Friday, October 21, 2016
Thursday, October 20, 2016
Réunion Island's most iconic landmark is Piton de la Fournaise, a climbable active volcano standing 2,632m (8,635 ft.).
Have you ever climbed a volcano? No, us neither. Well, we have now and I'm not sure I can wholeheartedly recommended it.
Imagine walking over marbles for 5 and a half hours. Ok, not just marbles. Marbles and needles. Marbles, needles, thorns and ice. Only these are all make of rock. And at a 30 degree angle. With gaps in between. Big gaps. And lava. Did I mention the lava? And to get to the rocky marbles and needles and thorns and ice and lava you need to first drive for two hours up a windy road so high you are above the clouds, then walk down (and afterwards up again) a rocky staircase over 500m high. And all this in the heat of the beating sun. And when you have walked, stumbled and clawed your way up what my FitBit tells me is 20km of distance and up 622 stories high you see the most amazing sight ever. The crator of the most active volcano in recent history. Well, that.
But what a view! What a sense of achievement! But what sore feet!
I hear people only do it once. I can see why.
Réunion Island is a French department in the Indian Ocean. Which makes it France. Proper France. It really does. And don't you ever let me hear you say differently. Or I'll have to send the garçons round.
Réunion is lovely. It's part of the EU of course (you do remember it is France, right?) and as such is way more developed than either its sister island Mauritius or impoverished Madagascar.
Stuart and I came here to see Stu's old college chum Nikki who along with her lovely family have been hosting us. Nikki is so sweet and has been checking our itinerary to make sure we see all the sights in her adopted island. And what sights there are!
We've been up a dead volcano, up a live volcano (more on that later), on a beach, narrowly avoiding some sharks, and touring round the island generally making a nuisance of ourselves.
It's a great holiday destination with much to do! So I'd better get back to sipping cocktails by the pool. French cocktails of course. Because. It's. France.
Sunday, October 16, 2016
Ok, so Madagascar isn't just about the lemurs. Turns out the place is packed with other unique animal species too. Chameleons, owls, iguanas, spiders, preying mantes, giraffe beetles, snakes, geckos, hedgehogs, you name it.
Our last few days in Madagascar have been spent down the east coast. The east coast is lush, full of forests and jungle, and the perfect place to spot (and on occasion interact with) the amazing Malagasy wildlife. As you may know nearly 90% of the animals and plants are unique to this island. But the main draw (and indeed for some the only reason they come here at all) is the lemurs. 59 species of these fluffy primates currently live wild in Madagascar. And they are simply gorgeous. They don't smell, they don't have claws, they are herbivores, and they are very gentle.
Lemurs share a common ancestor with their distant cousins the monkeys but have evolved completely independently over the past 40 million years in divine isolation. Sadly many lemurs are now on the vulnerable species or endangered animal list due to excessive hunting and habitat destruction. A few species are actually expected to become extinct within the next few years.
In my opinion they make a better WWF mascot than giant pandas as unlike pandas there are few breeding programmes and frankly they could do with the exposure.
We saw quite a few lemurs in the wild and even more when we visited a rescue sanctuary where they climbed all over us. Bless.
Friday, October 14, 2016
Ok, I have to confess the main reason we came to Madagascar was to see The Avenue of the Baobabs at sunset. Yeah, the lemurs are great and yes, the fact that 90% of the flora and fauna being unique is pretty cool but I really came to see a vivid sunset with weird trees in the background. Call me shallow. But wow they didn't disappoint. I took zillions of photos but don't worry here are just few. I added a filter to some - just to guild the lily! Amazing trees, amazing sunset.
Thursday, October 13, 2016
"Sex touristic capital of Madagascar" warned the sign. Yes, folks we spent our final night on the west coast of Madagascar in the once infamous port of Morondava. I say once because we were to be reassured that the place had cleaned up its act in recent years. The odd sign that said 'happy massage' and 'young masseuse' perhaps told a different story however.
So why were we there? Well, near Morondava is the big, big attraction of Madagascar - The Avenue of the Baobabs - but more of that later.
Up at the crack of dawn we took a propeller plane back to the capital Antananarivo. Very Indiana Jones.
Having done a quick city tour we settled into our outstanding boutique hotel perched on top of the main hill in the city.
Tomorrow we are back into the jungle again - travelling down the east coast.
Heading south across country we passed through numerous ramstackle villages on the way to Kirindy - The Dry Forest.
The roads, such that they were, were dusty affairs potted in potholes. The landscape changed from jungle to scrub land to wide river to paddy field to desert to burnt out charred forest.
The Dry Forest when we eventually reached it should really be called The Dead Forest as it looked like water had never graced it for millennia. However we camped inside it and partook a couple of trails where we spotted all manner of wildlife. Lemurs (dancing, jumping, brown and mouse), fossas, iguanas, snakes, chameleons, owls, other birds, spiders, and ants).
A different side of Madagascar.