Monday, January 4, 2010

"Mad" Air to Paradise.

2009 was without a doubt a long and difficult years. Therefore, during August I decided that hubby and I needed a holiday destination that was remote, beautiful and affordable. We needed to go to an island! So my search began for the perfect location. Every spot I found either was too populated, too expensive or really rural, and we don’t do the roughing it thing. Finally, I heard about the Coup d'etat that happened in Madagascar during January 2009 that lasted until November. My first reaction was “Fabulous, so it will be cheap!” After searching several lodges on the surrounding islands I found the perfect spot, a place called Sakatia Lodge and made my booking and so our adventure began.

On Boxing Day we were scheduled to fly to Madagascar on “Mad Air”, so nicknamed due to their lack of keeping flight schedules, lack of English and warning passengers that smoking and lying in the aisles of the plane drunk is strictly prohibited. Our flight was delayed by an hour, which was a good thing because our luggage was overweight. I was horrified as I am incapable of travelling light and every item in our luggage I viewed as absolutely essential. So we sat on the floor, redistributed some items and Voilà we ended up checking 3 bags into cargo instead of 2. Having had to also catch a national flight from Antananarivo to Nosy Be, I was seriously concerned that we would miss our 2nd flight, but was assured that they would keep our flight grounded until we arrived there. On arrival I was pleasantly surprised to find that this was exactly what they did and we made it safely to Nosy Be along with 40 other annoyed passengers who were delayed 2 hours due to us. So you can imagine the stares we got.

On arrival at Nosy Be we were transferred by taxi to the pickup spot where the boat would take us to Sakatia Island. We arrived there with a young newlywed couple, a mom and her son and a group of 13 people. While waiting for our luggage to get loaded onto one of the boats the woman asked me and my hubby whether we were there on our Honeymoon, I just giggled and told her no we have been married now for 3 years and this was just a normal holiday. I could tell some of our group was taken aback by her frank nature and we were in for some interesting times. Eventually everything was packed and we boarded our boats and set off to the Island. We were welcomed there by the couple that runs the lodge and a much needed rum cocktails. We were briefed on the workings of the lodge, then finished a delicious dinner and fell into bed to be roused the next morning by the awakening forest and the gentle sounds of waves licking the shore - we woke up in paradise!

Our 1st day was spent lounging around, swimming and snorkeling - a perfectly relaxing start. Then it was suggested we go scuba diving, something I have never done before. The dive was appropriately called “baptême de qc” French for baptism. The 2 dive masters would do practically everything for us; the only thing we had to do was breath and swim, sound simple enough. However, once I hit the water and got strapped into my scuba gear the 1st thing that went through my mind was “O God, am I really going to do this?” Descending to the 2 meter drop was hysterical to watch. I was bopping around, first on my back almost hitting my head on the bottom of a boat then on my stomach and keeping vertical seemed impossible. Eventually the one dive master took over and I successfully made it to the bottom. Once there I was relaxed and completely enthralled with the wonderland below the surface that so few people get to appreciate. After an hour of diving I returned to the surface hooked on the sport, and we had a second dive later. The only drawback of the 2 dives was that my left year got blocked and I was practically deaf in that ear. So every now and again I had to remind hubby and other people to speak into my “good ear” if they wanted any chance of coherent conversation.
On our 2nd night a British woman and her friend arrived at the lodge that had a striking resemblance to Meryl Streep and she was aptly nicknamed “Meryl”. The next day we were scheduled to visit Nosy Komba (Lemur Island) and go snorkeling on Nosy Tanikely (a Marine Reserve) to swim with wild sea turtles. It would be a short drive to the harbor and then 3 boat trips. On our way to the harbor we made a stop in Hellville in order for some folk to change currency. I was under the impression we would visit a bureau de change and we did, it just was not what I expected. We visited a human ATM who climbed into our taxi with her purse, it was odd and I later heard it was also illegal. While the human ATM was doing her thing I took a short walk through Hellville and counted up to 6 chickens being slaughter right on the sidewalk. I guess they don’t call it Helville for nothing and chickens, ducks and zebus can attest to this!

While waiting for our boat to Lemur Island, hubby said he needed to pee, after enquiring from both our guide (Kiki) and the police I had to inform hubby there were no toilets and he would have to hold it. The 45 minute boat ride was pure torture for him and seconds after the boat hit the shore he sped off and returned to the group much more relieved. Lemur Island was fascinating, we got to feed the Lemurs, saw their indigenous chameleons and I even faced my fear and held a snake. The only bad thing was the heat. I was sweating like a fat chicken in Hellville, and was dumbfounded by some of the other tourist who was walking around with long sleeve shirts and jeans. After some shopping we left for the 2nd Island. An hour later we arrived and were amazed to discover the most beautiful and unspoiled beach. We could not wait to get our snorkeling gear on and find those turtles. I didn’t have to search far before I spotted my 1st wild sea turtle. They are amazing and graceful creatures and I was completely mesmerized and spent the next few hours swimming with them. We had a short but delicious picnic on the beach that included some uninvited guests and these lizards really seemed to enjoy the rice. We then headed back to Hellville where we were returned to our Island by boat and spoiled with the most breathtaking sunset.
On New Year’s Eve the theme at our lodge was black and white. The lodge was nicely decorated and everyone was in the mood for a party, and needless to say the champagne was flowing. After a feast that included crayfish, huge langoustines and much more we were ready for the countdown to 2010. As 2009 ended and well wishes for 2010 was concluded the natural thing to do was go skinny dipping, which the majority of the lodge did, this is also how I lost my pants. Whether I misplaced it or it was hidden still remains a mystery. As they say, what happens on Sakatia stays on Sakatia.

The next morning, being slightly hangover hubby and I found some relieve with Bloody Marys and the rest of the day was lazed away in the warm and calm water. This would be our last day there and we were sad to leave. That evening, while packing our bags, we reminisced on all our great experiences and vowed to return. As our final flight departed and I looked out of the window watching the island I have now become so fond off become smaller in the distance I knew that the experience has left me relaxed, gave me a new energy and a positive outlook for the year to come. Sakatia Island (Cat Island) and Sakatia Lodge was just what the doctor ordered and I hope to be back there soon.

Till next time.

The Obligation to Happiness - by Timothy Guerreschi


ChrisJ said...

What a nice way to end one decade and begin another.

Happy New Year to you.

Pierre said...

Happy new year to you too ChrisJ. It was indeed a magical experience and wish I could include everything in this blog post but then I would need 10 000 words!

The experience was fabulous and one I would love to share with all my blog readers. I am thinking of planning a trip back there and would love all my readers to join. Spoke to the owners of the lodge who said we can work out a special group rate. They only take 20 people at a time!

So should anyone be interested, please let me know ;-)

To view my personal photo album of our trip just visit my facebook link

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nothingprofound said...

Glad you got away on your dream vacation and found such exquisite surroundings. happy new year!

Pierre said...

@ AnnemarieSchimmel, ? please translate ;-)

@ Anonymous,if it's cheap tires is it any good?

@ nothingprofound, it was magnificent and it sucks that I have to go back work on Tuesday. Happy new year to you too, hope 2010 bring all of us success, joy and prosperity!

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