“I always wondered what freedom was. Well now I’ve found it” said Marcine.
Marcine Cooper- owner of 293 On Komba off the north-western coast of the Madagascar mainland- and hubby Ian visited on a life changing holiday. They decided Nosy Komba (Komba Island) was the spot for them. From a farm in South Africa’s arid Karoo, to football and rugby administration to Madagascar is a leap in every sense- a life that has to be experienced to understand what Marcine means. And I got it. As I swung my legs off the bed on my first morning I thought “I don’t want to leave”.
No infrastructure, no rush brought to mind the often heard Malagasy phrase “Mora Mora”(relax, it will happen – it just takes time).
Tropical eco paradise found
Opinions, before I first visited Madagascar, were varied and the not so favourable related to the mainland, which is so very different. Paradise!” exclaimed another who spent some time on a fully crewed charter yacht. I can see why. Large parts of the mainland have been deforested and exploited, but much of the area in and around the string of fifteen islands that collectively make up the Nosy Be area (including Nosy Be island itself) is reserve and the 100 000-odd inhabitants have relatively little impact on their environment.
293 On Komba has just four rooms. Marcine has very cleverly combined almost rudimentary simplicity with elegance and luxury in this eco-friendly hideaway, perched on the steep little hillside above a beautiful bay. Limited solar power electricity means no aircon, no baths and no hairdryers. But the tiny fans were surprisingly effective and quiet and kept me cool in the very private Ylang Ylang honeymoon suite, separate from the main building. A pretty canopied bed faced out onto my veranda and deck, with loungers and mangroves below, the calm sea ahead.
The pretty path from room to house led through an idyllic strip of garden with loungers, a huge daybed on a deck and a drop away to the beach and water below. Above this the beautiful, open sided, palm thatched lounge and main dining area. Fragrant, polished dark wood, lovely fabrics, vivid paintings by local artists- mostly of curvaceous ladies- comfortable seating on split levels, with the adjacent bar, kitchen and rooms.
The most frequented spot, however, must be the outside dining nook, a metre or two away.
Things have really fallen into place for Marcine since she opened 293 On Komba almost seven years ago. It has everything to do with her- her way with people she meets, works with and employs. Local villagers are protective toward this single white female (hubby Ian is still in South Africa for a year or so) and she’s blossomed, especially as a cook- something she previously had no fondness for. Among other delights, I had fantastically cooked and presented ‘cuta, delicious coconut rice and mixed fresh veggies, chilli relish and a wonderful chocolate mousse with chunks of rich Madagascan Malagasy chocolate.
The smiles, the thoughtfully creative table settings and other personal touches throughout- this place just gives one a friendly hug! Every night is like being invited to a dinner party with Marcine , sometimes with a dance or two- or more- afterward.
There are two ways of getting about- by boat or by foot. Marcine introduced me to the village of Ampangorinina and its interesting mix of locals, French and Italian expats. If you visit, be sure to buy the wonderful cotton tablecloths. You’ll find them all over islands, but Nosy Komba’s are the finest.
Nosy Komba means “Island of Makis” (lemurs) and is home to many lemurs, in particular a variety called Macaco. A walk up to the lemur park above the village introduced me to these unique, charming and oh-so-photogenic creatures. Marcine chaffed the local “gang” on the way- she’s a great negotiator-and then we took a boatride to Marcine’s “secret” spot. A very open secret, but we were not disturbed on a the little sandy patch in the ocean, lazing, swimming and snorkelling before returning and enjoying a truly delightful lunch upstairs at Chez Madio Hotel run by Madam Madio, supported by her ever entertaining Italian expat husband Alfredo, who’s been in the village for over 25 years. Green Day geckoes- Tsatsaka- are almost tame in their boldness where there is a chance of sugar, with one fella (you can tell the males by their red markings) was licking sugar residue off my rhum arrange- the delicious, ubiquitous island aperitif.
Top that off with a massage in 293’s private massage area and you’ll definitely be seeing Esta (siesta) before your dinner.
Just like characters in the movies, people bond quickly when travellers. Nowhere more so than here. You arrive a stranger, leave in a relationship.
Visit www.293onkomba.com and https://www.facebook.com/293OnKombaGuestHouse/?fref=ts
for exceptional, inexpensive deals.
Getting There, Getting About
MadagasCaT Charters and Travel arranged my seamless itinerary. MadagasCaT are members of Nosy Be Tourism Board and are the private partner behind Airlink’s direct flight to Nosy Be. MadagasCaT are the main contributors for the Nosy Be chapter in the Bradt Guide to Madagascar for the last four editions. Call +27 21 2000173 and visit www.madagascat.co.za
Airlink connects you to your unique Indian Ocean island getaway, Nosy Be, on Sundays and also has seasonal flights from Johannesburg to Nosy Be return on Wednesdays from 28 March to 2 May, 27 June to 10 October 2018 and 19 December to 2 January 2019. Airlink, now connecting you to 37 destinations in nine African countries and St Helena Island. Book your flight direct on www.flyairlink.com or call SAA Central Reservations on 011 978 1111. Spread your wings- fly Airlink.