The exotic island country of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean off the east coast of Africa has a lot to offer the visitor who is looking for somewhere new and different to spend a vacation. Nosy Be in the north west corner of the country has beautiful beaches, clear water for snorkeling or diving, and some of the best fishing anywhere.
History, agriculture, and some very old cars.
This corner of the country has catered to tourists since the days of French colonial rule, and has been coming back as a tourist destination after many years of Communist domination. Some of the traditional agricultural products which the French grew, such as chocolate, coffee, vanilla, and ylang ylang flowers which are used to produce perfume, are still produced. Some of the old colonial homes have sadly been left to fall into disrepair, but many very old Citroen automobiles are still used as taxis.
The lemurs are shy, unless there are free bananas available.
The island is rich in animal life, but the favorites are the various groups of lemurs. They are usually shy creatures who live in the trees visible only with binoculars. In some places, however, the enterprising local residents have figured out that these unusual animals are a draw for tourists and a source of income. On the small island of Nosy Komba the villagers have built a casual log fence around an area, and charge a small fee for entering.
The lemurs have figured out that this is a great place to show up and get a free handout of bananas. These clever animals have even learned the sound of the engine on the small boat coming across the channel and show up to greet the people and get a hand out. The children of the village make a little cash by gathering bunches of very ripe bananas and selling them for the tourists to feed the lemurs. Everyone is happy with the arrangement, especially the visitors who get to enjoy interacting with the very tame but technically wild animals.
These lemurs were not scared of people, and quite happily climbed on our shoulders or reached out from behind us to help themselves to the fruit if we seem to be taking too long handing it out. We were wearing shorts as it was quite warm, and my husband was surprised to find eager lemurs climbing up his legs to get at the fruit in his hands. They are really very gentle, and hardly left a mark.
Crafts and handwork make great souvenirs.
The villagers produce some lovely tablecloths, place mats and tray covers which are often seen hanging from clotheslines outside the small stores. In the major town of Hellville, named after a French man not the place, a large grassy area was full of tablecloths drifting in the breeze, with every few lines belonging to a different woman. The women were sitting working on their designs. They cut a pattern out of the large piece of fabric, and then sewed around each hole by hand, either white on white, or a mix of colors. Sometimes designs are also embroidered in colors on the fabric. They are lovely souvenirs or gifts and fit very easily into a suitcase.
Beaches, beer and food.
The tourist areas along the beach front have a supply of casual restaurants with good food and English speaking servers. As there is such good fishing in the local waters, seafood was plentiful. The local cold beer is excellent and refreshing, but we should have listened to the waiter who wanted to bring us just one bottle between us. We thought it was a language problem, but when we saw the size of the bottle of beer we realized one was enough for two servings. It was just as well to keep that second bottle chilled until needed.
Whether you stay in a hotel along the beach, a fishing camp, or small place on one of the islands, Madagascar is a foreign destination worth exploring.
Source: Personal Experience.