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

A Manifesto For Making The World A Better Place

R&C

 The Spirit of Relais & Châteaux

 “If we do not live as we think, we soon begin to think as we live.”
– Fulton J. Sheen

On the entrance to each of our hotels and lodges around Africa sits a gold Fleur de Lys, that distinctive mark of the Relais & Châteaux family. It is our family crest, a symbol of the principles that have united us for our 60 years of history, the principles that we hold ourselves to to this day.

The 20 Commitments of Relais & Châteaux are more than a code of guidelines for our properties and the experiences they offer. They are part of the greater vision that we have for the world, a vision to create positive change. More than just words, they are unflinching values our innkeepers embody and live. They are the spirit of Relais & Châteaux.

To give you a hint of what to expect from your travels in Africa with us, take a look at our manifesto below and here, through the eyes of the President himself.

R&C Vision

Image taken at Bushmans Kloof in the Cederberg

1. Offer a “cuisine” that is representative of local traditions and environments and reflects their global diversity.
2. Receive guests in a way that respects the individuality of each Relais & Châteaux property location, landscape, decor, and its unique way of good living and fine dining.
3. Welcome guests as friends, in an atmosphere where the host Relais & Châteaux property share its passion for “living well”.
4. Initiate strong relationships with local farmers and fishermen and develop a Conservatory that protects and promotes biodiversity.
5. Encourage responsible fishing to protect the biodiversity of the oceans.

Fishing on the Zambezi

6. Contribute to renew natural resources by reducing food waste and using seasonal products locally sourced.
7. Limit the environmental impact of Relais & Châteaux properties with regards to energy, water and waste by employing the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) system of checks.
8. Associate the finest tastes with nutrition and health to show our guests how fine “cuisine” and well-being go hand in hand.
9. Develop a system for training young people in each region in the art of good taste, food preparation and service.
10. Be part of the regional culinary culture and share our knowledge to teach and enrich the Food Arts as part of the Intangible Heritage of Humanity and as the 10th Art Form.

R&C Vision

Image taken at Anjajavy L’Hotel in Madagascar

11. Sign contracts with small local producers who supply our restaurants, offering them an appropriate price allowing them to grow their products without chemicals or GMO, avoid overproduction and the depletion of natural resources.
12. Set up a plan to train the young in the spirit of the “artisan journeymen” where they can learn the skills our professionals use daily throughout the world.
13. Give our personnel good working conditions and salaries that allow them to achieve the level of excellence of Relais & Châteaux so they become our ambassadors everywhere they go.
14. Develop “the art of taking care and being attentive to someone’s needs and desires” by conveying, in a personal way, our pleasure to serve, making the experience at Relais & Châteaux a unique, fulfilling and inspiring moment.
15. Create relationships with local authorities to participate in the planning and initiation of programs for local development.

R&C Vision

Image taken at Morukuru in Madikwe

16. Participate in the promotion of manual jobs, which stress the importance and value of working with one’s hands, allowing young people to realize professional goals.
17. Explain these 20 principles to our clients so that they can improve the way they plan their holidays, in a responsible manner.
18. Invest locally to help communities unite the cultural and practical links between the city and the countryside.
19. Create global alliances, starting at the local level, between people working with different means but sharing the same objectives (to diminish food waste, develop local and sustainable food production, maintain biodiversity).
20. Share the Vision among the owners of Relais & Châteaux, chefs, dining, hotel staff and wine experts, and ensure through local and international events, that our actions and our words contribute to “make the world a better place through cuisine and hospitality” and to recognize the “Arts of Living” as the 10th Art.


This is our vision of Africa…