Sunday, July 20, 2014

A Whale of a Time!

Well we have fallen behind, so prepare for a small flood!

Friday was our tourist day heading down for some whale watching and to visit the Spiny / Baobab Forest. We got up at 6am with the expectation of meeting our driver and translator who had been arranged by Patsy. Once they arrived though our translator (Alain who speaks French and English) related where we wanted to go to our driver, Regala (who only spoke Malagasi and a little French), and then our translator left. So off we go on an hour long drive through countryside we've never seen, with no phone, and on what could be described as sort of a road but is probably more accurately described in a collection of bumps you try to avoid.  The driver also had to avoid zebu carts, pedestrians, goats and people.

It was, of course, spectacular.  We traveled from the slightly urban town of Toliara, through quite an arid landscape, north along the coast to Ifaty with it's mangrove trees and the ocean. We arrived at the gorgeous Hotel Nautilus which sits right on the ocean, with a very pretty infinity pool facing straight out to the sea.

We hustled down and boarded a 25 ft motor boat with a two man crew and off we went. We had not realized that this was to be a private tour. We rode out at full speed for about a half an hour and then promptly stopped at sea, looking out at the waves. It was really a perfect day for it; relatively cool, not a cloud in the sky, and the ocean was smooth as glass.

We sat for about 15 minutes and were starting to wonder if this was all whale watching would really entail, just sitting and hoping, when we spotted our first whale. Our navigator called out and we gunned over to it. At first our sightings were spread out. When we did see something, it was only for a few seconds and then they were gone, but as the day progressed we got to travel along groups of them, or pods. At one point we travelled next to a pod of 6, who were continuously coming to the surface and spouting. It was a truly majestic experience. It's so soothing just watching these giant creatures ease through the water and lovely for us not to have to think about being somewhere else or doing something else as we were trapped on this boat for the next 3 hours. At times, the whales seemed to be floating on the surface enjoying the sun.  It was great listening to the noises the whales made as they spouted and swam.

There was one truly special moment in our time there.  We had just approached one whale and had been there for about a minute. It was straight in front of the hull of the boat and all five of us were watching, our family and the two men navigating, when this whale jumped clear out of the water, and spiraling splashed back down. We took many pictures Friday, but nobody was ready to get that one. It was perfect. We all just cheered and laughed and enjoyed getting to see something so special. The people we have told have said how lucky we are, which really makes me feel like this must not happen for many people. Truly a treat for us!

After we came back, we played on the beach, visited with the ghostly crabs and then headed off to the Spiny Forest. We were given a tour by a guide who spoke better English than any other Malagasy I had so far met and he told us all about the local plant life, showing us the Baobabs, the Flame trees and so much more. Apparently Madagascar does not have indigenous cacti despite all the thorny things we've seen growing. We did learn that the baobabs soak up water from it roots that have grown down about as deep as the tree is tall and that water is stored in its wide trunk. This is why so many of those trees are cut down; for people to drink from their fiberous insides. The oldest tree was 8 people around, I'm not sure how tall, and 1,200 years old! That tree is 4 times as old as the United States!

We also were shown native lizards, radiated tortoises and insects which I can't even figure out how to explain. Ask dad about the white lichen insects! It was really an incredible day and all without anyone who spoke English. A true adventure.

Veloma (Goodbye)

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