Water experiences, by Anne

Back home, water is nothing I normally think much about. For sure, since I was a child, I was taught to save water and therefore close the tab while brushing teeth, not shower for ages and use the flush stop button at the loo. You do those things without really thinking about it. Water is the new beauty drink in the west, but here in Madagascar you really feel its importance.

Naturally, there is no tap water in Honko. If you do not have a really robust stomach, tap water is not suitable for drinking anyway – only if you apply chorine tabs. In Honko, we get our drinking water from a well in Ambondrolava. The employees take turns in delivering it over the 1km distance from the village to our Centre each day. Like that, we use it to rinse fruit, or to cook tea and coffee. To actually drink it, it has to be filtered through multiple substrates in one of our 3 water filters. If we have many people around, we quickly run out of drinking water. Water sharing is something one has to learnotherwiseothers stay thirsty. Normally though, there is enough for everybody. The water filters have to be cleaned every once in a while, which might lead to water shortages.

Even though we have a well closer to the centre, ground water is not used for drinking because of the shorter distance to the incoming salty tidal water. However, it can be used to do the washing up, or to have a nice bucket shower after being all sweaty and dusty from a trip to Tuléar, or muddy from monitoring in the mangroves.

Sometimes we go swimming in the great channel, which is really salty. The water is always brownish, as it is full of washed off nutrients from the mangrove forest. High tide is the best, as the channel is actually deep enough to have a proper swim and the fresh ocean water is still cool. After high tide, it is warmer than a hot bath back home, as the water literally boils in the sun for hours. Depending on what time you go, the current will either drive you towards the mangroves or the Channel of Mozambique. If you are a good swimmer, you might swim couple of metres against the current. If you just want to relax, you can float along. Mangrove monitoring is usually done at low tide, so there might be the chance to have a swim afterwards.

Honko has two kayaks and one pirogue for tourists to experience the mangroves from the channels. If you find somebody to carry the kayaks from the centre to the channel (dragging damages the boats), you could have a splendid time on the water. You could paddle through some smaller channels and watch crabs munching away mangrove leaves on the trees. Highest tide (spring tide) is at new moon and full moon. The other option is to paddle towards the Channel of Mozambique (6km). Dmitra and I made it with the current in about one hour to the ocean and had a swim near Tsongoritello. The way back was a real hassle, and took us nearly 3.5 hours, as we had to partly drag the boat, partly paddle against the current. Anyway, it was a great experience, to see the mangroves from a new perspective and feel the strength of the tides. Furthermore, I got a nice tan.

The mangroves do not only protect the shoreline, but also mitigate the sedimentation of the coral reefs in front of the coast. To really grasp the importance of the forest and see the beauty of the Malagasy corals, you definitely have to go snorkelling or scuba diving. You can catch a taxi-broussetoMangily where a boat and equipment can be rented at Mangily Scuba Diving. Honko is close friends with the American owner and the tariffs are much lower than in other tourist countries. Even though the coral reef is quite degraded due to unsustainable fishing practises, it is really worth it. I saw many colourful coral fish – like in Finding Nemo, – bright sea slugs, huge mussels and blue corals.

As you see, you will experience water in multiple ways, and let it be only the excitement, when the FiherenanaRiver is refilled with water or the rolling thunder in the distance during the rainy season.

Stay hydrated and get wet!

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