Day 13: Andavadoka - Ifaty
Today was the first day of our adventure where we were traveling on tracks that even the GPS didn’t pick up! Gasy is short for Malagasy, which is the local language and how the people from Madagascar refer to themselves. Our guides joke that they were using their inbuilt GPS – ‘’Gasy Positioning System''.
Away from the coast this area is boiling and dry. We departed early to try to make up as much ground before the midday heat. We were thankful for this when we crossed a 35km area of soft sand in the cool of the morning. Doing this at midday would have been a tad warm and sand thick.
Dry, boiling and travelling on tracks the GPS didn't recognise
The Malagasy joke that bumpy tracks give you a Malagasy massage! How right they are, during our 3 hours of driving where no GPS tracks were available we experienced the full rodeo!
Soon sparkling sapphire water started to appear on the coast, and we were passing cloured wooden houses situated behind white dunes.
We stopped under the shade of a Euphorbia tree close to a nearby village for lunch and observed local men spearfishing and collecting kelp.
The coastline in this area has a massive coral reef stretching 130km from Morombe to Toliara.
Sapphire blue waters of the West Coast of Madagascar
After some fun and games with getting stuck in the sand we were thankful for the extra fuel we were carrying as a few fuel lights started to show up before we hit a brand new tar road outside 10km of Ifaty. The road is being develop through Chinese investment due to interest in farming sea cucumbers in the area.
Fun and games getting stuck in soft sand
Finally we arrived at Ikotel our accommodation in Ifaty while not as nice as some of the other treasures have discovered it was right on the beach and nothing beats going to sleep with the cool breeze and sound of the ocean at night.
Day 14 : Ifaty
Today was a rest day to explore the diverse coastline surrounding Ifaty. From visiting the Spiny forest to exploring the vast coral reef. We ventured out on outriggers to do some fantastic snorkelling on the coast is and were treated excellent visibility.
Setting sail for a snorkelling adventure
We were also saw young children playing along the coastline racing with their homemade Dhows which made for a great series of photos.
Children of Ifaty racing homemade dhows
Our adventure to the Spiny Forest started with a colourful ride in Zebu-drawn cart, while it was great being a passenger on these we sense that they are not built for a real 4x4 experience.
The Spiny forest is lovely to visit, filled with its many endemic plants that have adapted for survival in this dry climate. The forest is also filled with Ring- Tailed Lemurs that seem unfazed by the spiky prickles of the trees as well as many reptiles and excellent bird life.
Lots of spikes and spines in the spiny forest
Day 15 Ifaty to Isalo via Toliara
After enjoying the costal surrounds of Ifaty, it was time for us to hit the road again and venture inland today to Isalo via the town of Toliara to resupply and a visit to the Antsokay Arboretum.
In Toliara we refuelled boosted the local Score supermarkets sales.
Resupplies in Toliara
About 12 km outside of Toliara is the Antsokay Aboretum. The Aboretum was started in 1980 by a Swiss amateur botanist Hermann Petignat and offers a condensed version of the vegetation in South West Madagascar. We enjoyed a guided walk viewing many of the over 900 of the plants here are endemic to this area as well as two types tortoise, the larger Radiata & the small Spider Tortoise.
The very small Spider Tortoise Some of the 900 plant species The bigger Radiata Tortoise
The road after Toliara was incredibly dry and he we saw children as young as four bringing home 20L water bottles push on makeshift carts.
Our guides told us about this, and we prepared by filling up all our used water bottles before we departed. When was passed the village that had the longest walk to secure water we donated these to the grateful headman of the village who shared the bottles out equally.
Youngsters taking water home Our water donation A very grateful headman
Next along the road, we passed through a sapphire mining area. The shops you see on the side of the road are not sellers of sapphires but buyers. Our Malagasy guides tell us with a grin that Sir Lankans own many of the shops, and they are sure that Sri Lanka sells allot more sapphires than it produces due to the help of Madagascar.
As we get closer to Isalo National park the landscape changes and turns into open rolling grasslands. With the rocky sandstone hills of the Isalo appearing on the horizon the temperature also drops. Finally, we arrive Isalo Ranch with it well-maintained garden, great pool, and comfy bungalows.
The sandstone cliffs and grassland of Isalo