I've spent only a short time in the capital of Madagascar as I was interested rather in the unique nature of the island than in a crowded city.
I flew on the next day to Antsiranana over Nosy Be and I have never seen my backpack anymore.
Antsiranana (Diego Suarez)
This small town is an optimal basis to organize tours in the National parks on the northmost part of the island.
I had to spend some days here first hoping that my luggage would be found and after then taking efforts to obtain some indispensable things
for the next weeks.
Montagne d'Ambre National Park
First experiences in a tropical montain rainforest - in the dry season.
Wonderful 2 days in the comfortable Rousette lodge inside the park, crowned by many animals, a good guide and a few other tourists only.
The success list: Crowned lemurs, Brown lemurs, chameleons in all size (from the smallest Brookesia), Uroplatus gecko, Boa Madagascariensis,
birds like Kingfisher, insects like Pill Millipede and last but not least RAINFOREST overall.
The landscape is really diverse with cascades, craterlakes and a panoramic view to the bay of Diego Suarez.
Ankarana National Park (Tsingy's)
Just 30 km away and what a different landscape: Dry forest and a labyrinth of razor-sharp limestone pinnacles - called 'Tsingy'.
I've spent two nights in a small hut in Mahamasina just at the entrance of the National Park.
After the arrival from Diego I visited the bat caves and the small tsingy beside.
On the second day I started early to walk 12 km through the miracle dry forest and I reached the big tsingy which can not be
compared with any other rock formation I've ever seen. Beside this highlight I've seen other intersting features like the green
lake or the dried out river. The whole long trip itself to and back was also not boring at all with my experienced guide,
professor Riziki and we have seen apart from the unique flora many nice animals: crowned lemurs overall, nightactive lepilemurs
looking out blindly from their cavity in the trees, geckos and endemic birds.
Sambava and its area
Centre of vanilla cultivation, gateway to Marojezy NP and last but not least nice ocean beaches.
I became a really experienced taxi-brousse passenger on the way from Ambilobe to Sambava sharing with 21 nice Malagasy people
the back of a Peugeot-404 pick up for 15 hours. The hardest 170 km of this journey took 12 hours (with 2 short and a bit longer
pause) on a very bad (but dry!) dirt road between Ambilobe and Vohamarina. Our squeezed but cheerful crowd had not the faintest
idea about the horrible things happened on this sunny september day some 10.000 km away on the other side of the world.
I prepared in Sambava the next trip to Marojezy and succeeded to book a flight to Maroantsetra afterwards. With the helpful Naomi
from Sambava Voyage I have visited a vanilla plant and plantation with many kind of spices and fruits never seen before.
Marojezy National Park
Primary rainforest, a bit difficult to approach but even more difficult to leave behind.
I almost missed the small village Manantenina on the way from Sambava to Andapa where a hardly recognizable sign shows the
way to the marvellous National Park Marojezy. I walked some hours on the trail where the entrance was indicated in 8 km until
I have definitely realized that I am already in the park - without guide and an idea how far the first camp is, if there is any at all.
It was one hour before dusk and I was prepared for bivouacking on that night when I caught a sign indicating the first camp is 50 min
on foot. I reached it in time but I spent the night on a bench in the roofed picnic area - since the nice bungalows were all locked.
Anyway, it remained a remarkable night alone in the rainforest far away from any noise and pollution of the civilization.
Next morning a guide came down from camp 2. and sent me another guide, Zézé from the village however the next camp was only
another hour away. I visited the Humbert waterfall and after this detour Zézé joined to guide me to camp 2.
Four young american researchers stayed in the camp for 3 monthes following and observing the white or silky sifakas all day long.
I had the chance to accompany them and to see these rare, shy and beautiful animals in their idyllic environment.
This fabulous forest is so little visited (maybe that's why it is so fabulous) that I was the third tourist the american researchers
encountered during their 3 month stay. My heart was bleeding to leave this undisturbed piece of the world and I do believe
I will return once.
Nosy Mangabe Special Reserve
Great place on a small island, last sanctuary for the rare aye-aye's and the not so rare ecotourists.
I took a taxi-brousse back to Sambava, then further to Antalaha from where I flew to Maroantsetra above the rainforest of Masoala peninsula.
I wanted originally to trek through this huge forest but without my equipments lost I had to be satisfied with minor adventures. In Maroantsetra
I associated with Angie and Jean-Luc a kind couple from Switzerland to share the costs of a 3 day trip to the islet Nosy Mangabe.
I could increase the night comfort of my blanket significantly with the bivouac bag they lent me for the island camp. We got a very good guide
Seraphin and after buying our food and the inevitable charcoal we took a motor-boat to transport us to this small garden of Eden only 5 km away
from Maroantsetra in Antongil bay. It was 19. september and I was informed that the last humpback whale had left the bay with her calf on the
previous day. Yes it's really a pity that I lost too much time in Diego waiting for my luggage. But there was no reason to sorrow the beautiful
rainforest covered island offered spectacles abundantly: the highlight was obviously the peculiar Aye-aye which is the largest nocturnal primate
in the world with its 40 cm body length. This place is one of the last refuge of this lemur art and thank to our untiring guide we succeeded to
observe a specimen of this bizarre animal during our night trip. We have seen other nightactive species like the sweet little mouse lemur
and some enormous exemplare of the flat tailed (uroplatus) gecko. During the day beside the somewhat obtrusive common brown lemurs
we encountered the screaming black and white ruffed lemurs, the tiny brookesia chameleons, among some well designed froggs the forest-litter
like master of camouflage, a lazy boa and many shiny green geckos. Last but not least a picturesque beach made even more delightful our stay
on the island.
Maroantsetra - Mananara Trek
90 km which much more enjoyable on 2 feet than by 4 wheel. Very nice people along a very bad road.
As it was fixed earlier on the third day of our sweet island exile the boat came for us and we returned to Maroantsetra. I got acquainted with Rakoto,
the local organizer of hotel Coco Beach and just ten minutes later he lent me a tent for some days as he seemed to be really worried about
my plan to walk to Mananara. He was not sure if I can find a hotely along this abandoned road and I promised to leave the tent in hotel Aye-aye in
Mananara after my arrival. The road was passable by taxi-brousse till Nandrasane but after that I had to walk the 90 km rest. The tent proved to be
superfluous during the next two and a half days due to the similar support and benevolence radiated from the locals and followed me on my way.
On the first day I met Elizé a student who was happy to brush up his english by conversing me and I was invited at his house in Rantabe. He
introduced me to Jean-Christian the 25 year old "président du fokontany" and I was the guest of his house on this night. The next night in Tanjon
again the local president arranged me the accomodation in a raffia-stock. This fast three day walk along the National main Road signed RN5 was an
unforgettable experience leading me through neat villages built up from tidy huts covered by palm leaves without electricity, running water and
canalization but with papaya and coco palms, mango and banana trees all around. I've seen not more than three cars on this neglected road prayed
through on wooden bridges held together by the Holy Ghost only, but I have seen endless alluring white sand beaches bordered with palms and with
the rest of once proud still charming rainforest; I have seen fresh green ricefields cultivated with primitive tools but with great diligence and endeavour.
I met only friendly people most of them wearing no shoes and watches but all of them with sincere smiles on their faces and taking the time and
patience for each other. I have seen graceful moving round-hipped women dressed in lambas (~short sari) chating cheerful while coming from the river
and balancing water filled buckets on their heads with ease. I have seen bright eyed children looking at me with natural curiousity and being amazed to
see a 'vazaha' (foreigner, white man) but never forgetting to say 'salut'. I have heard then their excited shouts as the news spreaded behind me like
wildfire. Wherever I went the air was saturated with the sweet-smelling aroma of clove, vanilla, pepper, cacao, coffee, cinnamon and God only knows
what other kind of heavenly spices which caused real euphoria by breathing them. I had doubt what happiness really means as I've seen these
undepraved common people and I've recognized the poverty of our over-civilized wasteful richness.
The third day I have reached the small town Mananara where I was regenerated in the comfortable Aye-aye bungalow-hotel. While prepearing the
adventurous flight to Toamasina I organized at Chez Rogers a nightwatch trip to the river island called as and repopulated with Aye-aye.
2nd. big town, first time I've seen cash-automats and cockroaches in Madagascar.
I flew over this good 200 km part of the east coast by a small Tupoljev-28 from Mananara to Toamasina. The Presidential "airline" is not propagated
but the locals know about and it works. Not really cheaper as Air Mad and inspired not so much confidence when I bought the ticket in the bazaar
but due to its schedule and availability I could fly on the next day sparing my precious time. After all I had no reason not to believe in malagasy
people. Toamasina is a big harbour-town with an oversized central avenue bordered with palms in several rows. There is a good paved road from
here till Antananarivo which made the rest of my journey more predictable. Inside the town the typical conveyance is the rickshaw called pousse-
pousse, used widely by the locals too. I haven't seen anyone begging which is a remarkable difference from the Capital. I tried to find a tour operator
offering boat trip on the Pangalanes channel for a reasonable price. As I found the prices too high considering the circumstances I decided to take a
taxi-brousse on the next day moving toward and visit a part of the channel.
Pangalanes channel (Manantabe)
Yes, it's not bad - but I wonder why it is so famous and expensive..
The Pangalanes is a chain of lakes and lagunes parallel to the ocean coast opened into a 600 km long channel system south from Toamasina.
I took a taxi-brousse to travel about 70 km south. The main road approches the channel near to Manantabe and a 4W passable dirt road leads
7km long to the village. I walked one and a half hour together in the companionship of the 4 year old Marino and his father Lassalo. The small village
has a wonderful white sandy beach with expensive bungalow hotels. I spent the night in a small inexpesive hotely and tried to organize a speedboat
round-trip to Ankanin'ny Nofy (nest of dreams) to visit a private reserve. There was nobody I could share the considerable costs with so I took a long
walk alone along the channel - for free. It's a wilde area without roads, the lake is armed by gently sloping grassy hills showing the footprints of the
forest burned up. I found consolation and refreshment in the crystal clear transparent shallow water. After the splendid dinner at Luigi I got a lift to
the main road where I could catch a comfortable almost empty minivan to take me almost 100 km toward till the crossing to Perinet.
Analamazoatra (Perinet) Special Reserve (Andasibe)
It's a sure place to see and hear some lovely indris and less lovely human beings.
The "Feon'ny Ala" (voice of the forest) bungalow hotel is located just in the neighbourhood of the Perinet park some hundred meter from the main road.
For a reasonable price offers comfortable bungalows on a slope facing the rainforest. I was excited if I can hear the concert of the indris and was
wondering how near I could see them if at all. I was the first in the restaurant at 6 in the morning and after breakfast I dashed in a great hurry to the park.
The entrance is about 3 km, halfway to the small town Andasibe. I payed the entrance fee valid for 3 days hired the mandatory guide for the same
price for the longest 6 hour trip and before 7 o'clock I was already in the park. In spite of my great expectations I was surprised when the sudden shout
not comparable to any other on this world sounded up quite aloud in some meter away. Just how many times I have dreamed about since I saw and
heard the indris in a misty rainforest still on a nature-film so far. The indri family just 10 meter above me began the early morning toilet while waiting for
the sunshine to warm them up. The guide woke me up from my silent amazement as he made terrible noise to stimulate these lovely ape-like animals
for moving. As the time passed by more and more tourist approached without any respect making unbearable noise spoiling the idyll. This is Perinet in
2001: a wonderful rainforest with many animals and even more tourists having short time - too short to observe the beautiful nature patiently. The guides
have learnt to serve the interests of the tourists and they live with a symbiosis at the cost of those animals that should be protected in fact. The park
with its 840 ha area the smallest but the most visited in Madagascar. The park and its surrounding area is the last refuge of the indris these sensitive
primates who can not be held and seen in any zoo on the world! Perinet is just 140 km from Antananarivo and easy to approach on the good paved road
which is not typical on this island at all. To increase the disturbances the noise of the heavy traffic on the neighbouring roads unfortunately can already
be heard in the park. But nevertheless my dream came through and if only for a short time I could taste the paradise again. I must be satisfied with the
many animals I've seen: Indris near and far, jumping and eating, crying and in silence; brown lemurs, bamboo lemur, birds, chameleons, snakes, froggs
and a peculiar beetle with long giraffe neck. The rest of the day I visited the orchid park and walked to Andasibe to look around. On the way back I got
acquainted with Angelique and Ben a nice couple from Netherlands just beginning their journey on the island. For the next day I've decided to look for
an undisturbed place alone and the rainforest Maromizaha about 5 km away on the other side of the main road seemed to be an ideal target. No guide
is required to visit this unprotected area. I took my GPS for sure and started even earlier than on the previous day to Perinet. Before sunrise I reached
a height in Maromizaha from which I could enjoy a fabulous panoramic view of the misty rainforest of Perinet. It was again an unbelievable experience
to see the mist evaporating slowly above the forest by the strengthening sunshine while hearing the concert of the indris. However I roved a big part
of the forest and heard the indris time to time I haven't seen animals. It was disappointing to see places where the forest is burned up or the trees are
cut. In the evening I visited again Perinet for a night-watch - with moderate success.
Mantadia National Park (Andasibe)
Not so far from Perinet but far from the crowd. Great park, wonderful flora and fauna.
Mantadia first seemed to be out of my sight, time and budget but not of my interest. The taxi is unreasonable expensive and should be ordered in
advance for this 18 km long trip and back. The guide charges also more as usual. Needless to say that I accepted with great plesure the idea of Angelique
and Ben to visit Mantadia together and sharing the costs of taxi and guide. After the nightwatch in Perinet I asked the guide Marcel to come with us on the
next morning to Mantadia. I booked a taxi at the reception of Feon'ny Ala and beleived that I did everything for the success of the planed trip. On the next
morning we were prepared early to leave but our taxi was not arranged by the receptionist. It was sunday which made the situation more complicated.
At the end we shared a taxi with another tourist and his guide. Our 3-day permits for Perinet were still valid for Mantadia too. The problems seemed to be
disappeared and we reached Mantadia this upland rainforest which ten times so big and due to its remoted location less visited than Perinet. The main
attraction of this park is the rare and elusive diademed sifaka which is considered by many as the most beautiful of all the lemurs and can not be seen in
Perinet. We had special luck to find a group and to enjoy the sight of them for half an hour. I do agreed that these sweet animals with their tastefuly
designed golden, black and white coloured fur are really the well-dressed, most elegant species in the lemur family. This experience in the miracle
rainforest of Mantadia has crowned my one month journey and helped to forget the inconveniences had happened earlier and still came later on this day
caused by people infected with the most dangerous virus of civilization called money. The diversity of the landscape was admirable. Another interesting
animal I have first seen was a tanrek a hedgehog like endemic species. We have followed a waterstream along the Rianasoa loop and a little past noon
reached a small dreamland with palms, waterfall and natural pool. It was the right time and the best place to rest a bit and to consume our food took with
ourselves when we had to confront again the bitter facts. Our trip planed for the whole day must be shortened due to our fellow traveller who has to reach
his plane in Tana. The suggestion that our individualy paid taxi should come back for us or send another one for the same price turned to deaf ears and
we had to return earlier. These people surprisingly seemed to be disinterested in earning some more money. In the rest of this afternoon we have made
together with Angelique and Ben a short tour in Perinet. We found a nice guide and have seen many animals so we felt our mood to be compensated.
Early morning on the next - last - day I collected onto my MD some more voice recording about the indris beside Perinet and said goodbye to the wonderful
nature of Madagascar. I caught a taxi-brousse to Antananarivo ordered a chicken vanilli in Saka Manga and after this farewell dinner I said a "to the
airport, please" to the taxidriver. During the night my plane had a hard take-off; although my backpack became light could not compensate my
overweighted heart. I could hardly believe that the most impressive adventure of my 47 years came to the end. I'd rather like to think that it was only