Dec 7, 2019: Ankarana to Nosy Be

It was a four hour drive from the Relais de l’Ankarana to the boat at Ankify. The national road had roadworks in several places, where bridges were being repaired. For the most part, bridges themselves seem sound enough. However huge potholes exist at either end. A few bridges had been washed out by heavy rains. Some were replaced by detours through a dry stream bed, in much better conditions than the actual road. Others had bailey bridges with camel- humped tracks. The bridges that were longer than a few car lengths were one way. 

Most of the trip was through flat farmland. We went through one town, all hustle and bustle. There were a great many clusters of houses, too small to be a village, too large to be a farm. For one stretch, there were plinths with plastic bags on them. These were cashews set out for sale. 

Our driver stopped at a roadside stand for a bag of rice pancakes. Just rice flour and sugar, and very tasty. They were about the size of my fist, and puffed up to about a centimetre thick. They seemed to be pan fried. 

As we got closer to Ankify, we drove through plantations of Theo trees, with their cocoa pods. Big trees were planted in the orchard, to give the Theo trees the shade that they need to thrive. In two spots, women were sitting in a mess of pods, harvesting the seeds that will be transformed to chocolate. Our guide said the trees are owed by a combination of locals and big companies. He didn’t understand my question whether there are protectionist laws favouring locals. 

The port was modest. A ferry was loading up with people. The ferry was a largish boat with about a hundred people sitting under a sun screening tarp. We had a speedboat booked for our passage. It was fibreglass, maybe 4 meters long a 1.3 meters wide. The boatman stopped twice to change fuel jugs. 

Our hotel was 45 minutes away, according to the driver that picked us up. And he was right. It’s on a peninsula on the north end of the island. 

Roads on Nosy Be were in far better condition than the National Roads of northern Madagascar. This reflects its relative wealth. Nosy Be is a tourist destination, and has two flights a week from Milan. Italians have taken over as the dominant tourists, outnumbering the French.

Nosy Be is also on the western Indian Ocean cruise boat circuit. Seychelles, Mauritius, Comoros and Madagascar. However, since it’s the cyclone season, cruise ships don’t ply these waters in December.

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Travelling south, between Ankarana National Park and Ankify.

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This cameleon looks rather suspicious.