Extreme North Of Madagascar
|As I mentioned,
Madagascar is a wonderful, tumbledown Indian Ocean island where people
laugh at hardship. Diego Suarez, situated in the extreme north of Madagascar,
considered one of world’s most beautiful and widest bays, is a country
town, but also the third largest port of the continent island. Diego Suarez
harbor, named after the two Portuguese explorers who “discovered Madagascar,
is on the island’s northeastern end. Their names are : Diego Diaz, who
discovered Madagascar in 1500 and a sailor, Fernando Suarez who visited
Madagascar in 1506. The story and the legend say that:“Towards the end
of the 17th century, a strange community settled in the Bay area and gave
birth to the Libertalia Republic. Characters that were closely related
to buccaneering: a French pirate named Misson, and a Roman priest, Angelo
Caraccioli. They were both inspired by a utopian philosophy based on the
freedom of men, religion and races.
thrived for a few years until the Malagasy aroused by their chiefs that
hardly understood this threat to their authority attacked Libertalia by
surprise and destroyed it”.
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always had a great hold over the life and development of Diego Suarez since
the days when Antakaranas called on the French to protect them during the
Antakarana Hova War. This area became an autonomous territory in 1886 and
was thereafter united with the rest of Madagascar when it became a French
of the port and relations with France explain the presence of one of the
most developed shipyards in the Indian Ocean: The Secren, situated
in Antsiranana. The economy in Antsiranana is based upon the following
industries: fishing, salt works, wood, but also agriculture. In fact, the
lands to the northwest are quite fertile and yield large quantities of
vegetables, fruit, cotton and sugar cane (there are two important sugar
refineries in Nosy Be and Ambilobe). Yet, fishing is the most important
activity in the area, an industry that is important to the entire economy
of Madagascar. Because of its geographic position (12° south latitude
– 49°-20’ east longitude), Diego Suarez is very exposed to winds and
currents that blow and push across the Indian Ocean. They make navigation
quite difficult and hazardous. Sometimes, the wind and heavy sea prevent
ships, whatever their tonnage, from passing the Cap d’Ambre. Vegetation
is scarce because of the wind and the hot climate.
built around the bay, has a modern and well-kept appearance, but the impression
one gets is that the population is not very numerous. The area is
famous for its fishing products and handicrafts made of zebu horn and sea
turtle shells. Its handicraft men continue a long tradition and manage
to create exquisite objects. The best handicraft shops are the ones that
belong to Moussa Feno - the slope that extends from the Hotel de la Poste
to the Customs office - and Patricia Bardu. A visit to the great market
where a great many handicraft men, fishermen and farmers sell their products
will give you a very animated picture of the economy of the province of
If you want
to make acquaintances with the inhabitants of Diego Suarez or with resident
strangers, it is better for you to go and have an aperitif or dinner in
the city’s most fashionable spots such as The Rosticceria, The Jonque,
The Nouvel Hotel or in the bar: Balafomanga and the Vanilla. A nice ride
along the bay will lead you to the lovely coconut tree lined Ramena Beach
- 20 km from Diego-Suarez.
have been built on the white sands of Ramena Beach and this has made the
beach a favorite holiday resort for inhabitants of Diego Suarez and tourists.
is almost on the outskirts of the bay. In the village that borders
it, you can rent a pirogue and go dragnet fishing; you'll have a good chance
of getting catching something.
bay, you will see on your left the Emerald Sea and a series of small white
sand idyllic coves that reflect in an emerald green sea. There are other
coves on the other side of Diego Suarez’s bay that bear fascinating names
such as the Pigeons’ Bay, the Duns’Bay, the Sakalava Bay.
In the latter,
there are three islets but also the Hotel Club baie des Sakalava, a tourist
resort with 1O bungalows in a bay open to the winds and big waves of the
Indian Ocean that make this place one of the best surfing spots in Madagascar.
You can get there by sea or by the road that leads to Ramena. Another interesting
trip you can make is the one leading to the town of Joffre and to the Roussets
Reservation on Amber Mountain - 30kms to the southwest from Diego.
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|In the surroundings
of Joffre, where the French used to spend their holidays to escape the
scorching heat that prevails in Diego Suarez in the summer, vegetation
changes and becomes quite lush and one will find a great many flowers.
When the French left the country, the village quickly declined and its
hotels are now closed. The Roussets Reservation spreads over a surface
of 18.200 hectares. In the Amber Mountain National Park, vegetation is
exuberant thanks to favorable climatic conditions: tropical climate with
people who live in communion with nature venerate flowers and plants. They
dedicate a traditional ceremony, the Tsakafara, to the cult of Nature.
Your visit to the Reservation will be made easier by well-marked paths
that have been laid out. You can choose different walks and see a great
many waterfalls (the most beautiful being the 80 meter high Roussets Waterfall).
The climate is quite pleasant and the temperature will always be cool.
A great many species of lemurs live in that forest and you might have the
opportunity of seeing the only feline that lives in Madagascar: the fosa.
Going deeper into the forest, treading on pleasant paths, you will pass
several volcanic lakes. Close to the Big Lake, a plot of land, not too
far from the summit of Amber Mountain and the summit of the Belle Etape,
is a camping area.
you get in touch with a travel agency in Diego Suarez, such as Ecotourisme
Nord, the email is: firstname.lastname@example.org - they can
help you organise a visit. The two villages of Andronato and Ambondromifehy,
about 100 kms south of Diego, have utterly changed since the discovery
of an important sapphire mine that triggered off a sapphire rush, attracting
sapphire diggers not only from Madagascar, but also from abroad.
is a list of articles that Nia has written for the magazine:
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