Landing in Madagascar
We had enjoyed our excursion in Kenya on our game drive to see large animals. We crossed back over the sea for Madagascar. Before we hit Madagascar, I never realized how large a country it was. According to our guide, it was also a big tourist destination. We landed at the small island of Nosy Be on the north end of Madagascar. For our day trip we would do a countryside tour of Nosy Be.
Our tours on our great cruise adventure had been a big hit or a colossal miss. When a tour was good, we came away wanting to see more of the country we were visiting. But the tour descriptions often oversold what you would see or the tour guide skimped on stops. This would be one where we looked at our tour description on return to the ship and shook our heads.
A Countryside Tour of Nosy Be
The port in Nosy Be was small so we were anchored in the bay. When our tour was called we boarded the tender boat for the short trip to the dock. Our guide boarded us on a small crowded bus with no air conditioning for a countryside tour of Nosy Be that was scheduled for 5.5 hours.
We drove through the small town and out along the country roads. As in many places we had visited in SE Asia, scooters and tuk tuks were a major mode of transportation.
The houses and people looked to be in much better shape than many of the towns we would travel through in Africa. That was not so true about the very emaciated cows we saw everywhere.
As we drove in various destinations in Africa and South Africa in December, we continually got a rare treat. The Flamboyant Tree (or Flame Tree) flowers in these regions only in December. It is also sometimes called the Christmas Tree for the bright red flowers that look like holiday decorations.
Tour Stops Along the Way
Our guide and driver were alert as we drove along. It was amazing what they could see from a moving bus. We stopped to see different kinds of leaves and then stopped while both of them scurried off the bus to a nearby tree. When they returned with a tree branch, we found two chameleons looking at us.
Our first official stop was at an abandoned plantation. The tour groups marched for about 100 feet up a laneway. We hoped this was our stop at the coffee plantation. We were disappointed when we stopped only to see the Ylang Ylang bush. Ylang-ylang is so abundant that Nosy Be is often referred to as the Island of Perfumes. The flowers from this tree are ground to a paste in Tanzania and exported as a key ingredient in many perfumes.
The crowded lane was filled with locals selling a wide variety of trinkets and table cloths. We were quickly hustled along with a promise of shopping later.
One of the other tours for the day had gone to the Lemur Island. We had to be satisfied with a photo opportunity with the lemurs at this stop.
A View from the Heights
During our countryside tour of Nosy Be, we occasionally caught a view of great beaches and the small islands off the coast.
Heading inland we drove up the twisty narrow road to the panoramic view on Mont Passot. This little outlook parking lot was crowded with busloads from our cruise ship.
A final walk up the path got us to the viewpoint. You could look down on where we had travelled on our countryside tour of Nosy Be.
From this vantage point, we saw the emerald Amparihibe crater lakes. These lakes are filled with crocodiles, sacred to the local people.
If you were really brave you could wander down the path to the outhouses for your break. Most people were not desperate enough!
A Resort View
On our countryside tour of Nosy Be, we had one final stop at the Palm Beach Resort. Music was playing as we approached. A local group welcomed us with a traditional dance. Everyone stopped to take pictures of the great face paintings.
We got a drink and a local snack while sitting looking out over the pool. It was low tide and the beach looked less inviting than it did from the heights of Mont Passot. While we had seen scuba diving signs all along the roads, the water did not call to me. When we talked to the resort staff, we were told we were not really in scuba season.
The hotel was decorated for Christmas. This was one of the few signs we had seen travelling in December that the holiday season was fast approaching.
Retail Therapy Stop
No tour is complete without a stop at a shop or market. Unlike some others, our bus did not stop at the many small craft tables set up on the side of the road. We also missed a chance to buy local Madagascar coffee.
Our shopping stop was at the very end of a long, hot bus drive. It was the “official” bus stop and we pulled in with the other tour buses. There was a wide variety of things for sale. Many were tourist baubles meant as reminders. Some looked to be local art. We looked at a few things but were not tempted. We are downsizing at home and our kids are not looking for souvenirs when we return.
A Small Glimpse of Madagascar
Our countryside tour of Nosy Be did not live up to its description. Our market visit was not a local market but just a tourist souvenir stop. We had hoped to see the unusual, balloon-shaped homes in Dzamandzar. Our guide pointed to one house hidden behind the trees.
While the hotel stop was nice, the short visit left us no time to enjoy the beach or swim. What we got was truly just a small taste test of Nosy Be and an even smaller insight into Madagascar. We would need a return visit to really see if Madagascar lived up to the tales.
We were back at sea for a few days as we transited down the African coast. Our next stop in Richards Bay, South Africa would give us yet another chance to see large animals up close.
Have you done a countryside tour of Nosy Be? What was your favourite part? What else should you see in Madagascar?