A highlight of my time in Madagascar was Baobab Alley / Avenue of the Baobabs or ‘L’Allee des Baobabs / L’Avenue des Baobabs.’ The site fills postcards and brochure covers of Madagascar, often used as a symbol of the country. The baobab trees are 800+ years old. Many Malagasy worship them as connections to their ancestors.
At Ivato airport in the capital city, Antananarivo, waiting to check in for my Air Madagascar flight on the morning of my birthday, I spoke to a fellow local passenger who told me that Morondava, the region surrounding Baobab Alley on the West coast, is her favourite part of the country, describing it as an undiscovered and remote rural part of the island.
So you can imagine my horror when, at check-in, the flight was cancelled. Though I’d been forewarned about the unreliability of Air Madagascar, the sole domestic flight carrier, owned by the government, I truly didn’t expect that to happen. And not on my birthday! With so much ground to cover in Madagascar and a keenness, as any visitor has, to see as much as possible in the time they have, it was a case of get there that day or miss it altogether. I couldn’t fathom the latter. L’Allee des Baobabs was one of my most highly anticipated segments of the trip and the Baobabs are an iconic symbol of the country. Fortunately, I was travelling with domestic tour operator, Asisten Travel, who had access to a fleet of private charters. I chartered one, deciding that this was one of those moments and experiences too precious to give up on. In hindsight, I’m relieved that I did.
The pilot decided to treat me from the skies on approach by swooping low over L’Allee des Baobabs, allowing incredible photography opportunities and views over the Baobabs from the skies. The scene was of endless green interspersed with brilliant blue lakes and ponds and bronzed hulking Baobab barks striking out against the rural backdrop.
Arriving in time for sunset, after a 2 hour flight and bumpy 30-minute drive along the dirt-track towards the Alley, was simply breathtaking. I shared the beautiful site of ancient gigantic bulking baobab trees with only a handful of other visitors. The scene over the lakes and the colour transposed onto the elephantine barks at sundown was majestic.
After a few photographs I was seated to a decking area over the lake, with direct views onto the Alley, which had been sealed off for my birthday. A waiter from the beachfront lodge, in which I was to stay later that evening, Palissandre Cote Ouest, brought over a bottle of champagne and canapés. Everyone else had left by this stage and I just watched, transfixed, at the beauty of the surrounding scene. As the colours intensified and deepened, local girls walked through the alley wrapped in swathes of beautiful bold fabrics, carrying firewood or foods on their heads. Boys would rumble through on zebu (bullock) carts.The scenes were mesmerising. I stayed late into the evening, after dark, when the night sky filled with a tangle of stars and constellations, and all I could hear were the voices of surrounding rural village children laughing and some haunting Malagasy music echoing in the distance. It was the most beautiful experience I could have wished for, of such an ancient and spiritual place.
The following morning, I returned at around 4.30am for sunrise! And this time, I had the entire site to myself, which felt absolutely priceless. It was the most spiritual and enlightening moment of the trip and the colours and warmth of sunrise were electric.
L’Allee des Baobabs is an absolute must on any itinerary to Madagascar.