Tomorrow is Wednesday which means it will shortly have been a week since many of us met for the first time either in Heathrow or Paris Airport. It’s quite a bizarre phenomenon to put faces to the names of relative strangers whom you have only met previously through a phone or computer screen – of course this was a little daunting for us all.
Then ensued the multi-flight to Madagascar where we found ourselves plunged into humidity and heat of 30 degrees when we touched down in our final destination.
Immediately we were hustled into a tent where we began the visa process and it became painfully apparent that my lack of language skills was going to pose a bit of a problem. Fortunately Freddie S was on hand to translate so I didn’t look quite so ignorant.
The process was long and drawn out although I believe a couple of people, namely Harry (who we discovered was joining us while in Reunion despite having been on all our flights) paid or perhaps was duped into paying extra to skip the queue. Eventually we reached the other side and were greeted by Emily, the project manager.
We clambered into 2 mini buses while our drivers did a fantastic job of hoisting our bags onto the roof, some of which were particularly heavy. The bus ride was a sweaty one although we were preoccupied with taking in the surroundings of what would be our home for the next 10 weeks or so.
Thick forests lined the narrow, sometimes bumpy road from the airport to the port, young Malagasi children walked barefoot on the verge carrying school bags and battered vehichles beeped to indicate they were overtaking. We reached the port after stopping at an ATM in what I later learned was the town of Hell-Ville on Nosy Be, pronounced ‘Nosy Bay’.
We climbed aboard two boats and began a 45 minute journey to our new home, Camp on Nosy Komba. Upon leaving the port the waters are sparkling blue and incredibly clear in the shallows, not to mention extremely salty. Our little island is 25km squared, covered in thick forest and is home to the residents of Angpangorina (Angpang) which we would visit on Friday for pizza, drinks and music. It is certainly a mountain hidden beneath the vegetation and by what I have heard from the forest people the hikes are particularly arduous – or maybe we’re all just really unfit.
Camp is fronted by Main House, an open common area with a thatched roof and wood and stone structures, it is furnished with hammocks, tables, benches and bean bags (which are my favourite) and is graced with a fantastic view of the sea and the land across from us. This is also the place where the staff live, of course their accommodation is a little nicer than ours.
Out the back of Main House begin the first of many irregular stone steps which we are growing accustomed to traversing each day. After being assigned Tree House cabin, the best cabin naturally, Sophie, Hettie, Brinley, Izzi and myself find ourselves almost at the top of camp just beside the resident cockerel.
The cabins are modest consisting of 3 bunk-beds and some shelves made from crates, swinging stable doors and roll up blinds of sticks. We have had our door and windows open every night and can still be too warm. They’re made exclusively of wood including boarded floors, a balcony and the steps.
I’m currently on Marine with Alex, Sophie, Ben, Hettie, Harry and Cressie with Arthur and Brinley ahead of us in our training while the rest of us establish the basic principles of diving. It has been an exciting first week settling in and breaking misconceptions of one another and I am intrigued to see what we will experience next.