Madagascar: Lagoon life at Belo-sur-mer

The trouble with a road trip is that it’s a taster or an overview of an area. I like to stop at some point, if possible. Hang around a bit, explore and observe the way of life. We stopped at Belo-sur-mer; a remote fishing village on the West coast of Madagascar, well known as the schooner sailing ship building centre.

Our 3 hour speed boat trip to Belo-sur-mer was like travelling in a time capsule; the busy bay of Morondava faded into nothing as we sped on into another time of long, long ago.

The turquoise water lapped at the hull and porters knee-deep in water, carried our belongings to the shore. I was instantly thrust back into another era – of sailing ships and explorers, nets and anchors and unknown tribes with their own way of life.


Malagasy woman (2)

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”
― Augustine of Hippo


The fishing village of Belo-sur-mer is on the edge of a lagoon. Life seems to solely revolve around the changing tides with boats either coming in or going out. Great big schooners lie stranded by the tides, like beached whales and children race handmade toy boats in preparation for a life on the seas.

Boat race


And then as they get older, so their boats get bigger…

And then one day, they get to sail one of these…


“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”
― Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky

Perfect line up

Belo-sur-mer is not a resort-type of experience. Laurence, our host at the Hotel Entremer, made us feel incredibly welcome and fed us sumptuous French seafood meals fit for a king and queen. We got 5 star service but nothing about it was like a big, blinged up resort.

So why did we choose Belo-sur-mer as our final destination? First and most importantly, because it is not a resort town! For me, the ultimate destination is remote, is real and non-commercial. I want to feel like I know the place a lot better when I leave it. I want to see every day life and I want to be whisked into another world, one that is completely different to mine. I want to see how differently we live our lives.

Netting (2)

Fish woman


“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
― Marcel Proust


When fish is your staple diet…

“But that’s the glory of foreign travel, as far as I am concerned. I don’t want to know what people are talking about. I can’t think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything. Suddenly you are five years old again. You can’t read anything, you have only the most rudimentary sense of how things work, you can’t even reliably cross a street without endangering your life. Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses.”
― Bill Bryson, Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe

Malagasy woman

Belo-sur-mer villager


“Never did the world make a queen of a girl who hides in houses and dreams without traveling.”
― Roman Payne, The Wanderess

Malagasy canoeistBelo-sur-mer

Everything about Belo-sur-mer makes me think of my favourite quote by Mark Twain. “Throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Coming soon…Where to stay in Belo-sur-mer, our pirogue trip to a coral island and how to make a sailing ship.


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