I consider Madagascar my luckiest trip ever. There are plenty of symptoms for it that made me feel blessed and protected by the Universe. When I jumped on the plane in Amman, Jordan on January 30th, 2020 I was super excited, and adrenaline-packed for heading to Madagascar – a dream island on the bottom of Africa.
At that time, I knew almost nothing about COVID -19. It was not defined as a pandemic yet, I believed it’s a local decease in China and I am kind of invincible. My only issue was all the connecting flights within my journey to be on time (I had a few on this 14-hour travel). Facing quite a lot of difficulties on the way and finding solutions that come suddenly from nowhere, made my superstitious soul assume this trip was meant to be.
When I met Sophie 6 years ago in Geneva, Switzerland, I had no idea this encounter is going to be pivotal. I entered the stylish shop of BULGARI for work and in the beginning, it looked like a regular business meeting. Then a year later we met again in London, the UK. She was the one who never let this amity end, following and supporting my career steps, regardless of me being in Qatar, South Africa, Barbados, Sri Lanka, or Jordan. Then I thought it should be destiny and our Geneva encounter smoothly turned to a friendship which I dear a lot.
When Sophie mentioned for the first time Madagascar, it was in 2015, and to be honest, I kind of ignored it. I thought it’s something fictional that’s not going to happen but is still good to dream of. She didn’t give up, though 🙂 Sophie kept inviting me every year since then, to visit her vacation home on Nosy Be, Madagascar. The time was never right, and we were unable to match our holidays until 2020. This time, without thinking much, I just accepted the invitation, and to make sure I am not going to surrender again, I booked all the flights at once.
The lucky journey
The layovers in between the flights were quite short but usually, I am getting the boarding passes in advance, so I was convinced that a flight veteran like me will be able to manage it, whatever it takes. The first flight from Amman to Beirut was just 50 minutes and I was impatient to switch upon arrival to Ethiopian Airlines, the exotic carrier getting me into Africa.
35 minutes only layover in Beirut and here comes my first super luck – miswriting was found on my boarding pass; I was waiting for ages to be fixed at the transit desk. The ground crew was unaware and doubted it if I can go to Madagascar with no visa in advance and made me get anxious for missing my next flight. Finally, I managed to get on the aircraft being the last one boarding. The crew shut the door behind my back and here I am, in a fully packed night flight to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Woke up somewhere over Sudan at sunrise and started counting the time till the landing at the first stop in Africa. The Addis Ababa airport shocked me a bit. It was the first spot to see so many passengers wearing masks during the layover. Also, lots of Chinese tourists in masks – for the first time I felt vulnerable and exposed to a threat that I cannot see. At that time no requirement for masks on board was applied yet, so the scene at Addis Ababa terminal seemed a bit surrealistic.
One hour later I was already on the last flight to Nosy Be, Madagascar. Another 4 hours with Ethiopian Airlines. The super excitement and the thrill were on again. No delays, no more struggles, no turbulence – I was already foretasting a great time ahead, was dying to replace the winter clothes with summer shorts and T-shirt and to soak the Madagascar sunbeams. Coming from the mid of the winter, I was supposed to land in the mid of the summer of the Southern Hemisphere.
The fortunate weather
Well…regardless of the summer expectations, when I was checking on the weather forecast prior to my trip, it looked hopeless. Daily showers, with no sun at all, high temperatures, and high humidity at the same time…Sophie, who was already on the island, unfortunately, confirmed that it’s raining day and night, and everyone in Madagascar was desperate of espying the sun rays among this devastating non-stop rainfall in the summertime.
Besides, the roads of the main island have been already destroyed by so much rainwater and Madagascar started facing problems with the goods supplies and delivery within the country. On top of it, here I am, coming from the Middle East and bringing the sunshine with me 🙂
January 31st was the first sunny day and I was the luckiest passenger to land exactly on this very first real summer day. The upcoming week after my arrival on Madagascar gifted me with lots of sun and typical summer heat, so I felt like a very welcome messenger that is bringing the great news.
The best place to stay
After my body temperature was measured at the Customs and I got a visa upon arrival, finally was able to say Hello to Madagascar. Sophie came to pick me up and we drove through the half of Nosy Be to reach her house. Just to give you a flash to the whole picture, Nosy Be means Big Island in Malagasy (the local language) and is just one of the many islands related to the country of Madagascar. The main island of Madagascar is the 4th biggest in the world and is located in the very South of Africa, neighboring Mozambique on the West, Mauritius, and Reunion on the East.
I was based on Nosy Be, in the Northern part of Madagascar, surrounded by plenty of small inhabited islands. When I saw for the first time Sophie’s house, I had the feeling of arriving in Heaven. In a typical Malagasy style, tropical wooden construction, exotic woven roof, spectacular garden, perched on the top of a hill, with a breathtaking view to the Indian Ocean. I was so damn lucky to be in this gorgeous home. Thank you once again, my dear Sophie!
I was expecting to see only two things in Madagascar – the lemurs and the baobab trees. Those are the most popular features the tourists want to experience while on the island. Thank God, I had a native friend who knows Madagascar in detail, otherwise, I would have missed so many of the wonders of this remote piece of land.
When Sophie told me that the next day we will go to the main island and stay overnight at Coco Beach I was inspired. Coco Beach trip went beyond all my expectations and was completely off the beaten track, which is exactly my cup of tea. About one-and-a-half-hour ride on a motorboat and then extravagant embarking at a fantastic golden sandy beach.
Secluded, wild, and out of this world – no much words left to describe the beauty of Coco Beach. We jumped from the boat in the shallows carrying the baggage on our shoulders like real castaways. I was in euphory at the moment I saw where we are going to spend the night – in a simple wooden treehouse, with no doors, a bathroom with no roof but a sky full of stars, right on the beach, surrounded by lush greenery, forest on the backside and a direct front view to the ocean.
This simplicity was complemented with a pinch of luxury that I did not expect to find in the jungle. The host welcomed us with fresh coconuts. Super comfortable extra-large single beds in the accommodation, puffy soft towels, sunrise/sunset viewpoint gigantic bench, kayaking, variety of seafood, served on vintage but elegantly decorated table with bewitching panorama to the nearby island Nosy Antsoha. I loved it!!!
Living in a fairytale, I had no idea that embarking at Coco Beach is just the beginning of this memorable adventure.
When God had created the world, must have paid special attention to this part of the globe. We took the motorboat again and escaped to another island – Nosy Iranja. Who knows me well is aware that it’s pretty difficult to leave me speechless, but this island did it with ease. Being an avid islands’ admirer, I went to many many of them, but no doubt, this is the most dazzling piece of land I have ever seen in my life.
Endless super thin white beaches, the most transparent crystal-clear seawater with about 27/28 degrees C water temperature, everywhere mangrove trees along the coastal line, blossoming hibiscus bushes and magnolia trees, swimming around big light-green turtles, colorful local village with a few empty bars, friendly smiling merchants and all those embraced by silence…I was getting dizzy. A paradise exactly as it should be.
I couldn’t get enough of it – sunbathing, swimming, diving, walking the entire sandy beach, observing the birds and the turtles, negotiating in laughter with the vendors for buying a tropical pareo, drinking freezing beer in the shade of the mangrove trees, taking shots of everything around me and then repeating all those again and again. It was a magical afternoon I had not even dreamed of.
Nosy Iranja became my favorite place so far. My skin burnt but I was still on the top of the emotions when we floated back to Coco Beach to oversee another spectacular event – the lazy quiet picturesque sunset over the Indian Ocean.
The Lemurs’ island
On the next day, still drenched in emotions and memories, I was about to leap into another stunt. About 2 kilometers kayaking from Coco Beach to the Lemurs’ island – Nosy Antsoha. My first kayaking ever happened in the Indian Ocean. I was horrified (my shark fear, of course) and get supported by the crew on the beach. Well…no sharks around as I expected. I was paddling quite clumsily but was super proud when my kayak bumped into the beach of the Lemurs’ Island.
The host on the island advised us of needful trekking and hiking ahead for finding the lemurs. They live only in Madagascar and some kinds also in India, which makes the scientists believe that millions of years ago Madagascar and India have been connected. I met hundreds of lemurs, different breeds, but my favorite one remains Amigo, the black-white striped lemur that followed me and cuddled all the time.
We clicked together immediately, and I am sure it was a mutual love from the first sight. I hope Amigo was a male 🙂 He is completely wild and free-living but used to the visitors on the island. Perfect puffy fur, soft and clean, smells good, well-mannered, gentle, and playful…what else to ask for 🙂 Amigo was an impressive creature and represented its homeland Madagascar in the best possible way.
With Amigo on my shoulder, I climbed it to the top where is the honeymoon cottage, open roof, bathroom, living, and dining room under the stars. A newlywed couple from South Africa had been recently staying here for a week. The hosts provide the mattress and the linen for the stay and the privacy is guaranteed (except the lemurs).
A few steps away from the lovebirds’ place is located the whale observatory, with a magnificent view of the whale rock and playground. Unfortunately, I was unable to watch the whales’ play as the best time for it is August.
Ohhh, I am afraid this article is getting too long and I still have much more to share. Let’s stop for a while, take a breath, and prepare for the next chapter. Wait a bit for the second episode of my super adventures in Madagascar during the luckiest trip ever 🙂