Madagascar, Hellville: Everything you Need to Know

This is a report from yacht ‘Wapiti’ who visited during August 2013.

Published 10 years ago, updated 5 years ago

Nossi-Be Beach: © Alamy

The harbour:

We found a good anchorage close to the reef near the leading marks.  (13 deg 18.46 S  48 deg 16.99E)   Care is needed as it shoals rapidly. There was very little or no swell at this point. There is nowhere to land except at the public jetty where boat boys will look after your dinghy. One, called Ja’afardine (Phone 0322830401)  speaks some English, has a printed introduction and seems more businesslike than the rest. The going rate appears to be 5000Ar. for however long the dinghy is left.  (Exchange rate in July 2013: 2150 Ariary = 1US$) They are quite reliable. All the local ferries and tour boats come here and the whole situation is totally chaotic with hundreds of people and dozens of boats but our dinghy always appeared back on time. They will also organise diesel from the nearest fuel station which is near the market (at the pump price), and bring it to your boat (About 2730AR/ltr) plus a fee – in our case 20,000 Ar for 80 ltrs but it was worth it to save the hard work.

There are rubbish disposal facilities on the quay.

Gas for cooking only available by decanting from local bottles.

It is possible to anchor at Crater Bay and take a taxi but a return trip is 40,000AR

Formalities:

All available near the quay. First police, in a little portacabin near the quay, Customs then Harbour Master. No-one comes to the boat. Costs: Different people have reported different experiences and fees. We paid $60US  each for 2-month visas. They were stamped 100,000Ariary which is about $50US so it may have been cheaper to pay in Ariary. However, the person at the police hut on the jetty took them to the correct offices in town and brought them back. The entry fee was $40US  but the receipt said 50,000Ariary – about $25US. Harbour dues were charged for the two month period of our visa and cost 103,100Ar. They insisted we pay in advance but we got a detailed and formal receipt. No fees were charged by Customs.

On departure from Hellville for Mahajanga we were charged 35000 Ariary. However, on arrival in Mahajanga, they did not even look at our clearance.  There are no recent reports of officials visiting the islands looking for yachts that have not checked in.

Note that EVERYTHING is closed from 1200 to 1500 except restaurants.

Shopping:

Almost everything is available, except we could not find good multigrain bread  – own brands are good value. Biggest supermarket is Champion in the town. Visa is OK. Out of town, a 10,000 Ar taxi ride)  is Nosy Be market. This has probably the best selection of alcohol in town. Visa OK but there is a 3% surcharge. A small shop, Chez Mireille, near the fresh market has a surprisingly good selection of items, particularly cheese. Cash only.

The fresh market is good and prices are fair. Once they know you they will pick out the best quality. Sometimes they will quote prices in francs (5000 francs = 1000Ar). Although it is said they do this in the hope they will get paid the amount in Ar we never had this happen and correct change was always given. Ensure you have plenty of small notes.

The best place to change money is with one of the money changers in the market area. You may have to try several to get the best rate.

WARNING:

Pickpockets operate in this area – we lost a small amount of money! Apart from that, we had no problems with theft or dishonesty anywhere in Madagascar

Internet/Phone:

We found Telma to be quite efficient with coverage all the way down the coast including places like Russian Bay, Moramba Bay and Baly Bay as well as towns. Coverage mostly slow 2G but stable.

Importing parts:

We needed a new anchor windlass from the UK and it was sent via DHL, who has an office in town, leaving the UK on Monday and was on our boat on Friday. No duties for “Yacht Spares in Transit”  (Important to label clearly) Although there is no duty, an agent is required for the formalities at a cost of about 150,000 Ar which can take a couple of days. This procedure can be ‘simplified’ – ask DHL. Our parts cost 70,000Ar. DHL charged 32000Ar for their paperwork. (Note:  We have had very good experiences using DHL in a number of countries)

Tours:

A helpful chap called Jean Louis who spoke good English (Phone  0320205422) arranged an all-day tour of the island for 50 Euros. He had good local knowledge and found everything we wanted to see including a bush ylang-ylang distillery.  The lemur park at a cost of 25,000Ar for foreigners is reported to be very poor value.

Nosy Komba:

The anchorage here is rather exposed but the village and island are very pleasant. We left the dinghy at Chez Yolande and had a couple of very good meals there. Walked most of the way up the mountain, which is easy walking. The little lemur park at a cost of 2000Ar is well worth a visit. Lots of carvings and fabrics, some to quite high standards.

Crater Bay:

There are many yachts here, mostly local. Ashore there is a small yacht club with a landing stage for dinghies. There is a small bar/restaurant built on an old cane railway locomotive. It is a 20-minute walk to the local town where there is a good small supermarket. Some chandlery is available. Only cash can be used and there is nowhere to change money except possibly at a nearby resort. Potable water is available.

Our thanks to Roger Morgan for this informative report.

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