Deserted islands aplenty - Anyone want to buy me one?
Across the water, on the edge of the aquamarine expanse lay a ribbon of white sand. On either side, trimmed by rocks and topping it, a blur of lush green tropical growth. The island looked deserted and inviting, except for a lone figure scrutinising us.
After sailing south, we headed back to Nosy Bé. We stocked up on fresh supplies, water and drinks at the market in Hellville. It was not the biggest of markets but was entertaining. Elize did the shopping for us. Lovely pawpaw’s, pineapples, bananas and oranges amongst the fresh fruit and vegetables and the flavour was excellent. The appearance of the meat section was less tasty and not so appealing to a sensitive stomach. There were also interesting piles of dried prawns and plenty of spices. After all our supplies were brought on board, we set sail going north of Nosy Bé.
We sailed past quite a few small islands - some of them just a round rock jutting out of the sea. We moored at an island called Tsarabanjina in the late evening. The next morning a lone figure observed us from the beach. He made his way towards us in a rubber dinghy. We recognised him. It was Duane, Paul's technician who had previously worked with him. Tsarabanjina was where he was working and building the resort. If anyone ever suited island lifestyle, it was him. He looked the part: laid back and relaxed.
Underneath the happy exterior, we found it was not easy building a resort in such a remote location. It was a challenge to get building material and supplies to the island. Sometimes their staple diet was rice and beans and some fish! He’d adapted well though, by learning Malagasy and French and everyone who worked for and with him, loved him. He showed us around the island and the hotel, which still needed a bit of work, but was close to completion.
Discovering a new species of fish…or not
We spent ages swimming and snorkelling around the island, and continued with our scuba certification. A good few meters below the surface, battling masks, BC’s and regulators, we identified a new species of fish: Duane. He’d appeared, free-diving in only his swimsuit. He had a good laugh at all of us with our cumbersome gadgets.
Later we sailed off to one of the smaller islands, a set of three islands, The Three Sisters, to do our first wall dive. Each time we entered the water, we were seduced by its underwater beauty. Attached to the rocks, were various sea life and corals. Darting around and through the nooks and crannies, there were so many different fish that we’d never seen.
That evening we were invited for an impromptu dinner at the hotel with a couple of other yachties. This was a casual affair, with all of us unpacking and christening the brand-new crockery and cutlery for the hotel. A great social meal, meeting some very interesting people.
Deserted islands aplenty
We had to drag ourselves away from Tsarabanjina. We sailed further north to the Mitsio archipelago with some very interesting rock formations. We explored deserted islands. Not another soul in sight. More fishing, more diving, more swimming, more snorkelling! We were truly relaxing, and enjoying all the exploring. The furthest point we sailed to was Nosy Lava. We found a temporary village where fishermen stayed overnight with their catch before heading back to their home island or the mainland. Most of them relied on sail or rowed, with no motor boat or lights in the dark of night. They covered fair distances, hence they set up a temporary shelter to spend the odd night. One of the lowest moments of the trip was seeing the turtle graveyard there.
Return to Tsarabanjina
After turning around at Nosy Lava, we went back to Tsarabanjina. We were thrilled to see more of this beautiful island and walked on a part that we hadn't seen. Not that the island was that big. You could walk around the entire island in about 15 minutes. We did some more swimming and snorkelling, then said a sad farewell to Duane.
Bad hair day
While we were sailing it was a good opportunity to wash my hair. Let me explain how we did this. One of the ways to save water on board was to do some of our ablutions on the back step with sea water being pumped directly from the sea. I know, I know! It’s not the eco-friendliest way to do it, but this was in 1998 after all. As a final step we then rinsed the salt water off with a bit of fresh water. This system worked very well and didn't bother us at all. Poor fish though. I think they’re still blowing soapy bubbles. We had our own bathroom next to our cabin as well, for the more private ablutions, so no problems there.
So… there I was, standing on the back steps, washing my hair, shampoo all over, when we heard the familiar WZZZZ! Our fishing lures were in the water and once again a fish took the line. Guess who's turn it was to fish? Yours truly! No time to hesitate. The fishing rod was shoved in my hands. Shampoo streamed down my forehead into my eyes, but I didn’t let that stop me. I reeled in and played the fish, like a true amateur, but I succeeded. Willem, our Jack of all trades, helped me land the fish. By now the back steps had a distinct layer of shampoo bubbles lining them. Dexterous ice-skating footwork and clinging on to whatever part of the yacht we could grab, saved us from cavorting in the sea with fish, rod and gaff in hand. Dinner was safe.
Eventually I finished my beauty routine. All part of a day’s work.
Between washing hair, fishing, and relaxing, we completed our dive course and qualified as PADI open water divers. A great skill to have and an exceptional place to learn.
Our last stop was at an island called Nosy Komba. We explored a bit, spent the last night on board Bossi. The next morning we went ashore on Nosy Komba where we would spend one night. It was time to say farewell to Willem, Elize and Lomé as well as Albert, and Tsakina. We were on our own. Sad farewells as we watched Bossi sail away. Ten days of living in close proximity, we were strangers in the beginning, but felt we were saying goodbye as friends.
Nosy Komba next week! Would we survive Madagascar on our own?