Settling in, I was beginning to get a feel of Antananarivo, Madagascar - an island nation with a lot going for it. The streets are dusty and the taxis are a mix of American Chevrolet, Korean Hyundai and a lot more. Street hawkers dot the footpaths with nick knacks to sell. The roads are up and down, and hilly. The town is at an elevation and there is a lake in the town centre. It gives a real feel of a proud and colourful Africa, not the wealthiest but proud. In the night, everybody is watching the Euro Cup football and there were a loud cheering and roaring that erupted outside my room whenever someone scored a goal.
A small city just 160km south of Antananarivo on the RN7, I would argue that Antsirabe is Madagascar’s best urban gem (and this is even after visiting Mahajunga, Diego, Fort Dauphin, Tamatave, Fianaratsoa, and Antananarivo). In a country most visited for its national parks and wildlife, it’s easy to gloss over the cultural aspects of travel here. However, Antsirabe is a compact, and easy to reach city that has it all. Throughout the city are signs telling residents to keep streets clean and it seems like people actually listen. Sure, there’s a lot of room for improvement, but compared to most urban areas in Madagascar, Antsirabe is down right tidy. Most spots worth seeing are within walking distance of each other.
Diego Suarez, the northernmost city in Madagascar (known as Antsiranana in Malagasy) is a “small fishing village”, but tell someone from Diego that they are from a village and they’ll likely tell you off. Within Madagascar, it’s a hub of cosmopolitanism in the north. The city boasts a couple of night clubs, banks, a university, round the clock electricity (which says nothing of its reliability), and an airport. And then, there’s this semi-cryptic graffiti all over the place — a style of art I've always associated with urbanism.
Excited for the festivities ahead, we spent Christmas day on the beaches of Anakoa, Madagascar, where we were blessed to be able to give stationary to the kids and Valentino an Italian teacher on the Island, helped us to distribute it. The day was filled with adventure and exploring, not long and the Zodiacs were speeding us back to the ship where we had a fun night of eating, drinking and dancing with new friends.