Solace left at the crack of dawn from Mitsio. Since Tahina is a bit faster Karen was able to get a bit more sleep. I am always an early riser usually up before dawn. So, I was able to do some blogging and after dawn I put on some snorkel gear and dove under Tahina to clean our props to improve our speeds if we ended up motoring. There was no wind in the bay in the early hours, and we had noticed a sea breeze usually builds in the afternoon. Otherwise, the weather was delightful with sunny skies and temperature very comfortable.
We left about 90 minutes after sunrise and motored out of the bay and started south. Along the way we saw many schools of fish jumping, sometimes with sea birds flying. We ended up motoring most of the way to the north side of Nosy Be. Our destination was an island just west of Nosy Be called Sakatia.
As we were going over some shoals northwest of Nosy Be, I noticed a couple of small fisherman in dug-out canoes. We were going between the two, so I was watching them at the helm. I was about to wave to the closest one when I suddenly noticed a large brown object just in front of us only a foot or two below the surface! We were still motoring and I had no time to alter our course, so I grabbed the throttle and move it to neutral. My first thought was that it was a large net, then I thought it was a whale! I cringed expecting a loud bang if our keels hit it. But, nothing happened! Whew! I ran around looking and there was no sign of it. It must have been a sea creature. That’s when it dawned on me that a large brown object big enough to go under both our bows (25 feet apart), just might have been a whale shark!I called Solace on the radio, who were behind us now, and told them to keep an eye out for whale sharks. I told them we almost hit one. At this point, the wind started picking up and we raised our sails. We had not gone far, when I suddenly spotted another one and this time it was clearly a whale shark! Not a minute later I spotted a third one! Wow! I was tempted to stop the boat, drop the sails, and just watch them. But, I rationalized we might have another chance as it was only a short distance from Nosy Be. The photo is not good, but you can definitely see we captured a photo of a whaleshark.
We were soon arriving at Sakatia which is less than a km from the west side of Nosy Be. There is a nice anchorage there, and a South African couple lives on the island managing a small resort. The couple, Des and Nell, are long time sailing cruisers who gladly provide advice to cruisers arriving about both Madagascar and South Africa. They used to run a popular radio network to help cruisers with the passages to Madagascar and South Africa.
We visited Des and Nell the next day and they gave us a bunch of advice. They also let us know we would need to go to the port office and pay harbor fees and get a cruising permit for the area. The main town on Nosy Be is called Hellville. Nell called us a taxi driver they use and he agreed to pick us up on the beach on Nosy Be close to our boats.The next day, we met the driver near the beach and enjoyed the bumpy drive through Nosy Be to Hellville, which took about 30 to 45 minutes. Along the way we saw a couple of village towns, and lots of interesting locals. There were both traditional African style clothing as well as more modern clothing styles. The town was flooded with a lot of people most of which were walking, but a few cars, motorbikes, and wood carts with Zebu (a local ox) pulling them.
When we finally got to Hellville, it was more of the same except on a larger scale. The driver took us to an ATM first (so we could pay our fees) and then to the harbor. We spent an hour or so getting the paperwork done and paying our fees.
We didn’t plan to do a lot of sightseeing on this day, so we drove back out of town. We did stop at a “new” supermarket outside town to freshen up our provisions. Although, we were disappointed the food stocks were less useful than the supermarket we visited in Diego Suarez.
Back in Sakatia, s/v Mystic arrived and that night we all went ashore for sundowners with Des and Nell again. We also heard some other boats arriving from the Seychelles were on their way arriving within the next couple of days.
We decided to move down to the popular anchorage called Crater Bay off Nosy Be. There we would be closer to Hellville and could organize some sightseeing. We left and sailed the whole way in light winds.
Here are some photos of Sakatia including a photo Solace took of a local wooden sailboat sailing past Tahina at anchor.
View full-sized slideshow
There will be more about Hellville and Nosy Be in upcoming posts. Below is a map showing our location at Sakatia.