Jane's Delicious Garden Blog


Madagascan Magic

Posted in Travels by Jane Griffiths on the February 15th, 2018

I had been in Madagascar for half an hour and already could feel its magic. Our driver stopped the car a few kilometres from Nosy Be airport. As he walked into the plantation of gnarly trees on the side of the road, I thought it was for the call of nature. But no, he reappeared with a handful of creamy yellow flowers.

Ylang Ylang (3)

Ylang Ylang (1)

“Here, smell,” he said, crushing them under my nose. As the sweet fragrance filled the car, I realised this was ylang ylang, the exotic scent that gives Nosy Be its nickname of Perfume Island. Nosy Be is the largest of over 250 islands that surround Madagascar. It was our jumping off point to explore a small section of the north west of this magical country.

First stop was Vanila Hotel, one of many places named after the exotic orchid. Not surprising as 80% of the world’s vanilla comes from Madagascar.

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It was a hard choice between the pool or the gorgeous ocean in front of the hotel – so we did both.

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In the morning we heard thumping on our roof and when we investigated we found guys busy fixing the palm fronds. Many buildings in Madagascar are made using local materials, in particular the Traveller’s Palm or Ravenala madagascariensis.

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This fascinating tree is not actually a palm – it is a close relative of our indigenous Strelitzia. The base of the leaf catches and stores rainwater, providing sustenance to a thirsty traveller – hence its name. Its symmetrical fan shape is instantly recognisable. The dried leaves create a beautiful pattern when used for thatching.

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From Nosy Be we caught a boat to the mainland, getting caught in the morning rush hour.

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Our destination was Ankarana National Park, a plateau on the north west of the mainland. Its 150 million year-old limestone has eroded away over the millennia to create a jagged grey spiky landscape. Getting there is not easy. The road has also eroded away and the driver of our 4×4 had to negotiate his way slowly. We averaged 20kms an hour.

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On the way we stopped at a little restaurant next to a waterfall for a delicious meal made by local village women.

Beignets at the market

We ate tasty fritters followed by a chicken and tomato stew with rice. It had a leafy green in it that made my tongue tingle and mouth salivate. A unique culinary sensation. I later discovered the plant being sold everywhere in the markets and learned that it’s an Acmella oleracea, a member of the daisy family. If you eat the fresh flowers or leaves they make your mouth go numb, which is why it is also known as the toothache plant or buzz buttons.

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Markets

On our lunch table was a superb hot and spicy chilli sauce in a recycled jar. If this didn’t straighten my hair nothing is going to!!!

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After an eight hour journey we arrived at the park. And the next day we were ready to explore the magic of the tsingy – the local name for the karst limestone formations. To get there we hiked for a few hours through subtropical forests.

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As the forest dropped away, we entered the tsingy.

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It is a protected park and you have to go with a guide who knows where the designated pathways are.

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Fascinating rock formations – a cross between a lunar landscape and coral.

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A few tight squeezes . . .

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A baobab on the way back just before sunset.

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This was just day two of our Madagascan adventure, more to come . . .

If you want to follow in our footsteps go to Animal Tracks Islandventures to book your Madagascan adventure.

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