Madagascar Part 6 of 8: Morondava to Toliara.
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Today was to be another longish day in the car and an 8-hour journey to Morondava. The journey back down was much like it was on the way up, the main highlight being the boat crossing which gave some respite from the bumpy dirt road. We eventually reached Morondava at 4:30 pm, which looked a very vibrant coastal town with vendors lined up along the roadside selling everything from vegetables and fruit to sunglasses and random household items. Food stalls seemed quite busy and the music was booming from various shops, there was definitely a positive buzz in the air. We entered a quieter road which was lined with techni-coloured buildings and small gift shops, so I gathered we were close to the hotel. The accommodation for tonight was the Palissandre Hotel, a very nice beachside property overlooking the Mozambique Channel. There was an inviting swimming pool and outdoor bar area, but after leaving luggage in my cottage I opted for a stroll down the beach hoping to catch a good sunset. Kids were playing football, young couples were taking a walk and a dog was nosing around for leftovers. The sun started to dip and with it, the sky turned various shades of red and orange. It was a serene setting and despite however many sunset photos I shoot, they never quite capture exactly how it looked! I returned to the resort for an early dinner and caught up with some pending work before calling it an early night.
For a change, it was a relaxing start to the day as I was flying south along the coast to Toliara (aka Tulear). The other option was to brave a 3-day bone-rattling journey by car, but as I was pressed for time I decided to allow myself this luxury. The flight was due to depart at 13:15 and despite it being a tiny airport and just the one flight, I was advised to still report at the airport 2 hours before the flight because it is not unheard of for flights to sometimes leave early if all the passengers are at the airport! I had also heard dubious reports about Air Madagascar’s punctuality, but maybe it was my lucky day as the 12 of us at the airport all boarded on time. The aircraft was fairly small and there were other passengers already in the plane en-route from somewhere else. The flight was due to take one hour and was very smooth, and perhaps most. surprisingly we even arrived 10 minutes early. I had a new driver for this leg of my journey whose name was Mami. Toliara is the entry point to other parts of southern Madagascar known for its reefs, diving and sublime beaches. Only about 10 minutes from the airport was the arboretum, a 400,000 square metre area showcasing many diverse species of plants endemic to the island, including the peculiar pachiopod (aka ‘elephant foot’), a tall green ‘octopus-like’ plant and of course the majestic baobab for which Madagascar is famous. There was also a small space set aside for the endangered Madagascar radiated tortoise and it was interesting to observe these ancient looking creatures plod around. Birds such as the Madagascar bee-eater were commonplace and darted between trees. After an hour inside the arboretum we set off for Bakuba Lodge, my place for the night. Situated just outside Toliara this boutique property had been highly recommended by someone I knew who had stayed there. On arrival I could see why, it was spectacular. I met the owner Patricia who guided me around the 6-room property. Both her and her husband had painstakingly created this artistic masterpiece in the middle of nowhere. The hallway was adorned with artefacts from Madagascar and other parts of Africa, places they had travelled. Dug-out canoes functioned as bathtubs, old furniture had been reworked and given new leases of life. Every little detail had been thought about. A funky staircase led out to a terrace from where there were stunning views of the dunes and beyond was the sea where local boats sailed by. There was also a pool which would have been ideal to use had the sun not started to set. As seems to be the norm in Madagascar, the sunset was spectacular once again. After a refreshing cocktail, I sat down for dinner and was treated to some delicious seafood, prepared Portuguese-style, as the owners had spent many years living there. At night the property takes on another look as it is elegantly lit up with orange lamps and candles. I eventually retired to my room cursing myself for only staying here one night!