2004 - Bamboo Club, Madagascar.
Madagascar for a "sharkfin" eclipse at sunset. Morombe, where we went
the last time had been devastated by typhoon Gafilo in March and for
all intents and purposes needs to be rebuilt from scratch. Our thoughts
go out to the people there and the other areas further to the North
East devastated by this particularly violent storm. The only good news
heard about this event was the amount of foreign aid which began
arriving within 24 hrs of the storm. It seems that the new Madagascar
president has attracted the interest of the international community in
a big way with aid coming from The EU, USA, Canada, Japan and South
Africa to name but a few. The South Africans provided aircraft to get
the emergency supplies into the affected areas as quick as possible.
Well done to all the countries worldwide who chipped in to help our
On this trip we flew into Tulear from
Antananarivo and saved ourselves a week long drive. We stayed
at the Bamboo Club in Ifaty (surprise,surprise!) and experienced what I
can only describe as the loneliest eclipse so far. Only four of us made
the trip, myself, John Bateson, Liam Staunton and Mary Rogers. We were
on our own for the first week with no guides or translators to help us
out but nevertheless we managed perfectly well and had a great
time in the excessive heat. It was 32 degrees centigrade in the shade
most days and everything we had heard before about Malagasy mossies
proved true. They do bite through clothes and are vicious to boot.
As usual these days for our eclipse trips it was cloudy at sunset on
Monday April 19th after two stunning cloud free green flash sunsets the
previous two days. What is it about solar eclipses that they seem to
generate cloud or is it just a coincidence. Every other sunset on our 3
week trip was cloud free bar that one really important day.
Anyway we pressed ahead with our preparations.
We had two digital cameras and two standard 35mm SLR'S with 500mm
lenses along and hoped to capture something on film. I decided to
photograph this eclipse, the first time I have ever attempted to do so.
This proved a much more difficult task than I had anticipated. With the
sun only partially eclipsed at sunset it was for all intents and
purposes still shining at full strength. The digital cameras found it
difficult to cope with the glare and out of my quick fire roll of 36
exposures through gaps in the cloud I only managed to capture the event
properly in four shots.( On my old trusty Praktica would you believe).
Ah well you live and you learn. Now I know why I do not bother to
photograph total solar eclipses and prefer to to sit back and enjoy
them with the naked eye.
Highlights of this trip.
1. The eclipse.
2. The family of Grey Mouse Lemurs who lived in the roof of our chalet
at the Bamboo Club. Where else but Madagascar would you get such
3. Comet 2001Q4 Neat. Not as bright as predicted but still nice and our
constant companion every night of the trip.
4. Comet 2002T7 Linear. Equally unspectacular and difficult to view in
the early morning sky. Still, viewing two new comets in the space of a
week is not bad and probably will not be repeated by me again.
5. The riveting boat trip down the Tsiribihina river in the second
week and the hospitality of the boat crew.
6. Kirindy Forest where the wildlife comes at you with such regularity
that it was difficult to keep track of what we were seeing.
7. "George" the Fulvous Lemur in Morondava who really did not care for
people at all. Just wandered around growling at anyone who bothered
him. Good on you George!
8. The stunning flight from Morondava back to Antananarivo. Low and
slow over the Tsiribihina river which we had traveled down the previous
week. Bravo Air Madagascar! I am still smiling at the fact that when I
presented my flight ticket at the airport I was presented at the
check-in desk with a bottle of Coke and a fish roll for lunch on board
the plane. It didn't matter to me if flights were canceled at the last
minute and never left on time. Its all part of the experience!
9. The Lunar eclipse we watched from the wonderful nature reserve in
the mountains at Anjozorobe.
10. Antananarivo itself. The city has undergone a dramatic change for
the better in the few years since we were last there. Now its a vibrant
capital city buzzing with productivity and resourcefulness. Well done
Marc Ravalomanana and the Malagasy people.
11. Another flight from Antananarivo to Tulear via Tolagnaro. The
"handbrake turn" over the sea in a Boeing 737 to make it onto the
airfield at Tolagnaro was just astonishing. We actually saw the
airfield out the right hand side window and commented "That cannot be
our airfield because we have just passed it". Boy were we wrong. The
pilot just dipped the right wing, did a stomach churning turn and
dropped us down onto the runway in a perfect landing. Then we were all
told we could go for a walk and stretch our legs before traveling onto
Tulear. We needed the break in the fresh air to recover our composure!
12. Last but not least the irreplaceable Hoby, our faithful guide, and
her transfer off the boat in the Tsiribihina. It involved a 20min. walk
in the midday sun, a small boat trip across a flooded plain, then
a transfer to a zebu cart to be brought through a rice paddy and
then dropped off beside a modern Toyota Landcruiser. These Malagasy
are just a wonder to behold. They do not have the word "cannot" in
their vocabulary. They always manage to get you from A to B safely. We
will be back.
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A personal view by Brian
Copyright © 2004