By Georgie Killingbeck, Blue Ventures Volunteer, Andavadoaka, Madagascar. My first experience on a pirogue was our journey to Nosy Hao, a day trip to a nearby island with all the volunteers. It is a very relaxed and gentle way of travelling. The wooden hull is generally very narrow and long and to achieve stability, two wooden poles, strapped on tightly with rope, straddle the hull to form the basis of the single outrigger. The wooden mast holds the large square sail cloth – often etched with a few holes and tears!
During our stay in Madagascar, we were lucky enough to take part in a pirogue race. As we found out – 36 pirogues makes for a very competitive race, especially when crewed by the skilled Vezo fishermen. With a favourable wind, these pirogues can move across the water with great speed. It was my lucky day – I was on board a pirogue called ‘NFZ’ which, thanks to our skilful crew, finished within the top four competing pirogues!
I can safely say that any volunteer who joins Blue Ventures for an expedition will definitely travel by pirogue at least once; for example, travelling by pirogue to go tortoise monitoring or to Tampolove for sea cucumber farming. As a non-diving volunteer I was also able to take part in a turtle/shark data collection trip. We visited five villages, including the most southerly part of Velondriake, camping in Tampolove before making our journey back to Andavadoaka. On this journey, we travelled the entire distance by pirogue. Admittedly, the return trip took much longer as we were beating into the wind, however, the welcome breeze and lulling motion of the boat overtakes your thoughts so you can still enjoy every moment. As a non-diver, I would recommend seizing every opportunity to participate in something different, be it an expedition, learning the local culture or taking part in a similar project to help promote sustainable activities.