Home Locations Velondriake (Madagascar)

Sleeping under the stars

From our new Field Scientist, Nikkita Lawson

Humpback whale season in the region has officially started! 17 whales were spotted by two lucky volunteers – Ali and Roger – during their shift on our whale watching platform. We even watched a humpback whale whilst eating our breakfast on base! I was lucky enough to have a very close encounter. As we emerged from our dive, our boat marshal pointed out 2 whales that were very close by – a mother and calf. We watched them for 20 minutes as they passed by; they came within 100m of our boat. They didn’t seem at all disturbed by us and the baby calf even breached as we said farewell, but unfortunately I wasn’t looking!

I also had the opportunity to stay overnight on a nearby island – Andragnombala – for a BVCO solar stove demonstration. The voyage there was rather cramped as we had to fit 3 large stoves, all our kit and 5 people into one pirogue. I was surprised at how tiny Andragnombala was – it took us less than 30 minutes to walk round the entire island. We spent the night in our sleeping bags counting shooting stars under the most amazing night sky I have seen. The light from the stars was so bright that we didn’t even need a torch. The following day we painted solar stoves that had previously been bought by villagers on the island.

The people of Andragnombala were extremely friendly, like all the other Malagasy people I have met. We were offered bok bok (a bit like doughnuts) and moukari (rice cakes) as well as a plate of 6 fish heads. I am afraid to say that I could not manage to eat my share of fish heads, so Al had to eat all 6 – I am still feeling slightly guilty. At least we didn’t have to bite the heads off the fish like Alex did during her village stay! I made the mistake of getting my camera out and was completely mobbed by children. They absolutely love having their photo taken and looking at it afterwards. It was extremely hot - 30 degrees – due to the fact the wind had completely dropped, which unfortunately meant that the pirogue ride back took over 3 hours, rather than the normal 45 minutes! However, that did give me a chance to read a book and relax before getting back to the chaos of base.