Andranokoditra. The Orchid Ecolodge and Vohibola Forest.

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On my first visit to Madagascar I spent time in the Andranokoditra fishing village on Lake Ampitabe, which I accessed from Hotel Palmarium.

Both out of intrigue and a desperate desire to offer a glimpse into what I consider to be real Madagasy East Coast living. And how they are living and hosting and facing their challenges with pride. I took a tour with one of the residents for a look at the church, school, NGO projects and accommodation facilities. I can think of nowhere better to spend a couple of nights than their Ecolodge on the water’s edge and hope to do so on my return visit.

I was there on a Saturday, which meant most of the residents were watching the football game. The Palmarium Hotel had a team against the Andranokoditra team – and we won 8-1! One of the French NGOs that do work in the area has installed five water pumps, demonstrated here by my guide. I cannot think of a greater gift than fresh water. Evident in the lack of plastic bottles and clean living.

There is – Ecolodge “Orchids” if you would like to stay in the village. A restaurant, four double bungalows and a family unit that sleeps four. Each is equipped with a mosquito net, a bathroom with a shower and a solar panel for electricity. Mornings are about a local breakfast of doughnuts and omelettes with tea or coffee. It’s a cute place. Perhaps with a group as language is a challenge. On the coastline, a reminder of what happens when a cyclone hits. During the heart of cyclone season, most of the residents vacate their homes for safer ground.

There is an education centre where many French students spend their gap period, working specifically in the Vohibola Forest which is part of MATE (Man and the Environment). The forest stretches 9km northwards from lake Ampitabe and is being developed for tourism. This is one of the last remaining fragments of littoral forests in Madagascar with a number of critically endangered trees. Some that hadn’t been seen in over 50 years and were considered extinct. Now rediscovered and protected. Vohibola has an extensive nursery and you can actually opt for a hands-on experience and plant an indigenous tree in support of their reforestation program. This map was up in the lecture room, with a clear ’You are Here’ marker! Over and above that there are projects in the making to propagate orchids, distil essential oils and educate against deforestation.

How to get to Andranokoditra – and yes, you should.

By boat: the Ankanin’nofy hotels and Manambato offer speedboat transfers (Tamatave 3h and Manambato 1h). The boatmen of the river port of Toamasina and Manambato offer transfers by pirogue. (Tamatave 4:30h and Manambato 2h). By train: from Tamatave or Moramanga Foot and Bike: If you’re on a bike or on foot, from Savahalena (RN2), an easy 4 hours walk to Andranokoditra.

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