As we ring in the New Year, it seems only natural to reflect on some of our favorite memories from 2011. As Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises, I enjoyed the privilege of visiting many fascinating ports of call onboard Marina and collecting numerous photos from those traveling on the other ships as well. Most of my travels were in Europe, exploring grand cities, historic churches and monumental architecture. Perhaps that is why I so enjoyed these photos of Madagascar, which were shared with me by the Destination Services team onboard Nautica. A vivid contrast to the bustling cities of Europe, Madagascar is a haven for exotic wildlife and exquisite flora.

The island of Nosy Be lies just off the coast of the largest island of Madagascar. Created by an ancient volcano, Nosy Be is a land of beautiful beaches, such as Andilana Beach pictured above, as well as forested mountains and deep crater lakes. The lush environment breeds a variety of unique and colorful wildlife, which made for an amazing and adventurous excursion ashore for Nautica guests. Tree ClimberMadagascar is best known for its rare and endangered lemurs. Destination Services team members Sonja Altmann and Filippo Camerlengo were able to get up close and personal with a few of the famous primates. Sonja Altmann

Filippo Camerlengo

Whitey Ford Sleepy
Celebrity status aside, the lemur shares the Lokobe Nature Reserve on Nosy Be with many other indigenous animal, reptile, plant and tree species, all equally fascinating.

Turtle

Snake

Gecko
The island is renowned for not only its vibrant hues, but also for the pleasant aromas that complement the vivid colors. Nosy Be is known as the “scented” or “perfumed” island due largely to the aromatic ylang-ylang trees spread across the landscape. The excursion continued with a tour of a distillery where the yellow flowers are steam-processed to extract the oil for perfume production as well as natural health products. Considering the wealth of fragrances that envelop the island, including not only ylang-ylang but also cocoa, vanilla, coffee, coconut, and cinnamon, you can see why Nosy Be is a living potpourri of nature’s most pleasing scents.

Ylang-Ylang Distillery 1 Ylang-Ylang Distillery 2Hell-Ville was the final stop on this excursion through Nosy Be. Contrary to its name, Hell-Ville is a charming colonial town featuring a large, open-air marketplace where one can find local produce, trinkets, and smiles that make the visit quite memorable.

Hell-Ville 1

Hell-Ville 2

As you might imagine, Nosy Be also offers great snorkeling, fishing, scuba diving and other water sports. But the guests on this shore excursion were very pleased to have had the opportunity to experience Nosy Be’s exotic wildlife, learn about its diverse flora, and even mingle with a few of the locals.

Pier 2

While a bit reluctant to board the tender and leave this island paradise, guests know that more amazing destinations await them as Nautica sails into 2012 and explores the wonders of Asia.