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Stormrider Guide to surfing Southeast Madagascar

Madagascar, INDIAN OCEAN


Madagascar surf at Monseigneur Right, YEP

Summary

+ Uncrowded spots - Shark threat
+ Hospitable people - Windy from Sept to Nov
+ Consistent swells - Expensive travel
+ Cheap local costs - Poor roads

Fort Dauphin is the regional hub of the southeast, located on a peninsula with the sea on three sides and is home to a wide range of wave types. The northeast winds are funnelled offshore on the southwest facing beaches and in low winds and some decent swell there's a good right point in front of the Monseigneur Bay Hotel. Sharks are rare on this stretch of the coastline.

When to Go

The best time to visit is April to July when regular S-SW swells reach 4-12ft. Most breaks in and around Fort Dauphin don’t face directly into the SW swells, so average wave heights are reduced, but are still around 4-10ft in the winter. The eastern side of the island is the place to be from Nov-March (summer) when cyclone swells (without the bad weather) can reach 12-25ft on NE-E facing spots. However SE winds can dominate, strongest from Sept to Nov in Fort Dauphin. The tidal range is less than 0.5m.

Surf Spots

Vinanibe (a.k.a. Ambinanibe or Venom Bay) is the most powerful beachbreak of the region, where long, fast, hollow peelers break consistently all-year-round, groomed by the NE offshore winds. Currents and close-outs make it an experienced surfers spot. The 7km long Baie des Singes is peppered with peaks, ideal for all levels of surfing, windsurfing and kitesurfing. More super-fast waves offering perfect low tide barrels in the consistent N or NE wind. The town beach is a hang-out for local surfers with restaurants on hand for post surf parties. Monseigneur Baie is the classic regional reefbreak, offering 150m long, fun workable walls that go from nice and deep at the peak into shallow, flat rocks covered in live coral and urchins. Pumps from April to July when the S swells hit, but needs a S-SW wind making it inconsistent. Perfect for all but the complete novice. Wind and kitesurfers love the Fort Dauphin end of Baie de Galion, but cross-shore winds mean it rarely breaks properly for surfers amongst the many exposed and submerged shipwrecks. Only 15km along the beach, but a 2hr drive is the beautiful fishing village of Evatra which offers a SW-facing, left reef breaking into the rivermouth, well sheltered from the NE-E trades. Speedy bowls unload in SE-SW swells, often lining up perfectly, but it’s best accessed by boat with a guide, as it can be a bit spooky due to ‘big fish’ and strong currents. Lokaro is a true gem of a beach just 40mins walk around the headland, offering perfect sheltered swimming or kitesurfing, but little surf thanks to offshore islets.

Statistics

J
F
M
A
M
J
J
A
S
O
N
D
dominant swell N -E N -SW N -SW N -SW N -SW N -E
swell size (ft) 4 5 6 6-7 5-6 3
consistency (%) 50 60 80 70 70 50
dominant wind NE -SE NE -SE NE -SE NE -S NE -S NE -SE
average force F4 F4 F4 F4 F4-F5 F4
consistency (%) 75 69 57 353 52 65
water temp (C) 26 25 24 22 23 25
wetsuit boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts springsuit springsuit boardshorts

Travel Information

Weather
The SE tip of Madagascar enjoys a moderate tropical climate with two seasons; November to March is the rainy season with hot stifling temperatures and frequent thunderstorms. The actual rainfall over the mountains west of Fort Dauphin drops dramatically, and the SW region is technically a desert. Winters from April to October are dry and warm with moderate cool spells, especially when the wind picks up in September - November. Although the East coast can be struck by cyclones, the risk in Fort Dauphin is low. Fort Dauphin is only 20k’s (12.5mi) away from 2,000m high peaks at the bottom of the eastern mountain range. This gives it a microclimate with NE winds, whilst the rest of the south coast has SE winds. The surf season has lukewarm water temps with occasional cool upwellings and wind-chill. Bring a shorty at the most.

Lodging and Food
Fort Dauphin has changed dramatically in recent years due to the construction of a deep water port for Rio Tinto’s mining activity in the region. This has had the effect of pushing up prices somewhat but also means that there is a great range of accommodation available, local roads have improved and numerous restaurants and bars are more attuned to visitors tastes. From Luxury hotels like the Kaleta (rooms 55 – 120 Euros / $75 - $160) and Azura (58 - 85 Euros/ $78 - $113) which have swimming pools, romantic hideaways like the Lavasoa (bungalows 40 or 45 Euros / $54 - $59) to budget hotels like the Petit Bonheur overlooking Monseigneur Baie (rooms 22 or 30 Euro / $29 or $39), the Gina Village in the heart of town (bungalows 18 Euros / $25) or the Baie de Sainge Hotel (bungalows 15 Euro/ $20) there is something to match all requirements. There are great restaurants in town offering main courses for around $6-9 / 4-7 Euros and the local beer is just under 1 Euro / just over $1. For those on a budget try out the local Malagasy Hotely which serve tasty rice & stew for less than $2 / 1.5 Euros.

Nature and Culture
Madagascar or ‘the Great Red Island’ is a land like no other. The fourth largest island in the world, roughly the size of France, it has been isolated from Africa for over 150 million years resulting in 70-80% of the plants and animals found on the island existing nowhere else on Earth. The island is home to Lemurs (the endemic primates that Hollywood thinks ‘like to move it move it’), brightly coloured Chameleons, huge Baobab trees, 1,000s of orchids and many other strange plants and animals. If you would like to experience the wildlife during your visit, the Andohahela National Park, the Berenty & Nahampoana Private Reserves and Lac Anony are all en route to the waves and well worth a visit. Climb Pic St Louis the mountain behind Fort Dauphin for dramatic views or picnic at one of the many waterfalls in the area. From June – September keep your eyes open and you will see whales migrating along the south east coast and if you are lucky you will surf with dolphins or turtles who sometimes join in the fun. Madagascar is also a land of extraordinary cultural richness. It's a place where ancestors are as much a part of the present day as they are of the past; where in many areas custom takes precedence over the law and western-style religion is freely mixed with beliefs in sorcery and unparalleled funerary customs, which create tombs with Zebu cattle skulls and intriguing decorations – please ask permission before photographing these. The Malagasy - the name for the people of the island - are descended from Indonesians who arrived on the island only around 2,000 years ago with Arab and African influences arriving later. After a period marked by the presence of pirates along the eastern coast, Madagascar was colonized by the French in the late 19th century. Madagascar won its independence in 1960 and is today a democratic state. The French language today remains the only widely spoken European language, with most rural people outside of major cities speaking only their own regional dialect. Madagascar is one of the world's poorest countries. The country's economy is based on agriculture, mining, fishing, clothes production and famously vanilla. The average Malagasy makes only around $1 US per day, while 70% of the Malagasy live below the world poverty line. Nearly half of Madagascar's children under five are malnourished and there has been an ongoing drought in the spiny desert for many years. Despite hardships the Malagasy are known for their hospitality and preference for debate over conflict.