The Silent World of Anjajavy

On a morning adventure into the big blue waters around Anjajavy le Lodge, in the north of Madagascar, I discovered a few new things about life, love and myself.

On that early Indian Ocean morning, lodge guide, Jonhson would pop his head out of the surface every now and again and shout out the name of a certain colourful thingamajig flittering past us. I realised, after a while, that it really isn’t only we humans who like to give our kids peculiar names. It’s a pastime that is even more popular with fish.

The epiphany began with the convict surgeonfish and continued with the twinspot snapper and rubberlips, who, with eye-and-nose goggles pulling at my mouth, appeared to me as somewhat of a kindred spirit.

Plectorhinchus playfairi – whitebarred rubberlips

As I started to fret that Jonhson had sunk to the bottom of the ocean bed, it also struck me that I had been snorkelling incorrectly my entire life. I’ve always sort of bobbed about on the top, trying to stay out of the way of wavy kelp and sharks, but Jonhston would take one great breath and then kick his way down, down, down, sailing smoothly into the coral caverns and crannies, seeking out every kind of fish he could find. This was the adventurer’s style of snorkelling, I realised, and I quickly followed suit.

Further down, with my ears well immersed, I experienced the true silence of the ocean for the first time. The kind of stillness that had been limited to the bath tub before. Now I shared my bath and bubbles with other lifeforms. I discovered the kind of comfortable silence that usually comes from long-held friendships.

While I’m sure the boxfish, halfmoon butterfly and emperor angelfish were enjoying a vibrant tête-à-tête among themselves, Rubberlips and I, at least I, in Rubberlips’ presence, was wrapped in quiet awe – in what Jacques Cousteau spoke of when he said, “The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.”

“I swam across the rocks and compared myself favourably with the sars,” the French explorer and conservationist wrote. “To swim fishlike, horizontally, was the logical method in a medium eight hundred times denser than air. To halt and hang attached to nothing, no lines or air pipe to the surface, was a dream. At night I had often had visions of flying by extending my arms as wings. Now I flew without wings. (Since that first aqualung flight, I have never had a dream of flying.)”

It seemed like the same held for Jonhson.

Back on the boat and goggle-free, he told me that he had never snorkelled before arriving at Anjajavy le Lodge – several years ago. But while working in this unique part of the island, the waters of the protected peninsula and their rich sea life called him day after day, until he had mastered the art. The art of adventurer snorkelling.

He was hooked. In that catch-and-release kind of way, returning to land again, but with more wonder for the silent world than he could ever have imagined.

It’s evident in his growing collection of underwater photography and, like Madagascar’s own Cousteau, he uses each excursion into the sea to seek out and capture the complexity below. Because you can only conserve what you know about, he says. And because, really, he’s fallen in love with that feeling of flying without wings.


Take a look at some images from Jonhson’s Anjajavy collection:

Chaetodon auriga – Threadfin Butterflyfish
Chaetodon auriga – Threadfin Butterflyfish
Acanthurus triostegus – Convict surgeonfish
Acanthurus triostegus – Convict surgeonfish
Zanclus cornutus (Moorish Idol)
Pomacanthus imperator (emperor angelfish)
Ophiocoma erinaceus – boxfish
Lutjanus bohar (two-spot red snapper or twinspot snapper)
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Leiaster coriaceus – red spot sea starfish
Heniochus acuminatus – longfin bannerfish
Chaetodon trifasciatus – melon butterflyfish
Chaetodon trifasciatus – melon butterflyfish
Chaetodon lunula – Halfmoon butterfly

To Protect and to Serve in the Wilderness of South Africa

CJ_shawu-herd4

To protect and to serve – these words aren’t merely the dictum of US police departments. They’re what drive so many conservationists in Africa, fighting each day to conserve the Earth we call home.

They’re the words of special people like Adine Roode, Camp Jabulani lodge owner and elephant conservationist, and her team, who continue to inspire hope with their efforts to save the elephants and other endangered species of the continent in their special place in the Kapama Private Game Reserve in South Africa.

Following their adventures adds a wild spark to our days back home, in the city, as they remind us that there is always hope as long as individuals continue to, well, protect and conserve.

In Adine’s own words, here is an update on another successful introduction of an elephant orphan to the Camp Jabulani herd.


The Art of Exploring Private Islands

“I had always known the sky was full of mysteries – but not until now had I realised how full of them the earth was.” – Ransom Riggs, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

It doesn’t matter how many times you might hear that everything in the world has already been discovered, that, as such, the art of exploring no longer exists, that it has lost its magic.

It doesn’t matter, because to you, each new journey into Africa and the Indian Ocean is as good as uncovering a new land. There is always something mysterious, something you don’t yet know, something worth discovering for yourself.

I get excited over seeing the sun rise in a new part of the world, or watching the moon grow full over a different ocean.

In a place like North Island in the Seychelles, 30 kilometres from the main island of Mahé, I found myself enthralled by the changes in the colours of the sea and hiking over the small island’s peaks – scrambling over carpets of fallen palm tree leaves and rugged boulders, under and beside the indigenous plantlife the hotel has re-planted as part of its island rewilding programme.

If ever there were a place to feel like an explorer of yesteryear, it is the Seychelles. Compared to Europe, the Seychelles has quite a recent history. It’s believed that not many explorers have set foot on North Island itself since it was uninhabited for most of its history, before being transformed into a family-owned farm that was abandoned before becoming the island we know today.

For those with explorer leanings, this is one place that really is relatively untouched and undiscovered, as only a few have had the opportunity and privilege to experience it.

My Family & Other Explorers

explorer – ɛkˈsplɔːrə/

noun: a person who explores a new or unfamiliar area; traveller, discoverer, voyager, rambler, globetrotter, rover, reconnoitrer, adventurer, pioneer.

Emerging from the forested hills, onto a desolate beach as dusk coloured the sky, Tarryn Retief, the island’s conservationist and I came across footprints of other serious explorers and followed them up from the sea.

There in the dark, where the beach sand ended and bush began, a mother Hawksbill Turtle was laying eggs in a hole she had just managed to carve out for her young with those hardworking flippers.

We sat with her in absolute quiet, in absolute dark, the red light of our torch illuminating the soft plop of each egg. We sat beside her while she covered them with sand, like a mother tucking her children into bed for the night. And then she started her slow amble back to sea.

Just the day before we had witnessed another mother covering her nest on the beach. With the Hawksbill classified as critically endangered, these sightings are particularly precious, and yet here in a land that felt very much like an Eden at sea, we could watch, photograph and record every sand-flick, every blink, every wave-surf. There was no one to disturb us and more importantly, no one to disturb the turtles.

As far as we were concerned, Hemingway and Columbus had nothing on us.

A Secluded Island Sanctuary

North Island is committed to ensuring the protection of the natural environment and biodiversity and has conservation at the heart of its philosophy. It has created a sanctuary where natural habitats, long neglected, were rehabilitated so that endangered Seychelles fauna and flora could be reintroduced and given a place to grow and thrive. Once exploited as a coconut plantation, North Island set up its Noah’s Ark conservation programme and managed to turn the island into a natural idyll where endangered species such as the Seychelles White-eye, Giant Aldabra Tortoise and Hawksbill Turtle flourish once more.

North Island’s eleven private villas, built from natural materials recovered on the island during its rehabilitation, are completely hidden from each other and sit beneath palm trees along the beach. It is one of the world’s most exclusive private islands.

Its tropical terrain of mountains and white beaches, filigree reefs and azure Indian Ocean invites explorers of all kinds: snorkellers, divers, fishing enthusiasts, kayakers, paddle boarders, surfers, cyclists, hikers and walkers.

Discover more about North Island here.