Aye-aye, to the skipper or sloth?
The year was 1998 and life was getting a bit hectic and we needed to get away and we could manage a two week break. Our sons by now were teenagers. Which destination could we choose? Somewhere with a beach and sea, was the general consensus. Mauritius? No, we felt it too commercialised for our taste, besides Paul and I had been there already. But so many other suggestions turned out to be above our price range. Paying for four people can really stretch the budget. Eventually after much deliberation we decided on Madagascar. Why on earth Madagascar? Well, so the story goes:
Some months before this, I found an advertisement in a newspaper:
Electrician required on Indian ocean island 6 month contract….
Tempting as it was, Paul said, if he wasn’t married, with children and a lucrative career, he would apply for the job, but seeing that he couldn’t apply, he cut out the ad and put it on the desk of one of his technicians, but never mentioned he put it there. After enquiring throughout the office, the technician eventually asked Paul if he was the one who put the ad on his desk which Paul confirmed. The distraught technician asked: Why? Do you want to get rid of me? Paul’s reply: most certainly not, but if I was young and in your shoes, I would apply for the job and I think you are suited for the position. Duane was most certainly interested and went for the interview and the company was impressed with him and wanted him to work for them! But he was a bit concerned. If he took the job, and it didn’t work out, he would have lost his permanent job. Paul said no problem, he would guarantee he would employ him again. He could take the job, but on one condition that we could visit him on this island. It’s a deal, said Duane.
Trouble was when we decided it was time to travel, the hotel wasn’t complete that was being built on this island, so we couldn’t stay there. Tourism in Madagascar was only just taking off and we weren’t sure what type of accommodation we would find. Duane suggested we charter a yacht through friends that he met in Madagascar, and move around a bit. We weren’t sure if this was viable, but after much calculation we felt it was a pretty good deal. We could see what a typical Malagasy lifestyle on the coast was like, swim and fish to our hearts content, and just chill while moving from island to island. Furthermore we could learn to dive at the same time. It didn’t take much convincing our sons that this would be a great ‘adventure’ for them. We even met up with Elize, the skippers wife and tour organiser who was at a travel show in Johannesburg at the time. She sealed the decision for us by selling all the good points of the trip and showing us some photographs of other peoples experiences. Once again we thought this was a trip of a lifetime for us.
Preparation began. We had to buy wetsuits, fins, masks & snorkels and some fishing lures. The rest was available on board. Packing clothes apparently wasn’t a problem, as we would be living in our costumes most of the time, with a T-shirt or two, some shorts and a sarong that could double up as a skirt, if necessary (for me, that is, not for the men in my life!) armed with rucksacks and 2 dive bags with our gear in, we headed for the airport. The lack of attire appealed to Paul, as he was happiest in a swim suit, exploring the sea. The best part was that nobody could contact us, as this was in the early days of cell phones, and there weren’t any yet in Madagascar. This seemed like a win for all situation.
Bags packed and our sons, Jacques & Philip, couldn’t contain their excitement before we left – this was their first ‘overseas’ trip. We had managed to see a Dean cat on the Langebaan lagoon in the Cape in South Africa a few months earlier, and we could all see what our ‘home’ for ten days would be like – it was a lot bigger than expected and it heightened our excitement well before it was time to go. Let the journey begin!