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Madagascar - Clearance & Cruising Information

By SY YOLO — last modified Sep 23, 2016 09:58 PM
The following port clearance and cruising information is provided by Jason Trautz of SY YOLO - to help sailors visiting Madagascar. This information is based on two U.S.A. citizens on the 42 foot catamaran with no pets.

Published: 2015-11-16 00:00:00
Countries: Madagascar

DATES OF VISIT AND CLEARANCE PORTS

ARRIVAL DAY/ DATE: Wednesday, September 2, 2015

ARRIVAL PORT: Ambodifototra, Ile Sainte-Marie, Madagascar

DEPARTURE DAY/DATE: Friday, October 2, 2015

DEPARTURE PORT: Hellville, Nosy Be, Madagascar*

* I cleared out at this port and slowly made my way down the northern coast of Madagascar during a thirty day period. Departed Baie De Boeny, 16.04 S and 045.18 E, on October 27, 2015.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to Africa! Cruisers tend to love their visit to Madagascar, I sure did. With their Indian Ocean crossing nearly complete, some cruisers cut short their visit to this huge island nation. Like visiting the Maldives, try to avoid rushing through the Madagascar paradise, there is a lot to see and do.

Most Madagascar cities, bays, beaches, etc. go by various names. Is it Nossibe, Nosi Be, or Nozy Bee? The locals often clip short the name of things, which adds to the confusion for visitors. For example, the capital city of Antananarivo is often called Tana. You say tomatoe, and I say tomato. I'll try to stick to the Navionics spellings, despite some of the nouns being so long that they create writer's cramp.

PASSAGES TO MADAGASCAR

I left Reunion with a full moon and 15 knot trade winds from the east southeast. The current and waves/swells (2 meters high) were running before the advancing moon and winds. My 400 nm passage was done wing-on-wing on a heading of 306 degrees true. YOLO appeared to be on aquatic rails, crossing water truly doesn't get better than this. After 72 hours of sailing with no sail trimming required, I arrived in Madagascar with a huge smile on my face.

Note: Reunion's mountains exceed 3,000 meters high and they block the trade winds. At times the grib files show a Reunion wind shadow of over 200 nm! To avoid the wind shadow and speed yourself along to Madagascar, leave Le Port, Reunion and motor directly north until you find the trade winds which tend to come from the southeast. The wind and current along the east coast of Madagascar tends to run north, and the winds often get light about 50 miles from the coast of Ile Sainte Marie. Plan for the set, drift, and winds accordingly.

NAVIGATION

My Navionics and C-Map electronic charts were pretty accurate at some locations and way off at others. I did observe large islands which did NOT appear on my charts and I saw shallow reefs on my charts which I could never locate. Most waters are dirty/cloudy, which results in limited visibility, so travel with caution. My Navionics charts were more accurate than my C-Map charts.

Consider the navigational information noted below as suggestions, and rely on your own sailing skills for accuracy and safety.

PORTS-OF-CALL

For practical purposes there are only three ports-of-call when running with the trade winds:

1. On the east coast of Madagascar there is the the large island of Ile Sainte Marie. The port of Ambodifototra is located on the sheltered southwest side of the island at approximately 17.00.0 South and 049.50.6 East, I anchored in 8.5 meters with good holding just outside the two harbor entries.

2. Inside a huge bay near the northern tip of Madagascar is the city of Antsiranana, which is also called Diego Suarez. The entrance to the bay is at 12.13.7 South and 049.22.3 East. Some sailors avoided this bay and the related city for two reasons:

A. In September 2015 while at anchor in the commercial harbour area west of the city a dinghy and outboard was stolen from a yacht during the night. The dinghy was in the water and it was locked to the yacht with a large lock and cable. The cable was cut by the thief. Within a few hours of the theft, a small rib with young Navy personnel approached the yacht with the stolen dinghy in tow. The outboard had been removed and was nowhere to be seen. The Navy guys initially requested 100,000 Ar ($30 USD) for the purchase of the dinghy that they "found." The yacht owners eventually purchased their dinghy back for $15 USD and suspect that the Navy guys could be part of the theft ring.

B. It is easy to enter the large bay through it's eastern channel, but like Hotel California, it is can be very hard to leave. The current, wind, and waves galloping like horses into the bay will test most sailors upon exiting the bay. If you can pick your weather window a difficult departure from the bay can be avoided. On the positive side, some tourist have stated that they extended their tourist visas for free at this port.

3. Near the northwest corner of Madagascar is Nosy Be (Island Big) and the city of D'Hellville (Hellville), which is near 13.24.6 South and 048.17.0 East.

Your prior port-of-call and passage weather usually dictates which of the above locations is your first Madagascar port-of-call.

As normal, approach your initial port with your yellow Q flag flying.

If you call the "Madagascar Coast Guard" or "Port Control" on your VHF radio, you will be wasting your time. According to the officer in charge of the Ile Sainte Marie station they do NOT have a functional VHF radio. There is no harbor master or port control station at Ambodifototra. Technically, the Madagascar Coast Guard is locally known as "Marine Malagasy." The Hellville governmentals also lack VHF radios, fuel, and functional boats.

NIGHT TIME APPROACH

I approached Ile Sainte Marie and anchored at Amdodifotora in the night, like many others, with no problems.

If you are approaching Sainte Marie at night you might see a few fishing boats. They have lights on while fishing, or will turn them on if you are heading their way. The next day I did NOT observe any net fishing in this area or floats attached to buoys. The ferries that run back and forth to the mainland use navigation lights at night.

AGENTS

You are NOT required to have a shipping agent when clearing into and out of Madagascar.

VISA AND BONDS

Most visitors do NOT need a visa in advance for visiting Madagascar. All visitors by boat or plane get a "GRATIS" (free) tourist visa stamped in their passport for their first 30 day visit. If you want to visit Madagascar for longer than 30 days, but less than 91 days, you must get a VISA prior to arrival OR ask for an extension of your original tourist visa while in Madagascar.

According to the Director Of Madagascar Tourism, Immigration (which the local Police fulfills the role for) should charge you 140,000 Ariary ($42 USD) per person for extending your visa for 31 to 90 days. Some yachties get their visas extended in Diego Suarez or Nosy Be. Visa extensions can NOT be done at Ile Sainte Marie.

You can purchase a 90 day VISA prior to arrival. This is often done in Mauritius at the Madagascar Embassy. The charge for this service is around $73 USD. Net, net, if you are on a tight budget and will be staying in Madagascar for greater than 30 days, get 30 days free and pay for the extension in Madagascar. Or, do like many cruisers, ignore the cost and hassle associated with purchasing a 90 day visa prior to arrival. Instead, get the free 30 tourist visa upon arrival at Madagascar, after visiting Madagascar for 29 days clear-out, and then slowly make your way down the coast to your next official port-of-call. Getting a visa extension in Hellville could take from 3 days to 2 weeks (they send your passport to Diego Suarez for the processing, so make sure you allow time if you intend to extend).

AMBODIFOTOTRA (Ile Sainte Marie)

Ambodifototra is basically a small one road town, spread out along the coast, and the homes/businesses do not have street addresses. Most yachts anchor in the bay, just north and west of Ile Digue Madame. To get your bearing on where you need to go to clear-in, stand outside your vessel and look east and I will describe where things are located, starting at the north end of the city and working southward.

1. Two cell towers and yellow hotel trimmed in brown: Across the street from the hotel is the Telma store where you can get cell phone and/or Internet service. A block east of Telma is the Madagascar Airline office. A block further south is the pharmacy.

2. Further south is a rock breakwater area which protects the Ferry Harbour, which is in continuously use 24/7. The entrance to the harbour is marked with red and green blocks of concrete, which have flashing lights at night. When entering the harbour at night in your dinghy leave the red flashing light to port. Boats entering the Ferry Harbour should stick to the southern side of the entrance because of the shallow water (coral heads) on the northern side of the entrance. The entrance is rather shallow and I have observed grounded ferries in this area. This area of the city has the town square, trash bins, banks, tourist information center, bakery, hardware stores, petrol station, police station, and markets.

3. Look further south and you will see the oldest church in Madagascar, and a causeway running south to Digue Madame Island, which is the home of the Fisherman's Harbour, fish processing plant, Coast Guard station, and Customs. At night at the north end of the Digue Madame Island you will see a flashing green light. This guides the fishing boats to the fish processing plant at night.

You can dinghy to both the Ferry Harbour and Digue Madame Fisherman Harbour areas.

Getting Ashore - Dinghy Docks

Ferry Harbour: Tie the bow of your dinghy to the small wooden dock near the southeasts corner of the harbour. The dock has a tin roof which usually covers the heads of a bunch of guys playing cards. Use a stern anchor or tie off to one of the adjacent small local boats. If you only tie off the bow of your dinghy it will surely slip under the dock and get crushed with the rising tide.

Fisherman's Harbour: In the southwest corner of the harbour you will see a washed out and broken down seawall. Tie off where ever you can. Do NOT use the nice seawall on the west side of the harbour, which belongs to the fish processing plant. If you you the fish processing plant wharf, the security guard will make you leave.

Use both dinghy docks for free. I've never seen anyone lock their dinghy in this small community.

CLEARING-IN PROCEDURE

Ambodifototra Clearance: The local officials aren't in any rush to start or finish the clearance procedures, and the order of events is totally flexible. I've described the order of events which will save you time and money. Before proceeding make sure you have:

1. Passports.

2. Two copies of your exit papers from your last port-of-call.

3. Two copies of your ship's registration papers.

4. ATM card, preferably a card that can be used on the VISA network

Order of Business:

1. ATM: After 0800 dinghy into the Ferry Harbour. Go to one of the two banks/ATMs near the dinghy dock and withdrawal a minimum of 120,000 Ariary. See the "Banks and Currency" section for the restrictions and further details.

2. Photocopy Shop: This stop is only needed if you do not have two copies of your exit papers from your last port-of-call. The photocopy shop in Ambodifototra is on the east side of the main road about 50 meters north of the Money Maker grocery store (on northeast corner of the harbour). The sign in front of the small shop reads Location Motor - Franc Cyber. 200 Ar per page is a good negotiated price.

3. Police: The Police act as Immigration, and the officers speak very little English. This is true throughout Madagascar. Give them your passports. They will grab a fist full of rubber stamps and cover an entire page with six different imprints. By law, you are permitted to visit Madagascar for 30 days at NO CHARGE (FREE). The police officer will want one copy of your ship's registration papers, which he files without review.

4. Customs: Dinghy a short distance to the south to Digue Madame Island, or walk across the causeway, or take a tuk-tuk for 4,000 Ariary ($1 USD). Ask anyone on Digue Madame Island where the Customs office is, and they will take you there. If the office is closed, a local will get the officer who lives a 100 meters away. The officer, Babilas, speaks very basic English and excellent French. He is a short rotund fellow, who has a longitude nearly equal to his latitude. I affectionately call him The Great Illusionist. The name of his assistant is Bruno.

The officer will ask for two copies of your exit papers from your last port. He does NOT review the exit papers at all. He will stamp and initial one copy and hand it back to you. You will pay him for his services and upon request his assistant will give you a receipt for the payment. He will retain one copy of your exit papers from your last port.

NOTE: I've not made an error here, Customs will not generate ANY paperwork showing that you have legally entered the country. A stamp on your last port-of-call exit papers (from another country) is all you get. If you plan on stopping at other Malagasy ports, you will have to have a copy of the paper stamped by Customs. This is certainly a unique way of saving trees and time, is probably one of the indicators of the small amount of money spent on government office supplies, and it certainly cuts down on ledger and filing time! I agree with the practice.

Make sure you leave the Customs office with the stamped last port-of-call exit papers for YOUR BOAT. The Customs official has no filing cabinet and sits at a littered desk. In one case a yacht owner was given the exit papers for a different yacht, and he did not realize the Customs official's error until he was well on down the road! Wow, a cruiser without proof of entering the country legally.

5. Coast Guard (Marine Malagasy): The Coast Guard office is across the street from Customs. Ask the Customs official to point to the correct door in the nearby building, which will probably be locked. Any local will fetch the Coast Guard official, Edouard Jean Baptiste, if he is not in his office. Edouard, who speaks English and French, will look at your passport and ship's paper and complete a Formularaire De Visite form. He will have you review the completed form for accuracy and have you sign it. Pay the officer for his services and get a receipt upon request. You will leave this office with no paperwork. Edouard's assistant is Landry.

Now you can raise your Madagascar flag, with the red section on top. Welcome to Africa!

YACHT INSPECTION

Not a single yacht was inspected at Ambodifototra, on Ile Sainte Marie Island while I visited. How could they, that would require a functional Coast Guard vessel? There are 18 coast guard men stationed at Ile Sainte Marie. Their station has two gray motor vessels. One is on-the-hard at a mainland port being repaired. The other is broken and moored near Ile Digue Madame. A Coast Guard fee is supposedly paid to inspect your vessel for guns, ammo, spearguns, etc. Nobody at the station knows when or if their VHF radio will be repaired or replaced.

The comments in the above paragraph also applies to Hellville.

CLEARING-OUT PROCEDURE

If you clear out at Hellville, Nosy Be, you first go to the Port Captain's office and complete a Maritime Clearance Form/Bon De Partance ou Passeport. After you make payment the form is stamped and you are issued a payment receipt.

Next you visit the Police/Immigration office which is located on the ferry wharf. The police officer will ask you a few questions and stamp your passports for exiting the country. He will also ask you for two copies of your crew's list, which he stamps. He retains one copy of your crew's list and you must return to the Port Captain's office with the other stamped crew list.

GIFTS, PAYOFFS, CONSIDERATIONS, BRIBES, ETC.

It has been about 7 years since I was last in Africa, and it appears that governmental monetary mismanagement (corruption) continues to thrive. I can find no evidence that a yacht and its crew visiting Madagascar for 30 days or less is required to legally pay ANY fees other than 35,000 Ar ($9 USD) for your exit paper (Maritime Clearance). If you are staying greater than 30 days and less than 91 days, the only fee you should pay is 140,000 ($42 USD) per person for an extended tourist visa. Consider this statement to be one end of the monetary slide-rule.

At the other end of the monetary slide-rule are the corrupt governmental officials who often project the image that fees are set in stone and are to be paid pronto upon arrival and departure. Given the dichotomy of the two extremes, it is up to each yacht captain to pay clearance fees, if any, as he sees fit. The amount he pays will be determined by several factors: 1. The thickness of your wallet. 2. The generosity of your heart. 3. Your negotiation skills. 4. Your sense of doing what is right in terms of setting a fair precedent for cruisers who will follow in his wake. Personally, I deplore captains who hand over piles of money to corrupt government officials, which only encourages their corrupt behavior. Especially since the officials seldom share their gains with the locals in need.

Clearance costs do NOT vary by the size of the yacht, or the day of the week. There are no overtime, weekend, or holiday premiums when it comes to bribes. The clearance procedure (in and out) and related costs differ according to the port, government office, and person sitting behind the desk. In general very little, if any, paperwork will be generated. After all pens, stamps, and paper cost money and require communication skills to complete. In Madagascar government officials view yacht owners as personal revenue sources, period. The more officials you seek and communicate with, the more bribes will be requested, and the lower the balance of your cruising kitty will be.

Some officials have wonderful props, which they will use to convince you that clearance fees are "official" and set in stone. Such as typed sheets of paper full of monetary figures and lavish signatures. Feel free to ignore these homemade and self serving price lists, like many before me, I did.

One sure way to cut to the chase when asked for money is to state, "Please provide me with a copy of the national law or regulation (NOT a price list) that requires payment for such-and-such." This really threw one Customs office off guard in Hellville. He quickly recovered by opening drawers in his desk, leafing through binders and folders, and putting on a great show of searching for the requested regulation. Yet, in the end he admitted that the requested fees were not mandatory, and he waved me out of his office with no Ariary in his pocket.

Another method for paying a reasonable and fair amount for services is by taking a local who speaks the local language. Several cruisers used this method and questioned all charges (bribes). As a result they paid next to nothing to enter and leave Hellville, Nosy Be.

Corruption is a way of life in Madagascar, and most Malagasy hate the officials who extract their meager and hard earned money. If you watch closely, when an official requests a bribe from a local, a discussion will certainly result. And, in the end if a bribe is paid, the local often throws the related money on the ground, making the official grovel on the floor to collect his bribe, while the official watches the backside of the exiting Malagasy.

The Bottom Line: The cost of clearing into and out of Madagascar is set in Jello. In late 2015 some cruisers stayed in the country for about 60 days and spent less than $40 USD greasing the palms of corrupt officials. At the other extreme, other cruisers during the same time period paid over $300 USD while visiting the same officials and offices. Remember, you have the power of paying or not paying, and you can freely walk out of the corrupt office at any time. The smart cruiser avoids interacting with any government official, since he/she will certainly have their hand out looking for money. And, since the corrupt officials take all of the gains home, there is no money spent on enforcement (phones, radios, computers, boats, fuel, etc.). Government officials made no physical or loud emotional attempts to enforce their demands for money during my stay in Madagascar.

FYI, if your next port-of-call is South Africa keep in mind that the SA officials do NOT request a copy of your exit papers from your last port-of-call. This comment is based on over a dozen yachts clearing in at Richards Bay, SA in November 2015.

I will now set aside my Western mores and dismount from my high horse. Cruisers certainly are wealthy when compared to the average Malagasy. I encourage you to share your wealth, like I did, with those in need throughout the country. Those in need don't work for the government and don't ask for bribes.

CLEARANCE COSTS

Ambodifototra, Ile Sainte Marie Clear-In Costs:

Police/Immigration: During my check-in a group of officers sheepishly requested 160,000 Ariary for "formalities." I questioned their $50 USD charge for stamping my passports. Their reply was written with guilt, so I politely left their offices with my stamped passports in hand to research the appropriate charges. According to several embassy web sites, the Ile Sainte Marie tourist office, and the Director of Tourism for Madagascar, "THERE IS NO NON-IMMIGRANT VISA CHARGE FOR VISITING TOURIST TO MADAGASCAR FOR THIRTY DAYS OR LESS, when entering the country at the airport or at the port of landing." I returned to the Police station several more times to discuss their requested $50 USD fee for stamping my passports. In the end one of the officers agreed that I was right, there is no fee, and the other officers lowered the tone of their requests for money. FYI, one of the six Immigration/Police stamps placed in your passport reads "GRATIS." A brief survey of other yachts recently clearing-in with the police/Immigrations noted "formality" payments of: $0, $6, $21, $50, and $72 USD (0 Ar to 240,000 Ar) for a crew of two. And, several of these boat had purchased prior-to-arrival 90 day VISAs before visiting Madagascar, costing about $75 USD each, thus paying twice. Net, net, some boats paid zero, and several boats each paid $220+ USD for tourist visa stamps. The Police Station is open 24/7.

Customs: The Great Illusionist firmly announced his 60,000 Ar ($18 USD) Customs clearance fee, made a big show of not being able to find his pen (singular) which was required for completing the paperwork (one set of initials), and emphasized his generousity of making a copy of my Madagascar/Reunion clearance paper on his photocopier. He also repeatedly suggested that I pay my clearance fee in Euros or US dollars.

I asked him what the Customs fee would be in the other currencies (Euros or USDs). His replied amounts were equal to $34 USD, which resulted in an additional 48% exchange rate profit, for him. I did no negotiating and paid 60,000 Ariary. All the yachts that cleared-in while I was in port paid the same amount. However, many of the yachts which cleared-in during prior months were solicited for 30,000 Ar, which all of them paid as far as I know. The monetary appetite of The Great Illusionist has apparently grown in recent months. Within a minute of making payment, the Customs official announced that his photocopier was broken and that I would have to go to town and make him copies at my expense.

I visited the Illusionist several more times to gather details for this article. Once I arrived with paper for notes, yet left my pen on YOLO. "Can I borrow a pen," I asked while standing next to his desk. "Sure..." he opened his upper right-hand draw and gave me the pick of dozens of pens donated by former cruisers. During the visit I offered to take a look at his photocopier in hopes of fixing it. He smiled and replied, "I don't have a photocopy machine."

The Great Illusionist, like many of his governmental counter parts is wealthy, beyond the dreams of most Malagasy. While at his home he showed me his huge flatscreen TV, stereo with meter high speakers, refrigerator, freezer, electricity, and running water. None of the homes within kilometers of his house dripped with the wealth gathered from yachties. 99% of his neighbours have dirt floors and no doors on their homes!

Coast Guard/Marine Malagasy: The officer asked for and received without any negotiations 60,000 Ar ($18 USD). Note: When you leave the Coast Guard office the only piece of paper that you have showing your arrival is a generic looking payment receipt. Check your receipt for the name of your vessel and the amount paid. One yacht who cleared in several days after I did was given a payment receipt which stated the name of my vessel, s/v YOLO, on it. At the time of the error the owner of the other yacht wondered why his 60,000 Arairy cash payment "was quickly slipped into the officer's pocket and was not placed in the cash box." The cruiser requested a correct payment receipt with the name of his yacht on it. After the new/correct receipt was issued, the cash was removed from the officer's pocket and placed in the cash box. Draw your own conclusions. I was told that the Coast Guard fee was for the inspection of arriving yachts. You are NOT required to visit a Coast Guard office in Hellvile, Nosy Be.

Hellville, Nosy Be Clear-In Costs:

Dinghy Dock: Two young men work the wharf/dinghy dock at Hellville. Their names are Jimmy and Cool. The wharf is very busy with dozens of boats of all sizes and shapes using the landing zone all day long. Jimmy and Cool watch your dinghy for half a day for 5,000 Ar, or for a full day they charge 10,000 Ar ($3 USD). Included in this fee is the disposal of your trash, which is a short 50 meter walk away. These enterprising men will assist you in just about everything, often for a fee or mark-up. For example, they will walk you to all the government agencies noted below, or secure drinking water or fuel. They work the dock 0600 to 1800, and their last day off work was over 10 years ago. FYI, to work the docks they must pay the local officials a kickback.

Note: The third world trend continues...any local who speaks a little English on the wharf will eagerly assist you in making tours, shopping, etc. arrangements. During my stay in Hellville, I discovered that their assistance resulted in an automatic doubling of the price for goods and services. Local expats litter the cafes and are a good source of information when it comes to directions, fair prices, and problem solving.

Police/Immigration: 60,000 Ar ($18 USD) for stamping 2 passports. The cruisers did not question or attempt to negotiate this requested payment.

Customs: Jimmy will have you stop at two Customs offices. Why two, nobody knows? At the first building cruisers were ask to pay 20,000 Ar ($6 USD). One yacht complained about the high cost for no apparent reason and the Customs official immediately cut his fee is half, then asking for 10,000 Ar. At the second Customs building/stop the official also asked for another 20,000 Ar. The two yacht owners that went to the second office did not try to negotiate this fee. Some cruisers skipped visiting Customs altogether.

Port Captain/Harbour Master: The Harbour Master only collects funds from foreign yacht owners. The dozens of vessels which come into and depart from his port daily would laugh at the suggestion of paying him money. To help justify his request for 64,000 Ar ($19 USD) he issues foreign yacht owners a cruising permit which is called Permis De Circulation. At this point no other port in Madagascar has come up with the scam of issuing local cruising permits. During my stay none of the new arrivals attempted to negotiate this fee. And, don't be surprised if a local asks you to pay additional funds for anchoring or mooring in one of the locations stated on the Cruising Permit. The Port Captain's office is often closed on Saturday, and always closed on Sundays. Some cruisers did not go to the Port Captain's office upon arrival.

Warning: The Hellville officials will typically ask you where your yacht is anchored when you speak with them. FYI, they cannot see the yachts from their offices. If you state that your yacht is anchored in a nearby bay, such as Crater Bay, they will talk down to you for a half a minute in French and ask for an ADDITIONAL FEE for your neglect in bringing your yacht to their location. The related bribe is often around 100,000 Ar, about $30 USD.

Clearing-out costs at Hellville:

1. Port Captain's Office: 35,000 Ar ($9 USD) Payment receipt given and my payment was quickly pocketed by the Port Captain. The Port Captain's office is not open on some Saturdays and most Sundays so plan accordingly.

2. Police/Immigration: 25,000 Ar ($7.50 USD) I requested but did not receive a payment receipt. And, the official originally requested 25,000 Ar for the Immigration Office bribe AND an additional personal bribe for the time it took him to stamp my passport. I departed without paying the bribe tacked on to the original bribe.

Majunga/Mahajanga Note: After clearing out of Hellville, I slowly made my way down the coast to Majunga/Mahajanga during a 30 day period and anchored at 15.43.7 S and 046.57.9 E. Majunga is a large city with many of the buildings full of government employees. After being at anchor for nearly three days a Port vessel approached all the yachts at anchor and requested that all captains go to the Port Captain's (Director's) office the following morning. His office is located near the light house on Pointe De Sable. During the meeting with four yacht captains, Maurice Tianjara - Director Of The Port - reviewed our Madagascar exit papers which were paid for and prepared in Hellville. He then requested 35,000 Ar ($9 USD) for creating a second set of Madagascar exit papers. Group think decided that this was a fair price for being in the country beyond a reasonable transit period (about 30 days), so we handed over the cash. We did NOT visit any other government offices and left Majunga the following day for more coastal exploring.

You can contact Maurice Tianjara, Port Director, phone 00 2613 2112 5708, maurice@apmf.mg or maurice@yahoo.fr. FYI, Maurice was very nice, and his office had electricity, two working computers, a printer, a photocopy machine, and a telephone. None of these items were observed in any of the other government offices I visited in Madagascar.

According to several yachts which cleared out of Madagascar at Mahajanga (on the northeast coast) they paid 10,000 Ar less in bribes, when compared to Hellville requests. So, if you have an extended visa this might be an option to consider.

VISA EXTENSIONS

YOLO and her crew originally cleared-in at Ambodifototra, Ile Sainte Marie, and paid nothing for the 30 day tourist visa. This was also done by several other yachts in our fleet. However, Madagascar is a huge country and it certainly takes longer that 30 days to cruise the eastern and northern coasts. So, after 30 days of cruising I anchored for a few days at Hellville, Nosy Be, with the intent of getting my visa extended for another 60 days. During my discussion with the Police/Immigration officer it quickly became apparent that extending my visa was too risky, for two reasons:
1. He would not commit to the charge for the extension. FYI, according to the Director of Tourism the maximum charge for extending a visa should be 140,000 Ar ($42 USD). However, the Hellville Immigration official also babbled about courier fees to Diego Suarez and processing fees.
2. He said the process would take 2 weeks. Another cruiser who did get visa extensions in Hellville paid a total of 180,000 Ar ($54 USD) per passport and had a processing time of 7 days.

Net, net, all of the above appeared full of unnecessary expenses and risks. I just couldn't imagine my passport traveling around the countryside of Madagascar for a week or two. Solution: I cleared-out of Madagascar at Hellville, Nosy Be on my 30th day in the country and sloooooooooooooowly exited the country while working my way along the coast towards South Africa.

PETS

During the Coast Guard clearance procedure, state that you have a healthy pet on board. They usually ask for an additional 13,000 Ar ($4 USD) for pets.

TIDES

The tides max out at about four meters at a few ports in Madagascar. In most ports they have a range of 2 or less meters.

LANGUAGE

Malagasy is the national language. French is spoken by many people in the tourist industry. English is spoken by only a few residents, most of whom work in the technology sector.

TOURIST OFFICE AND MAPS

Maps cost money to print and sell. i.e., in Madagascar it was impossible to find any maps with print large enough for my old eyes to read cities names and tourist attractions. Go to the Internet for map details. The Tourist Office sells a detailed map of Ile Sainte Marie for 50,000 Ar ($2 USD). The office is located near the Ferry Harbour dinghy dock and it has the cleanest public restrooms in town. Both of the women who work in the office speak English and can answer most of your questions. See Contacts for more details.

Viewing whales and dolphins are the big draw for Ile Sainte Marie. Madagascar law requires that you view the cetaceous with a certified guide, and remain 300 meters away from them at all times.
Note: The breeding and nursing whales can be aggressive and dangerous, give them plenty of space. While at anchor at Ambodifototra we viewed breaching whales three times while having meals in our cockpit, they were a kilometer or less from YOLO.

Diving is another big attraction, especially at the southwest corner of the island. You will also see divers in the Ambodifototra Bay diving on a 1800's British ship which gives you a nice view of cannons, bottles, and fish. The cost of a two tank dive is 220,000 Ar ($67 USD).

Lemurs can be viewed at the small nature park at the south end of the island. Most of the other island attractions are so-so at best.

CONTACT INFORMATION AT AMBODIFOTOTRA

Police Station (Immigrations): Officer Adelain, call 032-684-4086, open 24/7.

Customs: Officer Babilas and his assistance Bruno, open 0800 to 1230 and 1430 to 1700, seven days per week.

Coast Guard/Marine Malagasy: Officer Edouard, call 032-110-5908, open 24/7

Ile Sainte Marie Tourist office: Open 0900 to 1600, Monday through Saturday, 034-038-0455 or 032-408-0098, Mrs. Mindra Rakotoarisoa, Directeur Executif, is fluent in many language. E-Mail:info@saintemarie-tourisme.mg or mi_mindra@voila.fr

Hospital: 020-574-0008

Private Doctor: Doctor Remi 032-401-3740

Pharmacy: 032-729-8252 or 034-554-3195

Police Commissioner: Ricardo Marino, 034-047-5690 or 034-055-2984

Genarmeries/Police: 034-711-7107, open 24/7

IMPORTING YACHT PARTS

DHL operates in Madagascar. Check with the local office for importation details and addresses.

YACHT RELATED SERVICES

Don't make me laugh...The hardware stores carry the basics and an engine repair business is located next to the Total petrol station in Ambodifototra. The marina at Crater Bay, Nosy Be might give you assistance in a pinch for some yacht related services.

PHARMACY AND MEDICAL

The Depot De Medicaments (pharmacy) is located on the north side of town on the main road, about one block past the yellow hotel. The ECAR Dispenaire (medical clinic) is located just south of the Total petrol station on the main road, between the two harbours. I wouldn't count on first-world medical or dental care in the cruising areas of Madagascar. One guy in our fleet who needed serious medical attention flew to Johannesburg, South Africa. Reunion might be another option if seeking high-level medical assistance. Malagasy public hospitals and clinics should only be considered if you are in a dire emergency. Private doctors are another option. See Contacts for the appropriate phone numbers.

POST OFFICE

The Post Office, Paositra, is located just south of town, a few hundred meters after the petrol station. Look for the sign on the east side of the road or call 579-2078.

BANKING AND CURRENCY

The Malagasy Ariary (MGA) is the official currency of Madagascar. During my visit $1.00 US dollar equaled 3,316 Ariary, which a local would write as 3316 Ar. A few locals and businesses might state their prices in the Malagasy Franc (FMG) which was officially discontinued in 2003, and is now considered obsolete. Some of the currency being passed around Madagascar states both Ariary AND Franc on them. There is a fixed rate of 5 to 1, Francs to Ariaries. During my visit I only encountered 4 street vendors, 1 store owner, and 1 tuk-tuk driver who tried to flip-flop Francs and Ariaries for their advantage. To add further confusion to money matters, many travel industry services are quoted in Euros, if a non-African is involved in the transaction. Such as renting a car or securing a hotel room. Bottom line, when dealing with money matters make sure you know which currency is being used (Ariary, Malagasy Francs, or Euros), otherwise you might be paying 500% more than a local.

Locals are begging for hard stable currencies, such as Euros or US dollars. Caution, the exchange rates they offer are usually very lopsided in their favor. Money exchange businesses and banks are regulated by the government. It is against the law to exchange currencies outside of these institutions.
NOTE: During my visit the two banks in Ambodifototra had SIGNIFICANTLY different exchange rates. One bank was making an ADDITIONAL 10% profit for their exchange services.

Malagasy Ariary are accepted everywhere, cash is king. Credit cards are seldom accepted, and if they are, VISA cards are often the only available option.

Strange as it may seem, in many cases ATMs are only operational during the business hours of the related bank. If the bank is open for business, their ATMs dispense cash, otherwise their screens state "Out Of Service." An armed guard usually is stationed at the ATMs.

Just about everything is negotiable. Locals will quickly size-you-up and often state some astronomical price for their goods or services. Like in Southeast Asia, they view tourists as walking ATMs. There is no harm in negotiating with them, and they won't be surprised if you make a counter offer. How slick are they? For example, I wanted to view the Pirate Cemetery near Ambodifototra. While walking down the dirt road to the Cemetary a local spotted me and quickly skirted out of her hut and presented a professionally prepared sheet of "Admission Prices" laminated in plastic, and stated in several languages. Cost of entry $8 USD, which I considered unreasonable for viewing a half dozen old rocks in a weedy field. I smiled, said "no thank you," turned away, and started walking back towards town. Before I got 2 meters away, the lady presented a DIFFERENT plastic laminated "Admission Prices" list. The prices on the magically-appearing second list were half those listed on the first list.

Banks in Ambodifototra: There are two banks, Societe General (BFV-SG) and Bank of Africa (BOA). Both have ATMS, yet the BOA unit only accepts VISA cards. The BRV-SG ATM only works during the afternoon business hours, during my visit. BFV-SG is open 0800 to 1145 and 1430 to 1600, Monday through Friday. BOA is open from 0730 to 1130 and 1400 to 1600, Monday through Friday. They are also open on Saturday morning. If you want to exchange Euros or US dollars for Ariary, the wait time at either bank will certainly approach an hour.

BUSINESS HOURS

The standard hours are 0800 to 1200 and 1400 to 1800, Monday through Friday. Cafes and tourist businesses tend to exceed these hours.

GARBAGE DISPOSAL

The trash cans are located throughout the Ferry Harbour business area. Most yacht owners use the one in front of the Bank of Africa or in the small town square.

DRINKING WATER

Don't drink the tap water in Madagascar. Bottle water is available at cafes and the Money Maker grocery store. The largest plastic bottle spotted was several liters in volume. Locals boil, treat, or filter their well or public tap water. If you want free public tap water, the faucet is across the street from the Choco bakery, to the south.

You can drink tap water in some places on Nosy Be. Large quantities of drinking water can be purchased at the marina in Crater Bay, Nosy Be. It is dispensed from a float in the water and you must ask the office to turn it on for you.

SECURITY

I didn't sense that there were any serious security issues on Ile Sainte Marie. The small island communities gives criminals no room to hide. Most businesses lack metal doors and shutters, and cyclists leave their helmets with their vehicles unattended. The majority of homes have no doors, windows, or locks. During my two weeks nobody approached my anchored yacht, and unlocked dinghies were ignored in the harbours.

TRANSPORTATION

All forms of transportation can be secured near the small park between the two banks in Antsiranana.

Starting at the bottom of the food chain is the Pousse-Pousse, the bicycle rickshaw. The young men who peddle the Pousse-Pousse will take you anywhere for the lowest negotiated price. The ride I took was negotiated down from the owner's original 20,000 Ar to 4,000 Ar. If your route requires going up a hill, you will most likely have to exit the Pousse-Pousse while the owner pushes his equipment up hill.

Tuk-Tuks are the small motorized tricycles. The local government has set their rates for travel throughout the island. The rates are posted outside of the Tourism Office if you know the actual name of the place you want to go. The gal who works the front desk will tell you exactly how much you should pay. Tuk-Tuk drivers initially quote highly inflated tourist rates to non-locals. Yesterday I observed 8 people in (mostly) a Tuk-Tuk which was designed for 3 or 4 people maximum, giving me a flashback to Vietnam.

You can rent bicyclesmotorcycles, ATV, or a car from the vendors located on the main road. Finding a car may be a challenge.

For long distance travel most locals take the island buses, think well-used mini vans. They stage in front of the Bank of Africa. I'm guessing that they leave when the owner thinks the van/bus is full. "Full" means about 20 people inside the small van designed for 9 passengers, with dozens of packages in and outside the van.

Air Madagascar has a monopoly within the country. They have one flight per day into and out of Sainte Marie's southern airport. The cost of flying from most cities in their network to the capital city is a fixed price, regardless of the distance or the number of stops. During the tourist off-season, which begins in early September, the cost of a one-way flight is around $220 USD. You can purchase tickets at their office which is located one block east and one block north of the Telma communications office. When making travel plans keep in mind that many Air Madagascar scheduled flights never leave the ground. According to locals the reasons for flight cancellations would fill a book.

Air France basically controls the flights to Europe and a few other carries (Air Austral, Kenya Airways, Air Mauritius, Corsair, and South African Airlink) travel to Africa, Reunion, Mauritius, and Southeast Asia.

If you want to leave the island for the mainland, ferry offices/shacks line the wall of the wharf and can sell you tickets. Bad weather and/or rough seas may cancel the trips to the mainland, so allow for possible delays if on a tight schedule.

COMMUNICATIONS

You have two options for purchasing a chip for your cell phone or Wi-Fi device. Orange or Telma. Most locals have Telma, which is about 50% cheaper than Orange and provides good national coverage. The Telma store is located at the north end of town on the east side of the main road. I purchased the Telma monthly data plan for 50,000 Ar ($15 USD) for 3 Gb. Their 5G plan is 75,000 Ar. The store is open 0800 to 1200 and 1400 to 1600, and you will need a copy of your passport to make a purchase. If need be, the code for setting up your Wi-Fi connection is internet. Mamitiana is the manager and his assistant is Naza. Both speak English and will install and test yoru SIM chips. When I signed up for service Mamitiana waved the 1,000 Ar charge for the chip as he didn't have change and it was time to close for lunch.

TELEPHONE COUNTRY CODE

The country code is +261 when dialing long distance.

GROCERIES

Choco Pain generates all of the bread on Ile Sainte Marie; get there before 1000 if you want some. Choco is just south of the Ferry Harbour town square on the main road.

The only real grocery store is Money Maker, which is located just north of the Ferry Harbour It is open 0730 to 1200 and 1430 to 1800, Monday through Friday. Saturday 0730 to 1100. The price of their items are stated on the shelves. However, many of the locals who shop there use their phones or a small calculator to keep a running total of the prices of the goods they place in their baskets. On several occasions I've observed price discussions at the registers between the cashier and the customer.

Most of the fresh stuff (fruit, veggies, meat, fish, etc.) is purchased in the market. The open market is located one block off main street, just east of the Ferry Harbour. The vendors fill the alleys and nearby street six days a week. A few are closed on Sunday. There is no mega/farmer fresh market, or special day for new supplies.

PRICES AND ECONOMICS

A recent economic study concluded that 90% of all Malagasy lived on about $2 USD per day. Most people are paid once per month. For example, the locals working in shops earn about 80,000 Ar ($24 USD) for working 200 hours in a month, which equates to about 8 cents USD per hour! Teachers typically get one Euro per day.

Keep in mind that most Madagascar cruisers will be visiting the affluent tourist communities, which still gives you a clear view of the crushing poverty for many citizens. I won't go into the prices of goods and services since they will depend on your negotiation skills. Most locals will view you as a tourist dripping in Ariary, which is certainly true given Madagascar economic standards.

Because of business and governmental corruption, many goods and services are regulated, in theory. This doesn't preclude the officials or businessmen from trying to up the price, especially when a tourist is standing in front of them. EVERYTHING IS NEGOTIABLE, with few exceptions. Prices fixed in stone are air fares, petrol prices, groceries at Money Maker and upscale stores, telecom services, and items that are listed on a public price list such as those noted on a board behind a tourist bar.

FYI, children should attend Madagascar schools free of charge. However, local officials often demand 100,000 Ar (about $30 USD) per child for the privilege. Unfortunately the majority of kids never make it to the fifth grade.

BOOZE

Booze is cheap. At a store a large (.65 l) bottle of beer will cost you about 3400 Ar, and that includes the deposit on your bottle, which could be 400-1000 Ar when you try to collect it back. Off main street sit-down cafes sell cold ones for 2800 Ar, and in the tourist areas they typically charge 4,000 Ar ($1.20 USD). Soft drink bottles also have a deposit. Locals, if they can afford it, purchase beer or cheap sugar cane rum. The Money Maker grocery store has the best stock of booze on the island. A one liter bottle of cruiser quality rum, gin, vodka, etc. cost $3 to $4 USD. I tried the less expensive rums offered by locals and concluded that it would strip paint or would be a good substitute for fueling my dinghy.

You can return your beer or soft drink bottles at any store which sells the product. Caution: The refund amount per bottle varies greatly by vendor. Some vendors gave me 1,000 Ar per bottle and others sized me up as a tourist and offered me 200 Ar per bottle.

LAUNDRY

The lady who cleans the Tourist Office, Lidvyne, has been known to do laundry, hand washed and air dried. Most clothes are washed by hand, often in a stream or river.

TIME ZONE

UTC +3 is local time, per the East Africa Time Zone. There is no daylight savings time in Madagascar.

FUEL

Petrol and diesel prices are the same throughout Madagascar at service stations. The Total service station is located at the south end of town on the main road/ga on Ile Sainte Marie. Non-duty free fuel prices are:

Unleaded gasoline which is called "sans plomb " or "essence" is $ 1.13 USD per liter (3730 Ar)

Diesel/"gasole"/gazoil is 95 cent USD per liter (3150 Ar)

When at a fuel station avoid using the word "petrol". If you do request petrol you will end up with a jerry can full of kerosene.

Propane is also available in three sizes of bottles at Total or Money Maker. Nobody fills American/Australian/New Zealand style propane bottles. Decanting is the only option if you have the necessary connections. The fuel in a 9 kilo bottle is about $20 USD.

There are three service stations in Hellville, Nosy Be. Jimmy or Cool will assist you in topping off your tanks, usually for a 4,000+ Ar charge per liter for diesel.

RESTAURANTS

There are numerous tourist cafes along main street. Head off in either direction.

OTHER COMMENTS

Unless stated otherwise the comments noted above focus on Ile Sainte Marie. The comments noted below focus on other parts of Madagascar.

Cruising up the east coast: If you are anchored in Ile Saint Marie and want to sail all the way up the east coast of Madagascar, it will typically take you about three days. Pick your weather window carefully, so that you approach the northern cape in southern or southeastern winds of around 15 knots or less. Contrary to the Gribs, the winds and current really move at the northern tip, often twice the forecasted speeds! In forecasted 15 knot SE winds YOLO covered 100 nm miles in 12 hours, at times going 13+ knots double reefed! The current is like a freight train heading north along the northeastern coast.

Once you reach the northern tip, turn west and stay very close to the coast. Most yachts stay within a mile of land at the cape and I stayed even closer in 25 meters of water. In most cases you will now have the winds on the beam and you will be screaming along in flat waters. Try to time your turn to the west during slack water to avoid the clashing of the north bound currents. Vessels who sailed a mile or more off the coast really got hammered in the wind and waves.

Sailing to Madagascar from the Seychelles: I took pity on those who made this passage. Out of a dozen or more yachts, only one pulled into Hellville without significant damage to their yacht. The key to getting to Madagascar from the Seychelles is motoring in very light winds (which seldom occurs) or immediately sailing south, then going south some more. Approaching the northern coast of Madagascar with the wind and water flying northward was extremely punishing for the yachts sailing south from the Seychelles. Try your best to approach the northern tip of Madagascar from the east or east northeast.

Northeast Anchorages: There are several small bays just west of the northern cape of Madagascar. According to the charts the entrances to the bays appear to be very narrow. In reality, the entrances are rather wide, yet sunlight is needed to navigate these entrances and bays. Most yachts end up anchoring near the southern shores of the bays. You should expect continuous winds of 20 to 35 knots while at anchor, 24/7. The mud bottom and a good anchor will keep you in place, and the waves will be minor near the southern shores.

Crocodiles: Crocs do exist along the north coast of Madagascar in unpopulated areas. Ask locals before swimming in the waters.

Hellville, Nosy Be: It's a major tourist town with all the trappings. All the basics can be purchased there. The mass majority of cruisers got some kind of illness while cruising the northern coast. Most recovered quickly with over the counter meds. Frequently washing your hands and avoiding street food will increase the odds of staying healthy. You will probably run into Thomas, an English speaking tour guide. His full day island tour was OK. He will have you pay for the vehicle (120,000 to 240,000 Ar per car/van), park fees (about 20,000 Ar), and his fee (10,000 Ar per person). The 85,000 Ar lunch at his favorite beach cafe took over 2 hours and the meal was certainly sub-par and grossly overpriced. Many cruisers visiting Hellville get a tuk-tuk driver to take them to the Lemur Park which is 7 kilometers away and has many native animals. The round trip tuk-tuk typically costs 20,000 Ar and the park fee with guide is 10,000 Ar per person. Most yachts avoid making water in Hellvile waters for obvious reasons.

Crater Bay, Nosy Be: Crater Bay is just west of Hellville. It has the only marina in Madagascar. The marina has no slips and the moorings are questionable. Very basic yacht services can be secured at the marina or in the nearby community. Food and banking services are available nearby. The marina has a clothes washer that sometime works, 6,000 Ar ($2 USD) per load. The cafe/bar has cheap beers, 3,000 Ar for 650 ml. A pig roast brings many of the yachties together once a week. If you need fuel it can be delivered to the floating dock. One cubic meter of drinking water can be purchased from the hose attached to the floating buoy in the bay near the dinghy dock. Cost, 30,000 Ar, about $9 USD. There is a one cubic meter minimum purchase, which can be used all at once or secured in small amounts every few days. About a dozen charter cats operate out of the marina.
Warning: When you approach Crater Bay you will see a big circle of moored and anchored boats. The apparent hole in the middle of the anchorage looks very appealing...DO NOT anchor there, unless you want the underwater rocks and coral to remove your bottom paint at low tide.

Russian Bay is just a daysail south of Hellville and some yachts went back and forth in the area several times. There are lots of small islands in the Hellville area to entice cruisers with their delights.

Honey River: The Honey River anchorage is located at 13.31 S and 047.58 E. This is usually the last anchorage in the Nosy Be area when heading south along the coast. During the 2015 cruising seasons things were NOT sweet at Honey River. Prior to early October at least four dinghies and outboards were stolen during the night at this anchorage. All the dinghies were tied to the back of the mothership, unlocked. Early the next morning most of the dinghies were recovered, however their outboards disappeared into the small rural community, supposedly unnoticed. For those seeking Madagascar honey, there was none available at Honey River in 2015. FYI, mantas were observed just south of the shallows located near the river entrance at 13.41 S and 047.51 E.

Majung/Mahajanga: It is a large town with all of the basics. A very nice craft market, Score and Leader Price grocery stores, fuel, and drinking water. Take your fuel cans to shore and flag down a tuk-tuk for a round trip to the service station, cost 2,000 Ar. The grocery stores and craft market are near the service station. The city is packed full of neglected colonial buildings so take your camera. You can purchase drinking water from the small shop located where the wharf road and dinghy landing alley intersect. Go during high tide to northwest corner of the inner harbor and the distance to the water taps is less than 25 meters. You will pay 10 Ar per liter, so $1 USD will get you 3,300 liters!

Dinghy Dock: There is no dinghy dock at Majunga. When you approach the inner harbor in you dinghy on the port side (west) you will see a small beach and a concrete ramp in a corner still outside the harbour entrance. A tall young man named Jean Luc will probably grab your painter and pull you dinghy up on the shore. He often works with another partner in crime. During our stay in Majunga cruisers were paying Jean Luc 5,000 Ar to watch their dinghies and burn their trash. Some cruisers paid him in traded goods (DVDs, CDs, rope, etc.). He prefers cash. Unfortunately, after using his services for several days, three of the yachties notice that the fuel in their dinghy tanks was being siphoned off while Jean Luc was "watching" their dinghies. Ten liters of fuel disappeared from my tank one day, costing me 33,000 Ar to replace. After the discovery of the theft, dinghy owners would publicly measure the amount of fuel in their tanks in front of Jean Luc before entrusting their dinghies to his care. Thus, making it clear to him that we expected his double dipping to stop.

Boeny Bay and Baly Bay: These two bays are a bit farther southwest along the coast towards the cape and provide staging/jumping-off points to cross the Mozambique Strait to South Africa or Mozambique. There are shallow sand bars in the entry to Boeny Bay, but the shelter was good once inside. Biting flies ruined the trip ashore to explore the colored sand cliffs. YOLO didn't go into Baly Bay, but beware the weather around Cape St. Andre as it is notorious for violent and sudden changes.

SUMMARY

When you look around you will see that most people living in Madagascar are dirt poor, which is shocking to most cruisers who will be visiting the most affluent towns in the country. Government bribes are requested and it is up to you to pay or not pay. Land travel on the mainland is challenging and very time consuming, since the country is huge and the infrastructure deplorable. Experiencing the interior tourism gems of Madagascar is next to impossible for most cruisers, especially since the country has one "marina" at Crater Bay (on Nosy Be) which has no slips or reliable moorings. Despite all the challenges, the Malagasy people sport smiles and will make you feel welcomed.

Enjoy the beautiful scenery, baobab trees, lemurs, fishing, and whales. Visit any private or national park and you will be covered with jumping lemurs, especially if you have a banana in your hand. Lemurs and baobab trees are also readily available for free viewing at many of the anchorages on the north coast. Our lures certainly got a workout with the tuna, bonitos, Spanish mackerel, and a two meter long black marlin hooked along the north coast. During our travels we sighted turtles, dolphins, and whales just about every other day. The huge male whales are larger than most yachts and breech high into the air to attract attention. Juvenile whales, clown around and act like juveniles. Mothers nurse their babies, with their aunts nearby for assistance. Some whales circle the yachts at anchor in shallow bays, and on one occasion we had a curious juvenile swimming along side YOLO (two meters away) while we sailed at 5 knots.

Enjoy nature and the phantasmagorical adventure of Madagascar.

SUBMITTED BY: Jason Trautz, s/v YOLO

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mtuckerb
mtuckerb says:
Sep 14, 2016 09:35 AM

Immigration played hardball and every other Yacht this year paid something (save perhaps one). The going rate was 60,000Ar extra per passport. I had time and tenacity, so I pushed back. I visited the Prefecture with a french speaking local and he put me in touch with the Director of the Ministry of the Interior. She was wonderful (limited English, but dedicated enough to work through it with me). She spoke with the Prefecture and then the Chief of Police. On the third morning, when I arrived, the officer I had been dealing with issued my stamps without comment, and charged the correct fee (140,000Ar/per person for 3 months). I did my best (with my limited French) to leave a clean wake with all of the people who helped, so future cruisers may be able to escalate in the same manner.

Jason's description of the Great Illusionist calibrated my sense of humor for this ordeal.
The trick at Customs is to arrive around 10am with your phone fully charged. Make it crystal clear that you won't pay, but get him to talk. He'll openly admit that the money goes in his own pocket. I got in touch with the Director of the Ministry of the Interior again, and made various other calls to government offices from his offices (mostly for show, though I was grasping a bit). He acts like he isn't worried, but you can tell that he really didn't want trouble. Then wait him out.

We had a "funny" exchange where he said that he would talk to the Chief of his department. I asked him for the Chief's name and phone number but he "forgot" it. Later when he asked me my boat name, I also "forgot." I almost cracked up laughing at the absurdity of it all, but I think it helped make the point that I wasn't going to be bullied.

He really really didn't want to be late for lunch, eventually, he tried to kick me out and I said "I'm not quite done here. I need to get my paper." He offered to make copies at lunch and meet me after and I knew I had him. "How about I make copies for /you/ and bring them back to you after lunch. He handed over my stamped crew list and we were done.

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