Tag Archives: Luxury

North! to Anjajavy (part 2) – Flight from Tana

Tuesday June 18 2024 – Our flight today was described in our itinerary as “early”, and the driver who deposited us at the Relais des Plateaux told us that we would be picked up at 0615, which meant something of a brisk start. The hotel’s official breakfast time start was 0600, so at 0555 we were knocking on the door on a mission to stuff ourselves quickly with as much pastry as would easily accompany a hasty cup of Twining’s Finest Earl Grey.

It all worked perfectly well, and we were picked up by the very chap who had welcomed us to Madagascar two and a half weeks ago, whose name rhymes with “hyena” and, for reasons I will explain in a later post, we now know is spelt Aine. If he were Irish, that would be pronounced “Onya”, but he isn’t, so ‘yena it is. He asked us how our drive down RN7 went and we were able to tell him how good it was; it turns out that he has acted as driver for that route before, and has worked with Kenny and Haja, so knew what the conditions were like.

The check-in process was pretty much exactly the same for flying to Anjajavy as it had been to get to Masoala, with people and bags alike being weighed. The difference was that there would be a greater number of passengers, and the consequence of that was the need for a larger aeroplane,

a Cessna 208 Caravan, as it happens. In all, there were seven passengers – us; a younger couple, Jenny and Sam; and three older folk who were carrying with them in several inconvenient polystyrene containers the packed breakfast that their hotel had provided them. We all climbed aboard and set off on the dot of 0700 for the 100-minute flight to Anjajavy.

As we left Antananarivo, I was once again struck by the staggering extent of the rice paddies near the city.

Beyond them, there was, as one might expect, a fair bit of agriculture going on.

As on our previous flight north, after climbing, clouds obscured the view for a while.  When they cleared, we were over quite mountainous terrain

but one could still see areas that had been cultivated;

even in what looked like the most rugged terrain, one could see areas that were being farmed.

After we’d been aloft for about an hour, the landscape changed into something less mountainous – quite possibly a central plateau – looking pretty rugged and untouched,

but even here, one could spot terraces and other evidence of farming.

This landscape changed again, into something that seemed less touched by human hand

though I wonder whether the scars in the land are evidence of the erosion that follows deforestation activity. It wasn’t then much longer until further landscape changes and we could once again see that the land was being farmed.

I couldn’t make out whether that fire was intentional burning of an area or an actual bush fire. Malagasy farming does involve some systematic burning, and so it could be either, and I wasn’t in a position to ask which it was.

Shortly thereafter, we could just make out the north-west coast

with some areas of forest, but continued evidence of agriculture pretty much wherever a river permitted it,

and, once again, extensive rice paddies.

Then we were down and at 0900 walked into Anjajavy’s self-proclaimed “International Airport”!

where we were greeted by Frederic, the manager of “Le Lodge”, our accommodation for the coming days.

He welcomed us to the peninsula and gave us a short introduction, specifically telling us about the 30-minute car journey that awaited us.

I was glad when Frederic joined us as we rode on the back of our vehicle, because it meant that he could give us some (in my case consciousness-expanding) background on Anjajavy.

Looking at the place on Google Maps, it’s clear that the place we would be staying, Le Lodge, is a resort, with a central building, villas and swimming pool and that kind of thing.

What I hadn’t realised was quite how remote the place is.  The nearest town is 100km away, and the journey there takes several hours, so, as manager of the Lodge, he has to make sure that it is self-sufficient; as he can’t whistle up a plumber or an engineer to fix problems, he has to make sure that he has all the skills, as well as provisions of all kinds, and equipment, onsite.  Le Lodge has 24 villas, but Frederic is the manager of over 180 people. Most of these, he told us, we would never see, because they were there to keep the place operational, not to serve us punters. That is because of something else I hadn’t realised, which is the scope of Le Lodge’s eco/diversity activities. Frederic is also the manager of the 2,500 acre (1,000 ha) Private Reserve  in which Le Lodge stands, and of the 24,000-acre Protected Area which surrounds the Reserve.  That’s where a large fraction of his workforce is employed – the biodiversity of the Protected Area is something that Le Lodge is committed to protect and preserve.

This commitment leads Le Lodge to be the host for several scientific research and conservation projects. One involves re-introducing the Giant Tortoises that went extinct here several hundred years ago because of human activity: they provided a convenient and self-preserving source of fresh meat for sailors! Luckily some escaped and survived on the Seychelles, from where they have been restocked. A second involves re-introducing the Aye-Aye, the local population having been basically killed off by superstitious local people who regard them as ill-omens. This therefore requires a considerable effort in re-education, as well as the provision of two of the actual animals thus far, with more to follow over the next two years.

Frederic is committed to working with the local villages, and 80% of his staff come from the area. He was eloquent about the benefit to him and to them of working together. He has a considerable education project on his hands, since, to start with, some of the people didn’t even speak conventional Malagasy (using rather their own rather different and specific dialect), let alone French or English, and also had strong superstitions (eg concerning the Aye-Aye) which had to be sensitively handled as part of the education process.

If he hadn’t told us about this on the journey over, I don’t think we would have suspected that there was so much extra to the place. We would just have seen a marvellous central lodge

with very swish villas,

lovely gardens,

a beautiful beach

and an infinity pool.

It’s a superb place, but then again it’s Relais et Chateaux, same as gaffs such as Cliveden in the UK, so one would jolly bien pense donc. Le Lodge itself was built in around 2000 (from the wood of the Palisander tree, so its development, ironically, wouldn’t be permitted today) and is an absolutely wonderful environment – beautifully comfortable villas, an excellent restaurant and many resort-type activities to be contemplated and possibly undertaken – nature expeditions, sailing, snorkelling, kayaking, etc etc.

So: j’y suis, j’y reste, and Jane likewise.  Starting tomorrow, we have three full days to explore the place, the activities and, of course, the bar. Stay in touch with these pages and I’ll keep you updated with our progress.