Masoala Peninsula

Jeffrey Larson

On Friday June 27, Sarah and I had a flight to Maroantsetra, which is in the northeast part of your map of Madagascar. For once our flight was uneventful. Actually the smaller twin prop airplane was nicer than most of the Air Canada planes I have been on.We arrived in to the small airport (one small building) just before lunch and grabbed a taxi into the village after the usual haggle for price. This local guy helped us get a right price and actually came in the same cab as us too… didn’t know who he was, his name was Rakoto. Turned out he worked for the hotel we were staying at “Le Coco Beach”. We came to the river, where the hotel was supposed to be and the bridge crossing had collapsed, apparently last September. So they dropped us off next to the river and took a Pirogue across to the hotel on the other side. We had a choice of rooms, the bungalow with it’s own toilet was 50,000 Ariary ($29 CDN), or the bungalow with only a shower and sink, shared outside toilet, was 16,000 Ariary (less than $10). We took the cheaper one and settled.

Rakoto the hotel worker and tour organizer met with us later in the afternoon, and we discussed our options for visiting Masoala National Park. This is the only National Park in Madagascar where the rainforest comes right down to the beach. There are marine reserve parks here too. Our plan was to go by motorboat to the peninsula, staying in a bungalow with a guide, boat driver, and private cook. It wasn’t going to be the cheapest but it was definitely something we wanted to do.

Then we asked how we could pay. Cash only. No credit card? No, but the bank in the village takes MasterCard. No visa card? No, not here, not anywhere near here. Argh. So we’re stuck here on the footsteps of a truly beautiful place, but no way to pay for it? Crap!

We spent the whole afternoon trying to figure out ways we could get money to pay for it, or at least a way to pay back Rakoto if he agreed to lend us the money. Painfully, we spent almost 2 hours at the Bank of Africa, exchanging our only extra cash, Euros and American we had brought for later on in the trip. The total we had was only enough to pay for half of our trip to the peninsula, but after many what if’s what if’s we got Rakoto to agree to let us pay half now and arrange to pay him the other half after.

Cool, so we left the next morning on a motorboat with our guide, Armand. We had met Armand the day before. Trouble, Sarah had spent all night up and down to the toilet and back, terrible stomach pain and diarrhea. The boat ride was no fun for her, but some tablets seemed to allow her not to have to need to toilet for the ride. I was trying to keep positive and no worry too much.

We arrive at the peninsula at this beautiful beach (Tampolo) and walked up to our bungalow in the camp. We were the only 2 people in this place, surrounded by jungle and beach. I was stoked, and also wished Sarah was feeling better than she was.

Oh I forgot to mention that it was the rainy season now, and that is almost always rained. We awoke to bright sun and blue sky.

Sarah and I went with Armand for a walk in the Park, we walked along the beach a bit, and then into the jungle, in search for the Red Ruffed Lemur. Walking through the jungle is such a cool thing. This was primary forest we were trudging through, checking out the seemingly hundreds of plants you can see at any one moment, looking for chameleons and lemurs. We spotted the second species of lemur we had seen in about an hour, the Red Ruffed Lemur, which is endemic to Masoala.

We got back to the “lodge” (small clearing in the jungle where the bungalows were) and Sarah needed to lie down. She couldn’t eat the awesome 3-course lunch that we got served: vegetable salad and bread, big roasted prawns and rice, and yogurt for desert.

After a couple hours break, Sarah felt up to doing something so Armand and the boat driver took us up the coast a bit to find some place to snorkel. The snorkeling was fun for us, saw some fish, some cool coral, an eel, and other see life. We were happy, thought it was decent, but Armand insisted there were no fish, comparatively.

We took another break in the bungalow before going for a night walk in the jungle with our torches (flash lights). Never having done this before it was spectacular! The sounds of the tree frogs, birds, insects, amazing. We spotted one of these loud frogs, tonnes of giant spiders and also a chameleon. The first chameleon we’ve seen, it was about the size of a finger or thumb and its colour was white changing to brown.

Dinner was yummy again, zebu was the main course, which is the endemic cattle here in Madagascar. We slept pretty well and got up easily as it just happened to be another truly rare sunny and blue-sky day.

We hiked for about 4 hours that morning seeing more Red Ruffed Lemurs and also some White Faces Brown Lemurs. The Brown Lemurs were quite a bit closer to us than the other as they weren’t as high in the canopy. After lunch we breaked for a bit, and then walked through the small autonomous village of 70 people there, and then along the beach and trail south. We watched the sun set and swam in the Indian Ocean before setting back for another beach/forest walk in the dark.

On this night walk we spotted 2 types of nocturnal lemur, the white fronted and a striped brown I think. We also spotted a striped civet, which is a cat like carnivore. Walking along the beach by star/moonlight was pretty spectacular.

That night while we were sleeping, it rained for about 1 hour, and we awoke to beautiful blue skies and sun again! We took the boat back to Nosy Mangabe (Big Mango Island) in the morning and took a hike with Armand. We saw more brown lemurs, a new black and white lemur, and more cool creatures. The leaf-tailed gecko was especially sweet, which we couldn’t spot with Armand pointing right at it.

We ate another great lunch on Mangabe and were joined by a pack of brown lemurs interested in our food… meant good close up views of these primates which was cool. The sky clouded over as we boated back to Le Coco Beach Hotel that afternoon.

So it was Monday evening at Le Coco Beach and we were getting a flight back to Tana on Tuesday. To Be Continued.

4 Responses to “Masoala Peninsula”

  • Kathy Spate Says:

    Hey Guys; I can not believe all the things you are seeing and doing. You are having an amazing time – wish I was young and adventurous. :o) I will look forward to seeing all the pictures you have taken. Dave will want to know about the snorkeling adventures. I sure hope that you are both keeping well – it sounds as though Sarah was not well there for a bit so I do hope she is feeling better now. I think of you both often and pray for your safety – hiking in the jungle, are you guys crazy!?!?!? I will keep following your story. All is well here and I am looking forward to my tame holiday in August. God Bless,
    Kathy and Dave

  • mom M Says:

    Jeff, It is fun to read your blog. I can just see you getting excited at all the animal sightings. I love how the two of you can see the adventure in all that you are going through and that you don’t just get mad and want to go home. Way to go!
    mom m

  • Dad Says:

    So glad you survived the ordeal in Madagascar and are back enjoying your holiday. Sounds like an amazing time in the rainforest – would love to see that. Can’t wait to see you.

    Love Dad

  • Olivier Says:

    I have heard that Armand is one of the owner of a Arollodge in the Masoala National Park.
    Can you tell me if it’s true please, because I have heard that he is the best local guide.
    Many thanks

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