I’m back! Sorry for the delay everyone, but it seems I was finally hit by that inevitable illness this week and spent most of it ordering around the super amazing girls in our Treehouse hut to get me water or wet cloths or even to clean my sick bowl. So this is a big thank you and sorry to the girls that you all had to do that! Now everybody keep your fingers crossed that Brias is feeling better as soon as possible as well!
From what I’m hearing as I come out of what feels like being in a cave for the week, it’s all going really well. Alex, Maddie, Suzannah, Abbie and Amy are loving their teaching, although they all come back very very exhausted from the kids’ classes! I have just managed my first class which was an adults advanced class-they really got to grips with the riddles game I set them and it was great to see them wanting more at the end! All the teachers are getting to work on learning some simple Malagasy phrases and commands to help out in class (and hopefully increase their control over the extremely hyper children!) and some set out now to a nearby village called Be to test out what they’ve learnt so far on some unsuspecting locals! Test results coming soon… Suzannah, Abbie, Maddie and Amy are tackling some strenuous forest walks alongside their teaching and from what I gather so far as they tell me they wish they went on the longer walks, they must be enjoying it! While Abbie and Suzannah’s first lemur walk was a little unsuccessful (no lemurs), everyone has since had a least one exciting animal encounter to tell us about back in our hut.
The new Mariners are doing super well and making quick progress with their courses. Asher, Charley, Charlie, Caroline and Josh have finished their confined dives and are all starting to have their first proper dive amongst the fishes! Taylor, whose dive kit even the dive masters are envious of, has been a little ill but by being ahead of the game with his open water already under his belt, he has just done his first advanced dive and will be well first to finish anyway I’m sure. It’s nice for the old Mariners to see them all kitting up and putting on wetsuits at 5.30am for once!
I suppose what you all really what to hear about is the boat trip though. And while it has taken me a little longer than planned to reach Wifi and fill everyone in, it was all far too magical and ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ for me to skip any details.
The boat was spectacular-couldn’t ask for much more than a 80ft catamaran with an amazing decking out on the bow, great staff and a fabulous crew. Charlie and Asher would like to make a special shout out to the chef-they engulfed a very impressive amount of food and we did all agree that it truly was outstanding (calamari, French toast, grilled chicken…) and very nice to always have the option of seconds! Big thanks to our sailors Josh and Charlie as well for teaching us all endlessly about sailing, whether we wanted to know or not!
So once we had all settled in on the first day and fought over sleeping arrangements, we set sail for some of the most breathtaking islands that I really thought only existed in my dreams! Our first stop was Nosy Mamook-rainforest clad and almost completely untouched, aside from one tiny village with a population easily under 50. After an afternoon spent whale and dolphin watching from the boat, we all drifted off to a nice, rocky night’s sleep. We had a few seasick sufferers (Amy, Maddie and a few more) but everyone pulled though and I think had almost found their sea legs by the end! The next morning we headed over to Mamook and spent a few hours feeding very hungry lemurs and giant tortoises some bananas, before seeing our first big Boabab tree. Charley and Asher were not going to miss the chance to climb the majestic tree of Madagascar and while their upwards climbing was very impressive, we all enjoyed watching their attempts to get back down! It was also Nicole’s birthday on this day and after a fun afternoon’s walk on the mainland with some insane views, everyone very much appreciated the Nutella crepe cakes made for dinner! By this time, we really were feeling as though we had conquered Madagascar-lemurs, Boababs and the mainland all in one day!
We visited a tiny volcanic marine park island, surrounded by a reef teeming with underwater life, twice during our adventure and it didn’t disappoint! While Suzannah and I were the only ones lucky enough to see a manta-ray (this still excites me writing it!), I think everyone saw a turtle at some point and the range of multi-coloured and often huge fish was impossible to not marvel at. It was also a big day for the birders amongst us (especially Amy) when we saw a very rare and endangered Fish Eagle!
Russian Bay was another island which we returned to once and its dead calm waters were very popular for a good night’s sleep. On arrival, we went to shore where they had one tiny shop (Amy was delighted to find that they sold powder to flavour her ‘disgusting’ water) and a beautiful beach that all the girls took a stroll along while the guys ‘played some ball’ as the Americans say. Zoe, Suzannah and I attempted a quick dip to cool off after, but as we jumped into a swarm of jellyfish we quickly changed our minds! That evening, we headed back to the beach for a mini beach party and bonfire.
One of our favourite islands was Nosy Antsoha-the lemur island. The water was possibly the clearest yet, not that I thought it could get any better, and we all wanted to dive right in. First though, we all gathered our cameras, walking shoes and snorkel gear and headed ashore. Everyone seemed to like our steep climb to the top of the island, thanks to the outstanding views and countless lemurs descending from the trees to munch on our bananas and occasionally pee on our shoulders… For some reason, there was a toilet right at the top? I would definitely say it must be a contender for best view while on the loo! Most excitingly though, as we neared the bottom on the route down, we were surprised by a mini green turtle rescue place! There was about 12 tiny baby turtles, smaller than our palms, and honestly the most adorable things to walk (flap) the earth. It was tough to say goodbye but in the afternoon we hopped across to the island opposite where all were very excited about the prospect of a cold drink at a small resort. For Suzannah and I though, who were silly enough to kayak there, we had to head back before the current became to strong!
Perhaps everyone’s favourite day was Iranja day. The truly stunning Nosy Iranja is made up of two jungly islands ringed by utterly pristine white sand beaches and joined by a snaking sandbar around 400m long. We spent the whole day on the island and it was great to have a meal off of our cosy but rather cramped boat. Many started the morning with a massage which I hear was a little scratchy from the sand but worth the 5$! Time flew by as we spent it strolling through the tiny idyllic village and market shops, swimming in the crazy warm waters, walking/dancing/running up and down the sandbar, relaxing with a cool drink and more. Sitting in the middle of the sandbar to watch the sunset and a delicious candlelit dinner was the cherry on top of a completely perfect day!
On our second day on the mainland, at a village we stopped at to send in supplies, we took a 2 hour hike through the rocky dry forest up in the hills looking over the beach. We had a local man as our guide who told us some interesting facts about medicinal plants, reptiles and farming techniques in the region. After showing us the school he is building for the 40 kids currently uneducated and living in the surrounding hills, he invited us to dinner in his restaurant (a very multitalented man)! Maddie was officially the children’s favourite, leaving a few others feeling a little rejected as they all crowded and played and chatted with her!
On our final day on board we anchored at Tanikely marine park. For those who hadn’t been yet, and for those who had, it was a perfect ending to a perfect trip! We went for a couple of snorkels (trying to avoid the aggressive triggerfish we had all just been terrified to hear about) and saw turtles, rays, barracuda and colourful fish galore! Some swam ashore in the afternoon while others read and sunbathed, enjoying our last few hours of luxury. To finish off, we had a boat party (which even included disco lights) and spent the evening dancing and stargazing for the last time out front.
Pictures will hopefully explain the magic more, but believe us when we say the unbelievable waters and beaches of all the islands we were lucky enough to swim, sunbathe, explore and snorkel around could never ever ever get old!
Saying goodbye to Zoe and Nicole was really hard for everyone as we’ve all got so close-I don’t think there was one of us girls who didn’t shed a few tears! We miss them everyday and can’t believe the boys are now outnumbering the girls! With a lot of us going off whale shark watching Saturday morning, it should be an exciting weekend, but you’ll hear about that next time! Sorry again for the wait-I was building your suspense!