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Madagascar Cruising Report

By doina — last modified Jan 10, 2006 12:34 PM

Published: 2006-01-10 12:34:34
Countries: Madagascar

We spent three months in the N.W. Madagascar in July-September 2005. There were around 20 other foreign cruising yachts in the area.

The authorities did not board any of the yachts and clearing in is done by visiting the officials (Port Captain, Police, Immigration, Customs and Health) by foot, around the dusty little town of Hellville. While the clearing in was very slow (speaking French might be helpful) and there was some confusion about the fees, there appeared to be no attempts to extort money from yachts.

A few recomendations: Do not surrender any original boat papers. Have plenty of copies of everything, including crew lists. A boat stamp will add a little weight and make your copies more "official". We were asked for no paperwork from previous port (Mayotte). Neither did we receive any paperwork upon departure from Majunga, but this didn't seem to worry the authorities in S.Africa where the Madagascan way of doing things is well known.

We arrived without a visa (Australian yacht with Finnish / Australian passports) and the price of the visa was roughly the same as one acquired in advance. The biggest nuisance was the "boat boys" who are doing their best to act as "agents" and ask for money for guarding your dinghy while you're in town (Hellville only). We found it easier to hand out a dollar or two and let them do something for us, while other yachts sometimes refused. There is no safe dinghy landing in Hellville harbour and many yachts got together for transfers, avoiding leaving the dinghy at the mercy of local boatboys, who would often use it while the owner is away. Again, these are entrepeneurs, trying to make few dollars, rather than cause any serious harm.

There were no restrictions or questions asked about importing currency and the best money exchange was always by one of the numerous money changers hanging around the streets. While it is recommended that yachts lock their boats while ashore, the only item really targeted was outboard motors. Best not to use it at all and chain it down with double padlocks. The only other "crime" we experienced was petty pickpocketing at the markets.

Mahajanga (Majunga) harbour has a bad reputation for more enterprising thiefs and extra care should be taken there, by either hiring a guard or having someone onboard at all times. There were no reports of any violent crime but thieves will have a go at it, given a chance. Don't give them a chance.

The people were very friendly and the cruising around Nosy Be and south towards Majunga is excellent. The villages trade with varying enthusiasm and empty glass jars, cigarettes, batteries, basic first aid products, rope and clothing are asked for.

Malaria is prevalent in the area and yachts should make their own decision about what method to use to avoid infection.

In general, all foreign yachts left Madagascar with good memories and a positive feeling about the cruising area.

Lauri G. Strengell

Yacht Aliisa