As I sit on the porch writing this, the almost full moon casts it light on the waves crashing gently on the shore in front of my hut. In the background I can hear the vibrant Malgasy music playing at the epibar, as I search for the words to describe my experience in Andavadoaka.
Many people have spoken about a typical day here, which involves waking up to a sea so blue that you think your imagination must be playing tricks on you. Typically after a breakfast of coffee and freshly baked bread, it’s off to dive the reefs and practice the skills that you have been learning, with benthic and fish transects. Then it's lunch and well-deserved hammock time, followed by science lectures covering the reefs, marine ecology and Vezo culture. The day ends with the hot sun meeting the sea in yet another legendary Malagasy sunset, and a fresh fish grill.
This typical day in the life of a BV volunteer however does not nearly convey the experience of being here. The feelings, the meanings, the taste, the smell is lost in the description of a schedule. What is Andavadoaka about? Andavadoaka is the sea and the sun. A warm sea of blue that no camera seems able to capture. An ocean that leaves a salty algae taste on your lips and a brush of sand on your hips.
Andavadoaka is also its people; the Vezo. A people connected to the sea like a tree to its roots. A people filled with colour and pride like the butterflyfish, angelfish, parrotfish and wrasse. The Vezo are the laughter of a wave breaking on the shore, living for the moment without worry of the next.
Andavadoaka is its wind that blows relief to hot skin, and carries the salty smells of baking sand and braziers of frying fish and doughballs. A wind that kisses a perfect sky and clears away the promise of clouds to reveal the breathtaking stars which flood the sky each night.