The Ile Ste Marie
known locally as Nosy Boraha, is roughly here, just off the
Apparently it was known as something
of a pirate port in its time, but has since become something
of a colonial favourite under the French and is now something
of an undiscovered (to an extent) gem.
On the Ile Ste Marie, after
two days in various taxi brousses we sat at a little place in the
harbour drying out after our boat ride of death, and Kate said to
me: 'We've done things your way, we've stayed in crappy places with
no hot water, we've spent days on the road crammed into the back
of little vans and now we've nearly been drowned. So it's my turn
to pick the hotel and I want to stay at the most expensive one on
the island.' I did my best to pout and sulk about the shocking lack
of authentic travel kudos in this plan but after my soaking I was
deep down rather relieved to hear her say it. Of course I'd never
have admitted as much at the time...
It proved to be an absolutely
inspired decision. The next few days were a little
overcast and prone to rain, but we lounged about and did nothing
under the watchful eye of the brilliantly deranged Fifou. Yes, honestly.
Fifou. He is the owner of the Princesse
Bora Lodge after his family, who used to own the entire rice
concession for Madagascar under the colonial French government,
were eventually stripped of all but their coastal lands as various
industries were re-nationalised. Fifou has reacted to this with
the design (by his then-girlfriend, a French architect) and construction
of the Princesse Bora, with plans afoot for somewhere even more
luxurious just up the coast in the near future. One swimming pool
per cabin in the new place, apparently.
Staying somewhere posh
isn't at all necessary to enjoying the Ile Ste Marie
however, although Princesse Bora was ace, and Fifou's stereotypical
colonial eccentricity a bit of a sight to behold. One thing you
really should try and do if at all possible is go whale
Bora & the Whales:
We were sitting enjoying
an overcast lunch on our second or third day when
up went a shout of 'Les Balenes' and we saw a whale quite
a way out to sea, cavorting about. Fifou promptly rushed up and
told us that he was taking the boat out and asked if we'd like to
go along. He is the local 'Megaptera'
whale conservation contact and this was the first whale of the season.
So out we went, and it was quite frankly amazing. I am not going
to describe what seeing live whales in the flesh is like as I honestly
don't think I could. It was breathtaking though, and if you can
possibly do it you should. We went out again the next day, and even
got to go up in Fifou's plane at one point, to spot them from the
air. And at the end of the last day, just as we thought we'd get
to see everything but a breach we turned for home and suddenly,
directly in front of us, a massive whale leapt wholly out of the
water. It was a spectacular sight, and one she (we think) repeated
over 25 times for us over the ensuing half hour or so. In the words
of George Thomason from A Fish Called Wanda: 'Unbe-fucking-lievable'.
It won't take much imagination
to work out that our stay at the Princesse Bora was pretty much
dominated by the whales, but nonetheless we departed after a few
days to spend some time on the Ile Aux
Nattes, just off the Southern tip of the island...