Madagascar: The beginning. Nosy Be – Hell Ville, Ambondrona & Ambatoloaka

It was still dark. The plane was going lower and lower, the pressure was blocking my ears. „Just a few more minutes and we will be in Africa!” – I thought – „In Madagascar!”. In the country, that always seemed so far away and unreachable for me, that I’ve never even dreamed of going there. Such an exotic and unusual, nothing like what I’ve ever seen before. I couldn’t wait to touch it, to feel it, to experience it all! Lemurs, chameleons, baobabs. Couple more minutes and we touched the ground…

Picture by Pawel

Photos in that post are not mine – authors are stated under pictures – Pawel, Polish guy, who we met in Milan and Derek, who we met in Nosy Be.

Why? You can check what happened HERE – Madagascar, the bad story.

Welcome to Madagascar

The airport was tiny. We barely managed to fit inside the arrivals hall, which was only one, small room. Some people in the queue to the border control needed to wait outside, because there was no space for them. It was only 6 am, but the air was already hot and humid. One lonely fan fitted to the ceiling was slowly moving, trying hard to mix the thick air.

Nosy Be, Madagascar

We’ve arrived by charter flight from Milan, straight to the airport on the small island Nosy Be on the western shore of Madagascar. Nosy Be is one of the most popular beach destinations in Madagascar (now, slowly replaced by Ille Aux Nattes).

Most of the passengers were Italian, coming here in a search for beautiful beaches and luxury hotels, that were at a cost close to nothing for them.

Paulina and I were waiting at the end of the queue to the control. Pawel – Polish guy who we met during check-in at the Milan airport, was also with us. So far, we were the only Polish people around.

Map data 2019 AfriGIS (Pty) Ltd, Google

The Madagascar border control

Border control went smoothly – there was no need to have a photograph for the visa (despite the opposite information on the internet). However, what surprised us, was the payment of 25 euros for the entrance to the country. That law was apparently created in November 2015. We haven’t seen any information about it before, so we tried to check more details. Unfortunately, with our really poor French and the controllers’ lack of English, it wasn’t that easy. In the end, we just let it go, paid what we had to and crossed the borders.

The beginning of the adventure

The sun was just waking up, lighting up the airport road full of holes, with tall palm trees growing nearby, and all that dense and lively greenery around. We’ve exchanged some money in the barrack nearby – becoming the fastest millionaires in the world – Madagascan money is Malagasy Ariary, that usually comes in thousands. 1 euro=3500 Malagasy Ariary, so quite often you end up having a lot of those thousands.

Malagasy ariary
1000 Ariary (5 000 francs) – it’s hard to calculate those thousands and sometimes people are still using Francs as the indication of prices, which makes things even more complicated

We got into the groggy car, that was the local taxi, which we hoped would take us to town. We drove through the empty roads, passing by huts made from palm tree leaves and colourfully dressed people sitting in front of them. The jungle was evaporating and belching clouds of steam. I put my hand through the window to feel the air and trying to touch a bit of the Madagascan world.

IMG_20160613_112221Colorful car in Hell Ville. Photo by Derek
207 Pawilon handlowy w Hell Ville
Shop in Hell Ville, photo by Pawel

Hell Ville and the first day in Nosy Be

After around 20 minutes, we arrived in town – Hell Ville.

Despite the early time, the streets were full of people. Children were running around, women were selling sliced baguettes. That French type of bread was still remaining as a sign of the French occupancy, that had its end in 1960. Everyone was sitting on the street, eating and drinking coffee freshly brewed on the pavement.

The sun was shining stronger and stronger, so after the short walk along the main street (still with our bags on!), we went to the market to buy some fruits, water, and rum. Rum was really cheap and tasted quite well (I would even say – very well ;)). They say that alcohol is the best to kill bacteria, and it helps to prevent food poisoning when travelling. We decided to follow that rule from the very beginning and putting the rum to everything we ate or drank. We haven’t had any food problems even once, and as a bonus, we were all the time in a good mood 😉

IMG_20160613_105008Hell Ville. Photo by Derek.

Window and a tent in the room

It was still early morning, so just after the hostel reception was open – we went to our room. We were not really sure what that place was, but we met one French guy inside, who spoke English, so we stayed.

Accommodation cost 15000AR for the room with the „view” and a window (there were cheaper ones, but with… no windows).

The room looked… interesting. In the middle, there was a double bed, with no mosquito net, only the dusty fan hanging above it from the ceiling. Just behind the bed, there was a window with the wooden shutters, that had more holes than wood. We also had a big „sofa”, but instead of being made from soft material, it was carved from the wall or made from the stone. The bathroom was located in the small niche in the back of the room and consisted of the sink with only cold water tap and two holes – the left one was for shower (complete with the bucket for water) and the right one was a toilet (where you would need to use bucket of water as well).

In the evening in the room, there were so many mosquitoes (and something black under the bed), so we decided that we will feel much safer sleeping in our tent. Therefore, we pitched the tent on the hostel bed. Camping level pro (he he)! I would show you a picture if I had it (no photos?). But you can imagine the state of the room… It was our worst accommodation in the whole trip, though, all the other ones were much better (with the wild camping included).

The town didn’t impress me that at all – too crowded and chaotic, especially in the centre where rickshaws, cars, cows and people were becoming one, big and loud mass – well, matching to the name “hell ville” he he.

Hell Ville. Photo by Derek
Police station, photo by Derek
Nosy Be beach, photo by Derek

Ambondrona and Ambatoloaka

Beach Ambondrona, located not too far away from Hell-Ville, (we got there by tuk-tuk), was empty and quiet. There were coconut trees by the water and the sea had a perfect temperature. That was exactly what we needed after the long flight and rainy day at Milan airport.

We also checked if hitch-hiking is working on the island – without any problem and in the nice company,  from the Ambondrona beach we went to Ambatoloaka – one of the most famous coast resorts in Nosy Be. There, in one of the beach bars, we found wifi (internet is still really limited in Madagascar and it’s hard to find it even in restaurants or hotels – only in the more expensive ones). Drinking Pinacolada, we were watching the sun going down into the Indian Ocean.

When we arrived back to the hostel, it was already dark, however, still early – the sunsets in Madagascar are usually around 6 pm. Soon, quite tired, we went to sleep (in our tent on the bed construction ;)).

The next day we were going by boat to the main Madagascar island to experience some of the real Malagasy life and to see more amazing nature.

Ambatoloka beach Madagascar
The only picture taken by me with my phone that was later stolen. Chilling out on the beach with Pinacolada
Hell Ville port, photo by Pawel
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Nosy be island Madagascar


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4 thoughts on “Madagascar: The beginning. Nosy Be – Hell Ville, Ambondrona & Ambatoloaka

    1. Czesc!
      Twoja historia mnie szczerze zainteresowala, bowiem w przyszlym roku rowniez wybieram sie na Madagaskar ? Zamierzam zwiedzac przez miesiac i wynajmowac pokoje airbnb w roznych lokalizacjach. Czy znalazlabym cos “od reki” zamiast korzystac z aplikacji (oczywiscie w nieco lepszym standardzie niz Wasze 1 zakwaterowanie) ? Czy polecasz jakas konkretna firme wynajmujaca samochody lub przewodnika?


      1. Myślę, że z pewnością znajdziesz nocleg na miejscu, ale pewnie przez aplikację łatwiej – przynajmniej zna się standard i opinie gości. Zazdroszczę miesiąca na Madagaskarze, ja bym się chętnie wróciła!
        My nie wynajmowałyśmy auta, tylko jeździłyśmy lokalnym transportem, a przewodników brałyśmy lokalnie przy parkach narodowych (są obowiązkowi).

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