Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Travels in Madagascar

"Moramora". Malagasy for "slowly, slowly".

Not only am I happy to hear this oft-repeated mantra reminding me to travel mindfully in this enchanted land, but why in the world would I not want to savour each minute of this astonishing place?

Baobab trees and lemurs are among the first indicators that Madagascar is home to unique and dazzling creatures.

As roosters crow and the sun begins to rise, I am not the only one to be swept away by the sight of emerging giant silhouettes. These dogs too appear to be inspired by the sublime beauty of Baobabs at daybreak.


In the Indian Ocean off the coast of Mozambique in south eastern Africa, the country of Madagascar is the world's fourth largest island. While humans began their gradual spread across the planet from Africa 80,000 years ago, Madagascar - just 400 kilometers away - has only been populated a mere two thousand years. World civilizations arose and vanished over the millennia while life on Madagascar evolved in its own unique way. Indeed eighty percent of all living things in Madagascar today are to be found only in Madagascar. The first people who did eventually arrive here followed an extraordinary circuitous route - from the Indo-Malaysian island of Borneo.

Contemporary Malagasy culture is thus a wonderful blend of Indonesian, African, Arab and more recently, French influences. Two items central to Madagascar life today illustrate the Indonesian-African nexus. Rice from Asia and the zebu - cattle from Africa - are mainstays of the Malagasy diet. The fascinating cultural interweave of languages, music and religious practices was a happy reminder to me that we can indeed celebrate a life which values unity in diversity. I will not forget the genuine welcoming warmth of the Malagasy people that I encountered daily.

Sea of Joy.

The children gleefully playing in the Indian Ocean on the west coast of Madagascar, at Ifaty and Morondava put an enormous smile on my face.

Three boys proudly showed me their handcrafted little boats that are ready to set sail in the Mozambique Channel.

It was not far from here, that humpback whales could be seen on their annual migration from Antarctica - to mate and give birth in these warm waters.

Like them - I too hope to return to this extraordinary place.