Africa · Madagascar · The Nomadic Life

Going Coastal in Mahajunga, Madagascar

People on the road to MahajungaOn the Road North…
One of the most incredible features of this country are the drastic transformations the landscape, culture, people, and everything undergo in just a few hundred kilometers. Driving north from Madagascar’s capital, the rolling highlands and boulder dotted landscape gradually give way to forests of palm trees, thatch-roofed huts, bursts of tropical vegetation, and eventually, beach. A few hours into the drive I stop seeing the Asian-featured Merina tribe of the highlands, bundled in sweaters and conservative dress. Instead the women walking next to the road casually drape themselves with loose-fitting lamba, or sarong-like pieces of cloth while their children run around naked or in nothing but their underwear. By the time we reach Mevatanana, it has become far too hot for anyone to wear much more than that. Fruits become more tropical, and at some point I notice the large grass-woven baskets of mangoes, coconuts, and bananas women are carrying on their heads and salivatingly begin to daydream of sipping coconut juice on the beach.

After twelve hours on a bus, we arrived in the muggy, coastal city of Mahajunga, greeted with a cityscape of mosques, a roundabout with one of the widest baobab trees in Madagascar, and a salty ocean breeze.

Petite Plage and Cirque Rouge
On our first morning, we took a taxi-be, or bus, (500 Ariary; 20 minutes) from outside the Hotel de Ville towards la petite plage to lounge around in the ocean. As soon as we arrived, we headed to a French-run restaurant on the beach for beers and freshly caught shrimp the size of my hand. While we waited for our food, a couple of children amused themselves by posing for photos for me and shrieking with laughter as they competed to see how ridiculous they could make their faces. After lunch, we hiked for far too long to see the cirque rouge. However exhausting, meandering around the towering, red rocks made the hours-long trek along the beach worth it.

Returning back from the Cirque Rouge, the two friends I had trailed off with and I re-discovered the rest of our group (who had given up on the walk to cirque rouge) splashing in the waves and making friends with yet another French restaurant owner. Totally unanxious to return to the bustle of Mahajunga’s city center, we hunkered down with a couple of frosty beers again and watched the sun set. From the wooden patio, we could spot groups of local fishermen pulling in their sailboats full of the day’s catch. Chickens and dogs roamed the beach as the fishermen worked, making the beach feel more like an extension of everyday life than an exotic getaway.

La Petite PlageLunch at La Petite PlageBig Shrimp at La Petite PlageChildren at La Petite PlageCirque RougeBringing in the evening's catchSunset on La Petite Plage
Fin.

140 thoughts on “Going Coastal in Mahajunga, Madagascar

    1. Madagascar is an amazing place – my plan is to return later this year. I go back to the southern part of the country again – visiting with my friends at alefamadagascar.wordpress.com

      (A couple of the shots on my site were taken in Madagascar – a couple of the beaches)

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  1. These pictures are just amazing! Your description of the transformation of the people along your route is incredible – I can hardly imagine that kind of diversity. Thanks for sharing.

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  2. Gorgeous photos. And those kids are so cute. I don’t eat seafood, but that food looks delicious and so fresh.

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  3. A Freshly Pressed that truly warmed my heart. How so? Those beautiful smiles on those children’s faces. Congrats on FP. Madagascar was a place that was on the list of places to go but closer to the bottom. It has moved up a few slots.
    -Sunny

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  4. Madagascar….a place I have dreamed of visiting. The photo of the two children and the one of the boot are my favorites…
    The shrimp looks delectable!!!
    Did you catch any photos of insects, birds, flora? If so, please share. Thanks a bunch!

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  5. Love the boat shots, and the photo of those kids is absolutely priceless. My dream is to go to Madagascar someday. Glad I found you in Freshly Pressed!

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  6. Beau-ti-ful! I love the pics of the kids. Isn’t it amazing how kids are the same no matter where they are? Great job.

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  7. I enjoyed your descriptions and photos–am going to visit Madagascar in a few weeks, so will have those images in my mind. Thanks! and congrats on being FP

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  8. You write well and are a good photographer. I am a world traveller and also a good travel writer and photographer. Maybe if you are ever in eastern Australia, we could meet up. my website is http://www.lifestylerenewal.com and have written a 700 page book in eight volumes called “Travel in a changing world”

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  9. This post looks and sounds incredible! My husband and I hope to travel to some of these destinations on service trips in the near future. This gives us a good idea of what different areas are like-Thank you!

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