Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Fisherman's Island, Madagascar

I went to Madagascar looking for the lemurs, but I found the people of this island most interesting. Its real name is Betania and is separated from the city of Morondava by a river of the same name. The river empties into the Mozambique Channel that separates Madagascar from Africa.
 Boarded an outrigger to explore the mangroves but other than a few crabs, there was not much in the way of wildlife to see, so headed for Fisherman’s Island.  The people subsistence here is mostly fishing and some shipbuilding.  There were a few pigs but plenty of chickens in the island.  Fisherman’s Island is just like any other tropical island with the coconut groves and the fine yellow sand.  Being inhabited, the sign of such occupation is notable with the usual debris lying around, the homes made of wood and whatever other material is found.  But the people appeared happy and were friendly.

 One curios practice that I noticed while walking on the beach is all of a sudden I found myself stepping into large circles of death small fish laying the sand, so I back tracked.  I was told that the small fish are laid on the sand for drying by the sun as a mean of preservation.  Again…where are the birds?  In other parts of the world they would be eating the fish.

 After the men return from fishing early in the morning, the community goes to the beach to sort the fish and repair the fishing next to be ready for the next day.  The women participate in the processing of the fish to have it ready to marked and then take it to the market in Morondova. To get there, they have to cross the river, part of the river is waded and the point it gets deeper, they board boats to get across. The process is the same in the return trip and there are always customers waiting for the water taxis to make the crossing.

 People were not too excited about being photographed but I saw a group of young women looking at me and their faces said “photograph me”!!! I approached them and they were thrilled.  They paint their faces yellow but for a practical purpose:  To protect their faces against the sun.  They made their own cream by taking the bark of the tamarind fruits and grinding it to a fine powder than then is applied to the skin.

 I must thank Air Madagascar for this opportunity to visit the island due to a flight cancellation.  Flights are frequently cancelled (I suffered 3) and they may arrive early as well as late.  And if they arrive early, they will leave early, and not follow the scheduled departure time.  Air Madagascar is the biggest problem for the development of the tourist industry in this unusual and beautiful country.  In the plus side, they flight brand new planes and usually half empty.  After returning to Morondava, cell phone call was made to find the status of the Air Madagascar departing flight…I did leave this time.