Tana to Toliara, The Scenic Route!
I have just arrived in Andavadoaka as the new field scientist and so far it has proven to be quite a trip.
I met up with 2 volunteers in Tana, the capital of Madagascar, before exploring the city which is full of little quirks that give it such character. Particularly the taxi drivers who will actually charge you more money for a trip if it is uphill rather than down! Whilst there we were taken around the Rova, a large building with a lot of local history associated with it, and found on the highest hill overlooking lake Anosy, a beautiful heart shaped lake in the middle of the city, with amazing views on all sides. I would recommend the local guides as they take you through some of the back-streets which give you a much clearer idea of the way of life in Tana. We were also lucky enough to join some locals in a basketball match on the public outdoor courts by the football stadium. Unfortunately we underestimated how good they were and the match didn’t go quite as planned, but that’s enough about that!
After 3 days in Tana a few more volunteers turned up and we headed off on an organized road trip to Toliara. This is the 2nd time this trip has happened and it was an enormous success, hugely enhancing the whole experience, I have now seen a lot more of what Madagascar has to offer, rather than just simply flying to Toliara and missing out on some truly magnificent scenery. The pinnacle of the trip for me was on the 3rd morning when we were able to explore the national park I’Isalo. We stopped there the night before staying with Momo, our host/guide/negotiator (a useful man to know) and had a beautifully prepared meal of zebu steak and chips. The following morning started with a quick drive to the edge of the national park before starting our 6 hour hike through the mountains. The 1st leg was a 3km hike (all uphill) with some amazing views, before reaching a natural swimming pool with a small waterfall at the back, exactly what was needed after a long walk in the sun. After we had all sufficiently cooled off we started the 2nd leg. This took another couple of hours, and again was through breathtaking scenery of golden plains, punctuated by a mixture of rocks, waterfalls and canyons. Now we were deeper into the park we were lucky enough to come across a group of ring tailed and brown lemurs. After admiring them for about half an hour and taking quite a ridiculous amount of photos we moved onto the larger waterfall at the back of an enormous canyon. As much as I wanted to cool off the water was just to cold for me and so after a quick 30 second swim I had to retire to some rocks next to the pool. By the time we met Dave, the local member of staff who was driving us to Toliara, we were nearly an hour behind schedule, so after a great morning walking around the Jurassic landscape of I’Isalo it was back to Momos hotel to repack our bags and collect our packed lunches of zebu and cheese, before setting off for Toliara.
Once in Toliara we were met by the rest of the volunteers and some of the Blue Ventures staff from Andavadoaka. After another day of travelling we finally reached the field site and have just settled into our idyllic beach huts just metres from the sea.
This is where I will leave now as I feel that it is time to lay in my hammock and enjoy this truly amazing part of the world.
Tristan Brown, Field Scientist