Tea With The Lemurs – Anjajavy L’Hotel in Madagascar
Words by Gillian McLaren
Combining the best of a tropical beach experience, exotic wildlife viewing and Relais & Chateaux fine cuisine, this unique hotel is arguably the finest in Madagascar.
“I love romance, you know,” says Cedric, the owner-manager of Anjajavy l’Hotel in northwestern Madagascar, in his charming French accent. “When honeymooners visit here, I invite them to plant a baobab tree together, in a special ceremony. Baobabs can live for thousands of years, so it signifies undying love.” Cedric is also passionate about the wildlife of this special island and is involved in reforestation projects and conservation education, which includes employing local Malagasy people who live in the nearby fishing village.
Anjajavy is exceptional, as it is surrounded by 550 hectares of private reserve with a dry deciduous forest of Palissandre trees, ebony and splendid grey baobabs, as well as an extensive mangrove system. Here you will see endearing lemur species, captivating chameleons, fascinating endemic birds and outlandish butterflies. As 90% of Madagascar’s wildlife is endemic, you are guaranteed to see scores of new species of intriguing animals and plants found nowhere else on the planet.
As Anjajavy is so remote it is accessible only by air, in a private charter plane from Antananarivo, which takes about 90 minutes. The flight is interesting as it allows you to see the deforested areas where rice paddies have been created, as well as the barren central grassland. Rosewood Villas line the soft sands of the beach, so have a beautiful view.
Each palm-thatched unit has a queen-sized bed (with mosquito netting) in a bedroom/lounge area, a bathroom with separate toilet and bidet, plus table and chairs. Bottled water is placed in the bar fridge daily. A spacious covered terrace sports a hammock, table and deckchairs. For your comfort there is a footbath where you may wash off the beach sand before entering your air-conditioned villa.
Each meal is a feast and prettily presented in different locations. The central public area is constructed of rosewood, with a cool terrace where you can enjoy breakfast as you are entertained by a show of striking birds like Grey-headed lovebirds, Sickle-billedVanga or the Crested Drongo. Black and white butterflies the size of small birds swoop past. From the reception area with its relaxed lounge and small boutique you can view the infinity swimming pool, which seems to merge with the ocean and sky.
As a honeymoon couple, you can enjoy an intimate silver service dinner, alone on the beach at a table set with white linen. With your feet in the fine sand and a glass of wine in your hand, you may feel that the spectacular sunset is just for you. A threecourse meal is served with two choices per course; these are French-inspired but with local ingredients and Malagasy touches.
As there are several concealed beaches an easy walking distance from Anjajavy, you may have the idyllic experience of being served a picnic lunch on the beach of your choice, then being left completely alone. This is no ordinary picnic, but I shall not reveal details, so it will be a wonderful surprise! A dip in the aquamarine ocean or some easy snorkeling to spot tropical fish adds to the pleasure of this Robinson Crusoe fantasy.
Anjajavy also has an Oasis area with papyrus reeds, tree ferns, palm trees and climbing plants next to a water feature. Each afternoon at 5 o’clock a formal tea is served with freshly squeezed juices, a choice of teas and home-baked biscuits and cakes.
As they have not been harassed in any way the lemurs are wild but relaxed about being near humans. Common brown lemurs also attend the tea party, but seem more reticent and run along the ground on all fours with their bushy tails up in the air. For a memorable evening you may have a private dinner in the Oasis, where you can hear the sound of insects and calls of animals as you watch the fading light of day transformed into moonlight.
Although it is tempting to linger in your air-conditioned villa or daydream in your deckchairs, there are lots of exciting activities at Anjajavy. Free water-based activities include catamaran sailing, snorkeling, windsurfing and kayaking in the sea or mangrove area. You pay to go fishing or for a boat excursion to Moramba Bay, to see wondrous scenery of eroded islands with endemic red baobabs. A romantic experience is the guided sunset cruise through the protected mangroves, where you watch birds as you sip cocktails while the sun sets.
Visits to the Anjajavy village are possible, to see the simple Malagasy homes, meet villagers and shop for carefully made handicrafts. A memorable venture is the night walk in the forest, where a well-informed guide takes a maximum of three people bearing torches to search for nocturnal creatures. You may see fat-tailed dwarf lemur and Milne Edwards sportive lemur. Surprisingly large hairy crabs, which are nocturnal foragers, may startle you as they scuttle through fallen leaves. Nocturnal gecko species, with their large eyes and vertical pupils, lie still in wait for insects to eat. Guests brave enough to venture into a cave can see an extinct fossil giant lemur as well as stalagmites and stalactites.
A couple’s massage in the spa on the beach with a view of the waves lapping on the shore is a sublime experience. The technique is quite different from a conventional massage, and is so relaxing it is soporific. If you do plant an endemic baobab tree together, Cedric will give you the exact GPS co-ordinates so that you or generations to come
may return for an anniversary to see the growth of your special tree.
The elegance and tropical splendour of Anjajavy l’Hotel and its surrounds, together with the amazing animal life, make this a wonderful honeymoon adventure.
Madagascar National Tourism Board