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Whales, octopus and pirogues

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My third week in Andavadoaka (as seen by Kelsey Johnston)

This week started pretty typically: 6am boat marshalling on Monday followed by two awesome dives (yay!), English teaching on Tuesday evening, a film on Wednesday night and a good dose of lectures and presentations throughout.

On Thursday, I was boat marshalling again but this time I had whales breaching on the horizon for a distraction! During Thursday’s dive, I disturbed an electric ray (not wise!) but thankfully, sheathed as I was in a 5mm wetsuit, I was in no danger.

On Friday we sadly waved goodbye to Anne and Alison (my Irish hut buddies) and Jeremiah. I went on my first deep dive which was amazing; huge sea fans, hundreds of fish and an almost lunar landscape on the bottom. To end the diving week we had a party and bonfire on Half Moon beach.

At 9am on Saturday morning I was picked up by the Vezo family who would host me for a day on the beautiful island of Nosy Hao. After arriving in the pirogue, Marie took me gleaning for octopus on the reef flats surrounding the island. I managed to extract a huge one from its hole (after Marie had located it). I think that she was quite impressed because she seemed to tell everyone about it afterwards. Dinner was beans and rice and I had my first cup of ‘burnt rice tea’ – it tastes exactly as it sounds. Then Marie and I went for a walk around the island, stopping frequently at the clusters of huts spread out between the spiny forest and the sea. Every man, woman and child wanted their photo taken and my braces were the source of much hilarity.

On our return, I played cards with Marie, her husband Dakes, and their son Cedric before we all headed into the hut to sleep. The next morning Dakes and Cedric took me snorkelling around the island. There were heaps of other pirogues full of whole families waiting while the men were diving for octopus and sea cucumbers. Every couple of minutes I’d be greeted by: “Salama Vazaha,” with a wee head peeking over the side of the boat.

After a lunch of calamari and some more tea we headed back to Andavadoaka, just in time for the pirogue race.

The entire village was out on the beach; kids with mini wind turbines and men readying the pirogues while the women watched. When the boats were all lined up along the beach, a “Vazaha” (tourist) got into each one, the flag waved and we were off! Unfortunately within a few metres off the beach, Chris’s boat split down the middle and sank! Thankfully although slow, mine was more robust and we made it out to Nosy Ve. We were supposed to circle the island but in an attempt to salvage their manly pride, my sailors did a 360 and headed back to Andava. We still finished second to last but they didn’t seem too upset and I think everyone had a great time.

So ends my third week in Andavadoaka! I can’t wait for the next!