Day 7 Bekopaka - Morondava
After a few days exploring the magnificent Tsingy limestone formations of Tsingy de Bemahara it was time for us to depart back to Morondava. There is only one route to Morondava, so we were retracing our tracks from a few days before.
We were all becoming old hands at Madagascan Ferry crossings, despite our confidence we still loaded and unloaded the cars very ‘’mora mora’’ slowly slowly guided by the ferrymen. The base of the rivers crossed was nice and solid so little chance of getting bogged down and turning our 4x4’s into submarines.
Disembarking the Ferry , despite being old hands we still went Mora Mora
This route is a front-runner for best ‘; Madagascan Massage’’ award - its a very bouncy ride. At one of our small roadside stops, we encountered an old man taking a break from the midday heat under the cover of a tree. He had caught Guinea Fowl and was driving a hard bargain for us to purchase it for EUR2. After politely declining we offered him a banana and apple, delighted he mentioned to our local guide that he had never had an apple before. We are tracking in the far remotes!
This man had never tasted an apple before
Just before arriving back in Morondava the drive took us back through the iconic Avenue of the Baobabs was a few hours before sunset . The Avenue is one of the most visited sites in the Menabe region of the country. In 2007 it was awarded a protected status in a move to make it one of Madagascar’s first national monuments. After careful timing to get some great pics in the pre-sunset light, we set off to get back to Morondava before darkness set in.
Day 8 Morondava - Belo Sur Mer
The Morondava peninsula is a hive of activity in the mornings with children crossing the canals on their way to school, boat repairers starting their days work and fisherman returning on their ancient Dhows with the catch of the morning.
Morondava Mornings Catch Coming In
After a later start to get on the road, we headed south on a sandy, scrubby track. After navigating a river crossing, we were once again in the far remotes. Driving through the small villages that dot the countryside we encountered some ‘’ Road Barriers’’ that charge a fee for passing through. We were grateful for our Malagasy guides who handled the negotiating at these checkpoints, many of the locals were keen to try to charge us double or suspicions that our convoy was government as they had never seen so many 4x4’s together. One particular ‘’Road Barrier’’ attendant had a much more relaxed attitude as we struggling to wake him from his midday nap to get through the barrier!
Navigating River Crossings
The abundance of Baobabs seems never to end, with us passing more forests on this track. The local Sakalava women often walk around with a type of mask that looks a bit like clay, the mask is a natural sunscreen that they make from crushing different barks mixed with water.
Sakalava Women with Bark Sunscreen
About 10km outside of Belo Sur Mer the Mangroves emerge and the track changes to something resembling a salt pan, timing is essential to avoid getting stuck. Salt is made in this area, and there are large piles of salt everywhere. Our local guide tried a shortcut which saw him bogged down, thankfully many locals came to rescue and had him out in no time.
We arrived at our accommodation Ecolodge du Menabe, which is made up of lovely wooden bungalows with thatch roofs overlooking the ocean. Looking forward to exploring the seaside paradise of Belo Sur Mer tomorrow.
Day 9 Belo Sur Mer
Today our adventure was away from the road exploring the area around the seaside town of Belo Sur Mer. It's well worth getting up at sunrise to watch the Dhows heading out into the Mozambican Channel on Madagascar's west coast. We must have seen about 50 of them leaving at first light.
Motorised Pirogue Traditional Dhow Exploring the Coastline
It was a difficult call on whether to go out exploring on a motorized outrigger pirogue with a spot of snorkeling or sit back and enjoy the refreshing coastal breeze under the shade of trees. The former prevailed, and before knew it we were out passing the breakwater. We snorkeled in perfect water temperature in a protected lagoon area, while the water was a bit murky we still saw over six species of fish, Octopus, and Giant Clams. It was an entertaining half day excursion made richer by seeing all the local villages and local Dhows on the water.
Belo Sur Mer is famous for its boat building; the tradition was initially taught to local artisans from the people of Brittany who visited in the 19th century and now continues, being passed down from father to son. The boat builders only speak Malagasy and a tiny amount of French, so we were grateful again to our informative guides for translating.
Talented Boat Building Artisans Traditional Design Colourful catch of the day
In the late afternoon, a number of the fishing boats return, bringing with the catch of the day and a stunning sunset!