After trekking through so many national parks, we were ready for a break at the beach – even Steph, who generally considers the beach to be boring.
Of course, before catching the ferry to the southern seaside village of Anakao, we stopped to see a few lemurs at Zombitse National Park. Although the park is known for its bird watching, we do not consider ourselves to be ornithologistes and opted for a shorter circuit of the park focusing on all the fauna. Since we had arrived too late in the day for any serious bird watching (sleep is always more exciting than birds), we had the park mostly to ourselves. The local troop of white sifakas entertained us from the treetops and we even stumbled across two different nocturnal sportive lemurs, mysteriously awake during the day.
Onward to the beach! We hopped on a ferry in the coastal city of Tulear for the hour-long trip to the coastal village. The clear blue and turquoise waters were dotted by the pirogues of local fishermen, each outfitted with its own distinct and colorful sail.
Our four days of relaxation on the white sand beach of our lodge provided the ideal vacation from our vacation, although we did take a break from watching the waves with pina coladas in hand for a few adventures. We walked north along the beach to the village, where the local children ran after us, playing a game that we have named “touch the vazaha.” (Vazaha means foreigner and the game is pretty much exactly what it sounds like.) Of course, they really only wanted to touch the blonde vazaha. This has never happened to us on another beach vacation -- imagine walking down the beach in Mexico with a troop of children in pursuit, shouting gringa, gringa!
Our trip to town was also notable for our failure to bargain with any of the local stores for cheap beer (we considered the price at our hotel to be exorbitant); a delicious lunch at an Italian restaurant with owners from near Domodossola; and finding a local dog that followed us back to our lodge and spent the rest of the vacation with us (Steph christened him François).
We also attempted to walk south along the sand to an island reachable on foot only at low tide, but gave up on the endeavor when we realized we were not even halfway there after an hour of trekking and the accompanying blisters.
On the way back, Steph stepped on (and presumably killed) a mysterious beach monster. Particularly scary was the constant oozing of dark purple liquid that followed. Much googling for “ink secreting animals + Madagascar” indicated it was an innocuous sea slug, so her concerns about the possibly poisonous ink turned out to be unfounded.
Our trip to Nosy Ve was a more successful island-bound adventure. We took one of the hotel's sailing pirogues out to a small island off the coast, where we snorkeled in the large coral reef and explored the strip of beach. The reef off the coast in Anakao is one of the largest reefs in the world. However, slash and burn farming further inland leads to river runoff that causes coral bleaching, so what is known as Madagascar’s great reef is sadly damaged in many locations.
On Sunday, we left the beach and mentally prepared ourselves for two more domestic flights via Air Madagascar – they always yield special stories. The following day, we headed to Masoala National Park – a completely different type of beach on the completely opposite end of the island where the water collides with primary forest at the shoreline.