There I was, standing in the supermarket stocking up on waterless hand-sanitizer, nuts, energy bars, a small first-aid kit and sunblock just two days before my next journey to the red island – Madagascar.
This would be my 4th visit to magical Madagascar – a country of a thousand faces. I was excited to go back and see what had changed, hoping nothing had changed.
My first mission was to scout out a new adventurous, but yet very exclusive new product that we at Jenman Safaris had been pondering about – a 4-day canoeing trip with an additional 4-night stay at an intimate beach lodge in the south of Madagascar, taking clients from Fort Dauphin through untouched mangroves in northerly directions to St. Luce – Manafiafy Beach & Rainforest Lodge. It was left in my hands to decide if what I found in this part of the island could be what we’ve been looking for, for so long.
My trip started with an overnight in Tana (Antananarivo); you will spend at least one night of your journey in this bustling, French-inspired city full of contrasts. Day 2 of my journey finally brought me to Fort Dauphin and after a 2 ½ hour drive over bumpy roads through lush landscapes and small villages where families prepared themselves for the night, while the full moon was rising in the distance, we arrived at the lodge. It was late & dark, I could hear the small waves lapping onto the sandy shore and had the urge to take my shoes off and feel the sand between my toes. Even though I live in Cape Town, feeling the sand and the warm water of the Indian Ocean on my toes, knowing I am in Madagascar – this magical island – creates an incomparable sensation. It was dark, I could hear and smell my surroundings but only the next morning could I fully appreciate, what I already got a taste of when eating my 5* dinner that night – that I truly had landed in paradise.
I couldn’t remember ever having had such scrumptious meals anywhere in Madagascar. Food – excellent, location and ambience – outstanding – a fantastic start for finding the perfect adventure for Jenman clients!
It was time to explore the mangroves & possibilities of overnight stops and logistics in order to spoil our clients not only at their final destination, but also on the river. In a boat we headed out into the mangroves, passing fishermen in their dug-out canoes or sitting on rocks patiently waiting for fish to bite. As the local fishermen know the mangroves and the channel leading from here to Fort Dauphin like the back of their hand, it was only a sensible decision to get one of them into our boat and guide us the right way. Yet again I was awestruck by how friendly and helpful the Malagasy were. We passed two rather large lakes; the mangroves became narrower and made for fantastic bird-watching and photo opportunities. The reflections of the lunar-green palm trees in the calm water made for some quite artistic photographs. With excitement we realised that the river was even flowing a little – this will make canoeing so much more pleasurable. But just this journey in silence, with no sound but our engine made us realise pretty quickly that canoeing through this part of Madagascar is an ‘out-of-this-world-experience’. One can hardly describe the colour saturation in front of your eyes and the smell of adventure.
We got a glimpse of the local farms and zebu coming down to the river to drink.
When spending a day with Edd you realise very quickly that for him the local communities are key to his operation. He chose to stop and take a walk to one of the little villages on the top of a hill to get their advice on running canoes through this area and if they foresee any problems when overnighting with travellers on the banks of the river. It is fantastic seeing a successful operation such as Edd’s caring so much about their environmental and social impact.
On our way back we were 4 people in a small boat, being enthusiastic about the opportunity to share this with our clients – being thrilled that we found such a magic spot on this earth and that we had come up with an idea which we were soon going to make reality….
From March 2013 Jenman Island Safaris will run in conjunction with Madagascar Classic Camping an 11-day Madagascar adventure including 4-days canoeing in the south of Madagascar and 4 nights at Manafiafy Beach & Rainforest Lodge. Camping on the river and on the secluded beaches will be in exclusive tents equipped with stretcher beds, comfortable bedding & lighting; showers and toilets will be provided. All meals are catered for by the chefs of Manafiafy Beach & Rainforest Lodge. This will be an adventure – this will be a spoil! More information to follow…