Avenue of the Baobabs, Madagascar

Are you a sunset enthusiast? Nature aficionado? Adventurist? If any of these apply to you, then taking the time to see the Avenue of the Baobabs in Morondava, Madagascar NEEDS to be on your travel bucket list.

Getting there may be a pain, but believe me, it is SO worth it.

First, you’ll need to get to Madagascar. It may be the fourth biggest island in the world, but the limited flights make it a difficult task to even get there. Our trip started in Mauritius, which is way more geared toward tourists and happens to be just east of this unique island. As far as I am concerned, there are not many ways to get to Madagascar without going through the capital, Antananarivo, or Tana for short. Now, Tana is not a place I would recommend to anyone, as it is extremely overpopulated, and polluted, and there is an abundance of crime and civil unrest. However, sometimes you have to endure the storm to see the rainbow. Suck it up, and hide in your hotel room for the night, because, with the few flights out of Tana, you will undoubtedly be stuck there for the night. Make sure you have your flight to Morondava booked ahead of time, and use the night to get some rest. Also, you can ask your cab driver that you get at the airport to your hotel to bring you back to the airport the following day. They know you are not there to visit Tana, and they certainly welcome the business. In fact, some of them insist you let them know where you are going so they can monopolize you as a customer.

Once you get back to the airport, you get on your domestic flight to Morondava, which is only an hour-long flight. Arriving at Morondava Airport is an experience in itself. Being from NY and typically traveling out of JFK, it is incredible to see how small this airport is. Not only is it small, but it is far from technologically advanced. The plane pulls onto the runway and you walk right onto it and walk into the airport from there. You can even see the people unloading your bags onto a trolly while you do this. We waited inside, where all the windows were wide open without screens, and there was one single conveyer belt where they loaded the luggage. Everything went smoothly for us here which was a huge relief because it seems a little unreliable upon arrival, but they definitely know what they are doing.

We went outside carrying our backpacks not knowing what to expect, and there were a few cute little old cars waiting for potential travelers to drive to their hotels. We lucked out BIG time this time. A man picked us up and loaded our luggage into the miniature trunk and he had a friendly English-speaking copilot named Eristor. Eristor was one of our biggest lifesavers during this trip and taught us more than we would have ever expected. They took us to our hotel about a half hour away as Eristor had facts of Morondava roll off his tongue, such as how there is a dentist that comes to the town every Wednesday to pull problem teeth for any of the locals for free. As we drove he asked us what we were planning to do, and we told him we were planning to see The Avenue of the Baobabs he gladly volunteered to take us, as well as offered to take us to visit a fishing tribe.

We got to our hotel at around 9 am, and Eristor was picking us up at 1pm, so we naturally showered and had a few beers to get ready for our day.

Eristor was promptly on time and ready to go at 1 and brought us to what looked like someone's backyard on a brown river. We got out of the car and got into a canoe-type boat rowed by two Malagasy men that did not speak any English but welcomed us with smiles. We drifted down the river and watched as the people fished in the water. Eristor pointed out the plants and habits of the local people as we listened intently, while simultaneously sweating profusely in the stagnant African air. The tribe was well worth the trip, as we learned about the tribe, its superstitions, its family structures, and its rituals. The children were adorable and friendly, and Eristor translated what people were saying to us. They were all in all friendly and some of the most hardworking people I have ever seen. Children asked for “bonbon” or candy because apparently, it is a known fact for them that visibly foreign people carry candy to give them.

After we were done with the tour of the tribe, we stopped at a local store to get some candy for the kids that we were told we would see at the Avenue. We were also able to purchase more sunblock (Solid advice: BRING ENOUGH SUNBLOCK! They charge about $20 a bottle and you go through it rather quickly).

Arriving at the Avenue of the Baobabs feels like you are a child on the way to Disney World, as in you have a “are we there yet?” attitude due to excitement and confusion. I say confusion because there are baobab trees EVERYWHERE, and you aren’t quite sure if you are at the Avenue or not (when you get there, you KNOW). Eristor explained to us how sacred these trees are to the Malagasy, and how detrimental it is to their culture when something happens to one. Pulling up to the actual beginning point of the Avenue of the Baobabs looks and feels like something out of a fairy tale. Pictures do not do this justice, and you will never understand how big and mighty these trees are unless you see them firsthand. We walked around, took pictures, and absorbed the beauty of these foreign and beastly trees. The children asked us for candy and were cheerful and friendly. They can be tricksters, as they will hold out a hand and ask for a bonbon, and when you give them one they will hold it behind their back and stick out the other hand for another. It is no secret that this is a touristy area, so there are a lot of kids.

 Once you give one a piece of candy they tell their friends and you will have a bunch of new friends. They speak Malagasy and French, but it's amazing how you can communicate without any words, especially with open-minded and loving children. They give high fives and love to take pictures. The young boys find chameleons that you normally wouldn’t see and put them on sticks in hopes to exchange pictures with them for candy or money. The children are very interactive and very happy, although some of them mean business, and you have to respect their hustle at such a young age.. these boys could grow up to be some amazing salesmen, considering they convinced us to support their business savvy ways without even speaking the same language. We could have spent the whole day with these little babes, their smiles are contagious and their energy is exotic to Americans.

The next stop was the Loving Baobabs, which are two MASSIVE Baobab trees that actually grew together, like two lovers bound together for eternity. The belief behind these trees is that it helps women with their fertility. These trees are said to be 600 years old and are an incredible part of Morondava's history. We saw our first and only wild snake here, and it was not as terrifying as you would imagine.

Now for the finale, we went back to the Avenue of the Baobabs for the sunset. I say this without any exaggeration, that this was one of the most BEAUTIFUL sights I have ever seen, imagined seeing, or could even dream of. We sat in the distance so we were able to see the majority of the trees at once. As the sun set, it is hard to think that there could be anything bad in this world. This is the most romantic location and the sight is something that will be engraved in our memories forever, as the most beautiful stream of fiery colors crosses the sky in a gorgeous, picturesque sunset. We stayed for as long as we could before the night fell onto us like a ton of bricks and we made our way back to Eristor to go back to the hotel. There isn’t much more to say about this sunset, because you really have to see it to believe it. One thousand synonyms for beautiful couldn’t give it the recognition it deserves.

The Avenue of the Baobabs was our biggest selling point in going to Madagascar, and it was enough to make us feel this trip was completely worthwhile. Sunset admirers, this needs to be a priority to see.

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