24 December 2014

Sunrise over Madagascar
Madagascar basics:
  • World’s fourth largest island.
  • Isolation produced amazingly unique biodiversity.
  • Many species are now extinct as deforestation from slash-and-burn agriculture destroyed habitats. 
  • A few national parks preserve some territory for endangered lemurs and other species. 
  • French colonial rule was followed by disastrous decades of Marxist regimes, a coup d'état, and civil unrest, but elections in 2013 brought an apparently not so terrible government.

We had some wonderful days hiking in rain forests, espying lemurs and chameleons in the wild as well as visiting some small towns and villages.

Entering Ambodifotatra, the capital of Ile Ste Marie
(aka Nosy Bohara), no longer a pirate base as it was in the 1700s.
Locals were lined up to see the visitors and a group of women sang.

With my morning guide outside the oldest church
in Madagascar built in 1837 in Ambodifotatra.

Main market street in Ambodifotatra

Boys in Ambohitralanana
Several mornings we hiked around various parks and islands: around Nosy Mangabe, an island in the Masaola National Park and also at another part of the park near Ambohitralanana, Cap Est. Later we drove from Diego Suarez with its large, historically strategic natural harbor in order to go up to Mount Amber National Park.

My great little Canon camera got wet one afternoon after snorkeling and never recovered. So I was camera-free for a couple of days until I bought an overpriced but satisfactory little Fuji in Diego Suarez. The next seven photos are courtesy of David Murray, a fine son of Newcastle.

In one island village local women danced for us.

Madagascar had many varied species of chameleons,
some in gaudy, mating-season colors and not camouflaged at all.

(Cruise staff photo above.)

Our last morning in Madagascar some of us made a treacherous
hike up a jagged mountain on the little island of Nosy Hara.
Here we are above embarking from the zodiacs for the hike.
Someone had miscalculated the tides and we were marooned for
a few hours before the zodiacs made it over the reef to retrieve us.