Rounding Cap d’Andre to Nosy Hara

Tahina heading out

Tahina heading out

Before dawn on August 22nd, we awakened to check our weather. We had anchored near the entrance to the bays of Diego Suarez on the northeast side of Madagascar. After five days where the winds had been showing 25-30 knots winds from the southeast at the top, we finally had a forecast showing only 20 knots. The top of Madagascar is Cap d’Andre, once we rounded that the forecasts shows much lighter winds on the lee (west) side of the island. At dawn, the winds were only 12 knots in the anchorage, but each night the winds eased like this and by 9 AM they would blow much stronger. So, we headed out hoping for the best. Here is a picture of Tahina going out the entrance as seen by s/v Solace. It was a bit swelly at the entrance.

Cape lighthouse

Cape lighthouse

It turns out, we were really lucky! The winds only blew up to 15-20 knots, and since we were downwind it wasn’t bad at all. We saw whales, birds and fish. And almost no signs of humans except for the lighthouse at the Cape. We also had timed it so we had the tides in our favor so we also had a 1-2 knot current advantage. We were around the cape by 11 AM and started turning south. This was the furthest north we will be on this side of the Indian Ocean. We go south now until we get around the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.

Once we started south, our forecasts said the winds would be 5-10 knots. This is when our luck ran out. Instead, we saw the winds shoot up to 25-30 knots! The winds stayed this way all the way. The good news is that we were in the lee of the land, so the waves had very little fetch, so we just reefed in our sails and went faster! Since we were making such good time, we elected to go south towards either Nosy Hao or Nosy Hara. Tahina, being faster, got to Nosy Hao first. As we were turning around the reef, Karen and I spotted two whales ahead of us that soon disappeared. We got to the anchorage area, but those high winds were making it a bit bouncy, so we told Solace on the radio and decided to push on to Nosy Hara (Nosy means “Island” in the local language of Malagasy).

Nosy Hara

Nosy Hara

Nosy Hara has high cliffs, which help shelter the anchorage on the west side from winds like we had. As we approached the island mid-afternoon, we still had some 1 meter high waves, but as soon as we passed the north end it calmed right down. The anchorages were quite small, so we found a good spot for Solace, and then found another for us on the south end. Ours was the trickier spot due to reefs in the area, but it was near the beach that allows access to the island. The cliffs were awesome to behold with really wild looking rock on the top.

Gina and I were both anxious to go ashore and try to climb the cliffs. We are both avid hikers and photographers. So, we went ashore to the little beach. Two young local men came out to greet us. It turns out they are the “rangers” of the National Park here. They spoke a bit of English, and explained there is a daily fee of about $4 per person, which we agreed to pay later since we didn’t bring money with us. We explained we wanted to climb the cliffs to take pictures, and they proceeded to walk us up a cliff. Apparently we just hired guides. We were impressed to find they were paving the trail through the wooded valley and had put in concrete steps along the way. The money they are collecting is being put to good use!

Gina and rangers

Gina and rangers

Along the way, they showed us their rare and very small local chameleon (less than an inch in length). It turns out they were walking us to a cave that is the island’s main attraction. We explained we wanted to go up the cliffs, so they found another trail that led straight up. It was a steep climb, and as we got near the cliffs it became very rocky with extremely sharp edged limestone rocks. We were treated to some nice cliff views and could see the ocean, but not our boats. Oops! We told them tomorrow we wanted to climb some different cliffs. We took some pictures and then headed back. Picture here shows Gina and the two young rangers.

Back at the beach, they showed us they were building a picnic area with tables and shade covers, and also a BBQ area. And, they have built a toilette as well. Money well spent we think for the ranger fees. Before we left, we told them there were four of us on the two boats and I came back a short while later and paid them. They asked if we had any whiskey, I offered them beers instead and brought them a few the next day.

In the morning, I went snorkeling off the very lively reef we saw. The coral was colorful and lots of fish. I took pictures which I will share later. We have been noticing that the marine life in Madagascar is plentiful and very natural. We have seen fish jumping everywhere, dolphin, whale, turtles, and more. There have been no signs of fishing nets, and fishing only in small 2 person dug-out canoes. We sure hope they keep their marine environment this way, it’s an amazing example of the way marine life is supposed to be without mankind totally exploiting it.

Razor-sharp rocks

Razor-sharp rocks

Later in the morning, we all went ashore. We asked the two young men to take Karen and Paul to see the cave, while Gina and I tried hiking the cliffs closest to the shoreline for some pictures. We discovered these cliffs are much more treacherous to walk. The limestone rock has been carved by wind and rain into razor sharp rocks and as we got higher they were everywhere. We had to be extra careful with every step and avoid using our hands even. We both found that even a tiny brush with a calf or ankle could result in cuts. Our guide picked a reasonable trail and occasionally he would pick up a rock and throw it on the sharp rocks to make a clear spot.

We were treated to some great views of both the anchorages and the tops of the cliffs. When we got to the very top, it was like we were on another planet. Vast areas of rock that did not look natural compared to normal mountains. We were glad we went, but we were not going to attempt to cross those fields of razors. I stopped and took two 360 panoramas which I’ll share later. But, here is a photo album showing photos from the sail to Nosy Hara, and lots of pictures of this strange, but beautiful, little island. Check it out:


View full-sized slideshow

After we all got back to the beach, we asked the two young men how they got water. They said they are waiting on rain. So, we offered to bring them water from our boats. I later brought several containers of water which they gladly accepted and thanked us.

We still had a couple of days of travel ahead of us to get to Nosy Be, so we left the next morning. Here is a map of our track to Nosy Hara from Diego Suarez.


View Rounding Cap d’Andre in a larger map

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