Sailing Madagascar: Land of Crescent Sails
The crew aboard an expedition yacht explores the western coast of Madagascar, the island nation that lies across the Mozambique Channel from the southeastern coast of Africa.
After about 10 miles, the obvious deep channel ended, and the river spread into a broad lagoon that we guessed was too shallow to tackle without a chart. We headed back against a strengthening onshore breeze. Low tide exposed mud flats at Analalava, the village at the Loza River’s mouth where local boats lay on their sides on the mud. At the edge of the channel, the crew of a large dhow hauled the anchor and struggled to get the immense canvas of the lateen mainsail under control.
Given a chance, nature turns lush in the coastal belt. Far up in Morombe Bay, the hilly sand dunes of the outer coast disappeared, and we anchored among islets carrying stands of fat baobabs. Here in the higher trees with thorny trunks, grand vasa parrots cruised overhead, unafraid of the even larger raptors wheeling above.
Farther south along the coast, the small Ambondroampasy River wouldn’t admit our draft of 8½ feet, so we anchored off in a smooth sea and explored with the dinghy. The posh Anjajavy Lodge on the south bank protects a chunk of Madagascar’s natural world. Sifaka lemurs, diurnal creatures unlike other lemurs, watched our progress through the trails with round, innocent eyes. On a sandy hook of the north riverbank lived a boatbuilder, his house awash in naturally curved crooks of timber and boats of different sizes and shapes awaiting repairs.