The Millot plantation, Madagascar

Contrary to what I expected, Madagascar had plenty of travel options. I thought it was just beach and animals same like in the famous cartoon but it offered much more. I flew from Milan to Nosy Be with air Italy and I had planned to stay around the Nosy Be area as the public transport didn’t seem easy. Once in Nosy Be, I understood that with someone’s (native born) help it would have been possible reaching the mainland Madagascar by boat and that sounded really very interesting because on the other side there was much more than a beach life. The public transport ferry to Ankifi (the arrival port at the mother island side) costs 1000 ari ari and the private speed boats around 80.000 ari ari. In this case you pay for the boat and not for the person. So groups can better travel privately. As my taxi driver was there to help me out I bought the ticket for the public ferry. At that moment it wouldn’t have been possible for me self-managing the situation because they handled the embarkation very chaotically and specially I couldn’t speak their language and no one there seemed or wanting to speak English. Ankifi was just 30 minutes of sailing distance from Nosy Be and as I was so determined to cross the bay that I didn’t want to give up. Once in Ankify, it hasn’t been difficult to catch a taxi towards Ambanja, the city of my destination.

There was only one cocoa producing area in Madagascar: Ambanja, in the north of the mother Island of Madagascar. The leading producer was the Millot Plantation. They owned hectares and hectares of land where entire villages were living and working. They didn't handle only cocoa but also spices and essential oils, especially ylang ylang (the fragrance used for Channel number 5 perfume). Marlene, our guide, the owner’s wife, was from Cameroon. She spoke good English and French. She was very informative and an interesting woman. During the visit, she explained how each plant is grown, picked and processed. There were more than 1000 employers working there, most of them were women. At the beginning of the visit, she told us to ask always the employers before taking photos of them. I didn't really understand if it was whether a form of respect towards them or because Marlene hersef didn't like photos at her property and therefore used them as shield. As many of them lived inside the plantation we could also see huts with daily life going on. Cacao arrived on the island as seedlings from Venezuela 100 years ago! From the Venezuelan one, they have later developed their own flavor: there are now three types of cacao cultivated in Millot who were responsible for the drying and fermenting of the bean that is produced in this area. The Millot plantation started producing cacao in the 1920’s and it was famous for its fine flavored beans which are used by some of the most well-known chocolate makers. The plantation was open to visitors (€ 10.00) and  it is often listed as one of the world’s top cocoa plantations. 

Because the plantation spreads over 15 sq. km, we needed a vehicle during the guided tour. I had mine with the driver and the ones who didn’t have their own vehicle, had to hire one at the plantation itself. After the tour I decided to sleep and dine in their wonderful farmhouse in the heart of the cocoa plantation, Maison du Planteur B&B for a reasonable price. (Lunch and Plantation visit € 25.00, B&B € 20.00). Seemed that the Millot supported a primary school attended by the children of their employers. I highly recommend a stay with Marlene, she was such an interesting person. I wondered asking her during my stay how much they earn from the plantation and she answered me: I earn as much as enough to pay all my employers well and to give a decent life to my family!!! She was a strong woman with a great personality and I have brought home something from her that I will never forget: I never quarrel with the ones I love, because they are a gift from heaven she told me at the end! Sadly most of the tourists I met in Madagascar ended up their vacation inside the big resorts in Nosy Be, without even knowing that the journey from Nosy Be to Ambanja was very short.

 The day after, on my way back to Nosy Be, due to the breakdown of the public ferry I had to travel with the private speed boat. I tried to Negotiate but they didn't change the price even if I begged for long. As soon as they got the money from me (80.000 ari ari) they started to load up the boat with the locals as well, asking them 1000 ari ari each. They at least should have travelled free because I have already paid the amount for the full travel service. Or otherwise they should have asked me less, discounting what they had been able to collect from others. Most of the locals travelling here with me were girls (young prostitutes) going for their night duty in Ambatoloaka. If you want to avoid travelling with them make sure to ask the boat man before paying him, or even better if you pay at the arrival. In case instead you make the crossing with the public ferry, you should get back to Nosy Be just after the lunch to avoid the girls.

1 comment:

  1. Ahhhh Cacao! We used to have a tree in our backyard, never thought it is coffee after some processing!! hehehe (I was a little kid then)... When I hear of Madagascar, the ultimate picture is the zoo and the animals, it's good to know there are such plantation around. :)

    Thank you for sharing!

    God Bless!
    JM Kayne | #InMyHeart♥


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