2 Fool Moon Adventurers Paddle the Longest Canal in Madagascar

In April 2018 two Fool Moon paddlers Anaïs Valère and Romain Deslandres completed a 350 KM paddle on the Pangalanes Canal, Madagascar. There they discovered breathtaking landscapes and welcoming communities. Their story of this adventure is not ready to fade from their memory. The two adventurers paddle over half the Pangalanes Canal in 3 weeks, which also comprised of 5 rest days, 7 school visits, 1 orphanage visit and 2 hospitals visits, Plus they only experienced 2 mornings of rain! The journey took them 1 week less than expected after a few detours.

The journey started in Manambato on the 30th April 2018 and finished 21 days later on the 21st May. Averaging 23 KM paddling a day. The French duo Anaïs Valère and Romain Deslandres revisit their journey with TotalSUP.

Before we even began we decided on using the Fool Moon boards, we paddled on the fool moon X-Moon 12′.0 and the Mekong10.8. These two boards really helped us in this expedition and we are extremely grateful to Pierre-Yves Hocké, the founder of the FoolMoon brand in assisting us this expedition. Throughout the paddle the boards were extremely stability and durable. Our daily record of 33 KM of paddling in 8 hours of current and inclement conditions was a tribute to the SUPs provided.

The start of the paddle was perfect, we couldn’t have asked for a better start the sun was radiant and there was zero wind. We quickly left Lake Rasoabe, situated by the village of Manambato. From there on we were paddling on translucent water and along the banks tgat were ripe with lush vegetation. This was our first bivouack, after months of planning we were finally doing it! That night we shared a tropical fruit cocktail to welcome us, there were guavas galore and a sunset that tinted the the water surface with fiery orange hue.

On the 3rd day of the paddle we visited our first school, located in the village of Amboditafara. We received a rather solemn welcome from the teachers but a very warm welcome from the children who were buzzing around us and showing off the few french words they knew! Apparently the villagers have not seen vahaza (white people) for 3 years!

The next 3 days were not easy. On the 4th day we were greeted at 8am by pouring rain and a nice fight against a headwind. We were crossing a large lake, the small waves and head waves made it hard work for Anais, who despite hard paddling kept on retreating, so at that point we decided that I was going to tow her!

We quickly completed the 1st stage of Mada Gliss and enter then 2nd. The weather conditions were favorable, a slight headwind and warm sun to accompany us. At this point we had to navigate through several KM of narrow passages, so we had to keep alert. We arrived in the village of Ambilabe and were now 208 km from our final destination!

That night we were hosted by Fred, who paddles canoes through the canal, his paddle strength was amazing he sliced through the water littered with hyacinths easily and we were enthrolled.

Here we were only 3 hours from the 3rd stage of the paddle, and were due to arrive in the village of Mahanoro. This part of the canal was very beautiful: the vegetation continued was incredibly diverse. During this part if the paddle we saw multiple traditional traps these were made of wood hedges spanning the width of the canal so to trap fish and shrimps, it really gave the canal an appearance of a labyrinth!

We were enjoying ourselves, we had a good northerly wind plus the flow with us, and the goal of having a shower after 10 days of travelling!

The next day there was a change of mood. The sun played hide-and-seek with the clouds, but above all we knew before even putting the paddle in the water that the day would be physical, the wind was coming from the south which meant that we would have a head wind all day.

The day before we had paddled 15 KM in 2 hours, but that day we had paddled 33 KM in an enduring head wind. But the effort was not in vain and we arrived half a day early at the Pangalanes Forest Lodge, a small haven of peace stuck on the lagoon between canal and ocean. One of the last rare primary forests that remains on the East coast.

Then we had a rest day and we didn’t waste it. Only two days after leaving Mahanoro, we really felt that we had left behind the most “quiet” section of the canal. Every 20 minutes, the continuous ballet of a tacatac (traditional canoe) and bush boats all different from each other, all coming to break the silence. However, if there is one thing that has not changed since our departure from Manambato 13 days ago and which continued to amaze us was the remarkable cleanliness of the canal, the exceptions to this was on the outskirts of the big villages – Vatomandry, Mahanoro.

We contiued the journey. Then we arrived in Nosy Varika, this was the 1st village were we could connect to the outside world! The morning promised to be a cushy one, less than 12 km to go to Nosy Varika, 3rd and last big stage of our journey, 93 km from the finish, Mananjary. The favourable wind that we had enjoyed for 3 days had turned 180 degrees, we were faced with paddling into gusts of 30-40 KM. 3 hours we arrived on the small lawn of the hotel Oasis welcomed by the master of the place, Sergio. We were relieved!

We finally entered the last part of our journey. We had 2 thirds of the huge Mahela Lake to cross and as usual the wind didn’t help us! The sky cleared to allow us to enjoy green banks lined with rice fields. But soon the clouds jostle to bring the rain. It’s no longer the shower, it’s a deluge so much so that on our little paddles you really think you’re on a Noah’s Ark. We couldn’t see more than 100 m in front of us! We were forced to break in Ampandimana and took refuge under a small hut in falfa of 6m2 which accommodated very quickly thirty people! The rain stops, a little blue sky and we set sail under the eyes of a committee of departure which must meet the quarter of the village. We made camp that night in a small grassy meadow.

Tonga soa Mananjary! It is Monday 21st May, we are greeted by sun as we reach our final destination. After 20 minutes of heavy rain, the sun quickly chased the clouds and flooded screed flooding the canal banks with warmth that warms the hearts. We were all the more satisfied to have waited until the next day that the last portion of the Pangalanes is a feast for the eyes.

Finally, the Pangalanes are crying at the end of our adventure and are definitely letting us know they are unhappy! Eventually, the bet we took yesterday to wait is paying off, the sun burns off the clouds and warms up our hearts. We are so happy we waited for this day for our last leg of the Pangalanes, the day is delightful. It is a summary of our last 3 weeks paddling, the canal offers over 10 KM of the full range of flowers that we had previously encountered. Amazing! In conditions we wouldn’t have dreamt of 24 hours ago, we were now enjoying every stroke with a little bit of nostalgia.

Coming out of the last turn, we see the first bridge of Mananjary, our final destination. That’s it! Here we are! With a massive smile on our face, we enjoyed this finish with the great pleasure of having successfully completed an adventure which we would have never imagined, especially with the variety of conditions we experienced from start to finish.

Misoatra betsaka Madagasikara ! (“Thanks a million” Madagascar).

About the Author

Helen Trehoret

SUP, OC1, V6, Surfski ... and field hockey coaching, Helen is a busy British mother of two who lives in Bretagne, France with a passion for all things Ocean. Helen runs Barrachou SUP, a SUP tour company specialized in excursions around Bretagne and Scotland.

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