Tuesday 10 November 2015

Time to go off diving! From what I have read, the diving here is rubbish.

A mixture of coral bleaching, overfishing and pollution has killed the reef and the wildlife. But whilst I’m here, I might as well go and have a look!

I wandered down the beach for 8am. It was just me and the girl I am sharing a room with – awesome!

A massive boat, just for the 2 of us. The ride out was flat to begin with. Then we crossed over the reef, where the local men were fishing in small dugout canoes, and it became wavy. I forgot to take sea sickness – oh dear. But it was ok.

Last week a cold current of water passed through. So now the water is cold. It’s supposed to be 27-28 degrees this time of year, so I arrived with board shorts and wetsuit top. But too bad – I was handed a double layered 5mm wetsuit….!

We dropped onto a deep reef. It started at 18m and went down to a sandy bottom at 25m. It was described as a wall. But there wasn’t much ‘wall’ to it. It was a shallow sloping reef. But I was pleasantly surprised!

The coral was alive, there was cool stuff and some small schools of fish! The visibility was bad – but all round, very similar to Mabul. Except colder. It was so good, that despite only planning on doing 1 dive to ‘have a look’. I ended up doing a second.

This one was on a reef that was like long fingers. It was cool. Saw a stingray that I’ve never seen before. Plus loads of nudibrach that I’ve never seen. My favourite – a leaf scorpion fish. Plus some other cool ‘hidden’ things that I love finding.

So despite anticipating that I was going to be bored, I really enjoyed it!

We arrived back at lunchtime. And headed back to the hotel for lunch. I ordered a plate of vegetables.

And got a plate of vegetables covered in garlic.

So ordered again and got a side plate of plain overcooked vegetables. Same old. Eugh.

After a quick shower, we met up with the rest of the group at 2pm to head to the Ifaty spiny forest. I was really looking forward to this – I have loved all the cactus and baobabs that are littering the sides of all the roads.

The entrance to the reserve was a 20 minute walk away along an unmade road and sand. It was still hot (34 degrees). So we hired zebu carts to take us there!! This was awesome!

I’ve loved watching the zebu carts as we have driven through the country. They are cows with large bumps on their backs. 4 people fit in the back of each cart and we were off!

The cart behind ours was a bit over enthusiastic. And the cows kept coming really close. At one point they rammed into the back of us. It was scary! They have huge pointy horns – and the level of them was right at the middle of my back! But luckily we arrived in one piece.

Here in the reserve they have over 800 baobab trees. Many of them are several hundreds of years old. Amongst the baobab there were lots of other cool trees – bolsa trees (like baobab, with a really thick trunk). Flame trees – these come in two varieties, with red leaves, that we’ve seen across the rest of the country. And yellow leaves, that are found only in this area. These can look like baobab trees, with thick trunks, but the base goes very narrow, so are sometimes called false baobab.

There were so many types of cactus. Some with lush fluffy looking leaves – almost like a soft Christmas tree. But as you go to stroke these soft looking leaves, there are hidden thick spines all over the place too!

They had some cactus that are poisonous to humans – the sap can make you blind. Of course we saw loads of baobab. But all different shapes. Some were large and fat. Others tall and thinner. Some were leaning. Some had two trunks coming out of one base. And many had holes leading up the sides – people used to climb up to collect the fruit. I had a go. Impossible.

The guide showed us baby baobab trees. At 1 year, they are pretty much just a leaf 2 inches off the ground. At 5 years, they are a thin stick about half a meter tall. 8 years isn’t much larger! So the tall fat trees that you see are at least 200-500 years old!

There were plenty of animals too. Lots of small lizards running around. Iguanas with really cool spiky tails hiding in lots of the trees. There were tortoises, eating cactus leaves! But the coolest thing – Tree bugs. I’ve never seen anything like them. They are like small white fluffy flowers, with black legs. Amazing!

After a couple of hours wandering around all the weird trees, we headed back. This time we did walk. And came across a real zebu cart pulling a family along!

It was nearly 6pm by the time we got back. And time for another swim! Dinner was awful again. Courgette and aubergine, with rice. Dull. And horrible.

Wednesday 11 November 2015 I woke up this morning with no plan! No alarm. Nothing to do. I still woke at 6am. As usual. But managed to stay in bed until 9am.

No point bothering with the breakfast at the hotel (just bread). So I had some mangos. These ones I bought a couple of days ago in Toliara – they are the best ones yet! So sweet and delicious! And then packed up all my things. It took a while – I had washed all my clothes and everything had come out of my bag!

We wandered along the beach to find somewhere to eat. There isn’t a lot of choice. The place we went to offered cheese or egg as a vegetarian option. No beans anywhere here. So I went with a salad baguette. It was fine. As exciting as lettuce and tomato in a piece of bread can be. It was annoyingly expensive – £1.20 (which is a lot for here).

Further along the beach we got hassled by the sellers. Eventually we found the guy I wanted – the one selling small wooden carved pots. They are really pretty – lemurs, baobabs and zebu carved into a black and white piece of wood. Really clever – the zebu are striped! So I bought a few!

After we got back from lunch, I went for a 30 minute swim in the pool. Round and round. Had the whole thing to myself! Despite being mostly in the shade, and gone 3pm, I managed to burn my bum…! I managed to do pretty much nothing all day. The tide had been really far out all day. But by 5pm, it was high again, right by our room. So I went for a swim.

And was totally surrounded by jellyfish! Hundreds of them!! All sizes – from 1 inch, up to 1/2 foot wide. Normal jellyfish shape. But no stingers. It was a bit weird to begin with, but after a while, once they have been swimming into you all over the place, it was fine – but so cool! Dinner was again totally pointless. Tomato and cucumber. And the tiniest portion. Yay…. I’m so fed up of food here. And so hungry.


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