Africa

Belo sur mer; where the sail ships come home

It’s been a year almost since we were in Belo sur mer,winding down in a beautiful setting after a week of solid road tripping. Belo-sur-mer reminded me a lot of Mozambique. Maybe it was knowing that if we climbed into a pirogue and sailed directly West, we’d sail into the Beira harbour. Though Belo-sur-mer beats Beira any day!

Belo-sur-mer

We stayed at the Hotel Entremer, owned by the brilliant, chef extraordinaire French lady Laurence! This lady can cook up a storm. And when you’ve been living on baguettes and jam for a few days, Laurence’s French home-style cooking was such a treat. Having been a chef many years ago, I can appreciate the effort Laurence puts into the meals as Belo-sur-mer is a very long way away from a grocery store! It’s no surprise that seafood is Laurence’s speciality – with the daily local catch from octopus to barracuda featuring on the menu most days. Though on one of our nights, we were treated to a Wild Boar Stew with Madagascan Peppercorns and ginger. I was in food heaven!

 

Slide Show of Hotel Entremer

 

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Sailing a pirogue (7)We quickly established our holiday routine of activities and exploring during the day, followed by sundowners on the deck, dinner and a chat with the knowledgeable Laurence or an after dinner toot while listening to the soothing and rhythmic sound of the ocean lapping at the shore. There are a number of activities that you can do at Belo-sur-mer other than exploring the ship-building village. A picnic on a coral island, a trip to the mangrove swamps to see the flying foxes and birdlife, a massage on the deck, snorkelling and pirogue trips to Menaky bay. In the few days that we were there, we decided to take a pirogue out to the coral islands – a 2 -3 hour trip, depending on the winds. Laurence packed us a hearty picnic and we set off in the morning, sailing into the horizon.  My husband who loves to drop a line whenever possible, bought my son’s mini-sized fishing rod a long with a few lures! He gave a few lures to our crew and before we knew it, we had 4 Bonita fish on board. Our Malagasy crew were delighted with the lures because the lures that they use do not catch Bonita fish. But the excitement came to an abrupt end when my husband posed for the camera with his prize-sized fish and it slipped through his hands back into the depths of the ocean! They were not impressed, letting a fish of that size go for a photo! The worst kind of mistake in the eyes of these fishermen! But their smiles quickly returned when they were given the lures to keep!

Sailing a pirogue (2)

Sailing a pirogue (5)

The white sandy coral islands are surrounded by turquoise blue water. We felt like castaways, sitting beneath the sail of our pirogue as the midday sun beat down. We snorkelled and swam in the waves with the changing tides and walked the rim of the island. We weren’t alone. The island is used by the local fishermen, some of them sleeping there instead of returning home. It cost 45 000 ariary’s per adult to step onto the island and 25 000 per child. We did think the price to visit the island was pretty expensive considering it’s an unprotected area.  The snorkeling was a little disappointing too. In 2008, a cyclone ripped through this part of Madagascar, destroying much of the coral reefs in this area. But we loved our trip nevertheless. The pirogue experience is a must. It cost us 120 000 ariary’s and included a hearty picnic lunch that was organised by Hotel Entremer.

Slideshow of our trip on a pirogue to a Coral Island near Belo sur mer

 

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We had a few reasons to visit Belo-sur-mer. Firstly, we loved that it is remote and that they build sailing ships. We loved that it is rustic and that we’d get a taste of real Madagascar. We loved that it is quiet and not a booming tourist hot spot. But it was only once we were there that we could know about the sunset. Hotel Entremer is situated on the beach unlike the other hotels and accommodation that are positioned on the lagoon near the village. It looks west onto the Mozambican channel and is perfectly positioned for a phenomenal sunset.

Sea traffic

In the late afternoon, we’d lie back on the deck chairs with a cold beer in hand and wait for nature’s final show, the golden hour. In the sun’s final moments of glory, just before she’d be swallowed whole by the ocean, she’d boldly paint the sky with streaks of red, purple and orange. Then from nowhere, emerged the silhouette of a sailing ship – a ship with 3 sails powering into the foreground, with flames of red behind it and men leaning forward into the wind. This is a Belo-sur-mer sunset, one of the best! And my favourite experience at Hotel Entremer.

Schooner (2)

Belo-sur-mer sunset

Belo-sur-mer sunset

 

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