Nosy Be (which means “Big Island”in Malagasy) is our destination today. It lies off the northern coast of Madagascar. Madagascar is the 4th largest island in the world, and has its own distinct ecosystem and extraordinary wildlife. Approximately 95 percent of Madagascar’s reptiles, 89 percent of its plant life and 92 percent of its mammals exist nowhere else on earth and scientists continue to discover new species of plants and animals each year. What an amazing place to visit.
Right off the ship as we anchored (there is no dock here, we had to go ashore by tender), men and women in these boats pulled alongside the ship hoping we would throw money which we were strongly advised by ship personnel not to do. They also held up fish, crabs, bananas and other fruits and vegetables hoping, I guess, that we would buy from them.
One of the animals found here is the critically threatened Ploughshare tortoise where as few as 1000 of these animals survive. They are sold illegally on exotic pet markets and can fetch up to $200,000.
Another species is the endangered black lemur. Lemurs are found only in Madagascar and look like a cross between a cat, dog and squirrel. There are several varieties They are prosimians, they came before monkeys.
We visited the Lokobe Nature Reserve where we got up close with the lemurs, the chameleons and saw the tortoises. We traveled by boat to the island of Nosy Komba passing the Lokobe evergreen forest on the way. We walked through the village to the Black Lemur Sanctuary and had a lot of fun feeding the lemurs the bananas they love. We noticed smoke on the main island of Madagascar, and our guide, Solange, said that sadly, they are burning down forests there to plant rice. They need the food, but are destroying much of the forest.
After our visit with the wildlife, we had a chance to say hello to local families (the children had painted faces and sang and danced as we passed by). The women there make beautiful tablecloths and I bought one to bring home. We saw many women stitching them as we strolled through the village.
People here are very poor and will ask for money in return for flowers and other trinkets. There are police around that will keep the locals at bay or they would surround you. The people are very friendly, though, and most speak some French, so they appreciated my poor attempts!
Also, their exchange rate is $1 = 3,244 Malagasy Ariary. So their banks will not even take $1 bills to exchange. The locals take them for purchases, but then they approach you to exchange single dollars for bigger denominations. We did that every chance we got.
We had some time on the beach and they provided drinks, snacks and a group of musicians and dancers for us.
On the boat back to Nosy Be, saying an early happy birthday to Norm – Tammy, our social hostess and Solange, our guide.
When we returned to the ship, we found out that one of the world cruisers had been taken off the ship due to smoking on his balcony, which we are continually told is against regulations. He had been warned several times, the last time in writing, which he signed, and he continued to smoke there. So he has been banned from the ship and the rest of the cruise and had to arrange his flight home. I am glad that they do enforce these regulations. There are only two places on the ship that smoking is allowed, one indoor glassed in room and an outdoor section of the pool deck.
Tomorrow is Norm’s birthday and we have the special dinner with friends arranged. We have 3 days at sea before we reach Mozambique.