the day Alex flew out my friend Erica from U of M and my fraternity Delta Sigma Pi flew in. She was coming in from a week in London with friends she met through working with Nielsen in San Francisco, where she moved after we graduated. Since she was only coming for a week, we had to strategically decide what to do, and we chose St. Marie because it was whale season and I had never been there.
After I picked her up from the airport we spent the night in Tana catching up about everything in the world since I had seen her in San Fran the month before I left the states. The next morning we embarked on our journey east with an 8-hour taxi-brousse ride to the port city of Tamatave. We stopped for lunch on the way and Erica got her first taste of true Malagasy food—a huge mound of rice and greasy beef and beans.
So we get to Tamatave and stay the night there. We get a call partway through the day from our bus/boat company that we were supposed to take the next day saying the boat had not gone to St. Marie for five days, so they thought it was going to go the next day but there were a lot of people backed up so we wouldn’t be able to go until the day after. So we grabbed dinner and drinks along the beach and just hung out for the night.
Since we had a day to kill in Tamatave, we decided to go to a nearby zoological park 8 down the river where Beth, another volunteer works. They have a lot of types of lemurs in cages and at least two types that are fairly domesticated but outside cages. We got to feed a few of them too, which was really cute. Their hands are so soft and squishy, so weird! Also we got to see some lemurs outside the cage mess with their same kind inside the cage, which was actually pretty funny. It started to rain, so we headed back towards town. Beth had been working with bamboo rafters, so we paid one of her cooperative members to take us down the river, which was pretty cool.
The next morning our bus picked us up from our hotel at 4:30 in the morning. We rode for about 5 hours to the port town and then waited forever in the pouring rain for our boat to arrive. The ferries hold about 50 people, which sounds like a pretty big boat but for these waves it was nowhere near enough. The waves crashed over the enormous boat getting everything wet. It was pretty scary actually, but after we got out of the tide it was much better. And the best part is, we got to see a couple of whales from the boat on the way! The ride took about two hours and then we kissed land on the other side.
We got driven to the house we were renting and I was surprised at how perfect it was. The house was enormous and we were paying about $6 a day per person, which was awesome. We had a kitchen and two bedrooms for the five of us staying there. The best part was the proximity to the water: our balcony steps were submerged in ocean at high tide. It was beautiful.
So we hung out for a few days enjoying extremely fresh seafood and beautiful ocean. Unfortunately the weather was mostly rainy (silly east coast) but it was still paradise. One day we went and met other volunteers on Isle aux Nattes, which is a small island just south of St. Marie.
We could have stayed out there forever, but unfortunately had to head back towards Tana for Erica to make her flight. The boat trip back was as smooth as can be, which is a testament to the effect of the time of day. On they way there we left around noon, on the way back we left St. Marie at about 5 am. Then we took our bus back to Tamatave. That was one of the most interesting things. After we boarded the boat, paramedics brought a man on a stretcher who had been stabbed. We had actually heard about him the night before, our guardian mentioned the incident. The man travelled with us on the boat and then he was laid down right next to us in the bus to go to the hospital in Fenerive, north of Tamatave. Very interesting (and uncomfortable) experience.
When we arrived in Tamatave we grabbed a quick bite to eat and then hit the road for Andasibe, the national park about 3 hours east of Tana. The brousse ride was long and slow and it took us forever to leave from Tamatave, but we finally arrived in Andasibe and hit the sack. The next morning was the day of Erica’s flight, so we didn’t have very long before we had to go back to Tana. We did, however, get a chance to go on a hike to see the Indri, the largest lemur in Madagascar, and I got to feed some! Too cool. We then got a private car to ensure our arrival in Tana in time for Erica’s 3 pm flight. Made it just in time haha, but she arrived back in the states smoothly and safely.
All in all a wonderful trip to a beautiful island.