If I think about a time on our travels when my boys have been, and felt, the most unrestricted, the freest and most wholly themselves, it unequivocally has to be the Easter we spent in Madagascar. The holiday Renzi took on the nickname, Frenzi.
It becomes clearer to me with each new adventure, each new destination, how utterly important it is for children to be allowed the space to run wild, both physically and in their imaginations. To not be shushed. Madagascar did both for us.
We began our journey at Vakona Forest Lodge, in Andasibe, close to Andasibe-Mantadia National Park – land of the lemurs. Very few wild animals scare Carlos anymore, but Renzi, who was four at the time, was a little unsure of these strange people-monkeys at first. Perhaps it had everything to do with the fact that one lemur attempted to nick his banana and nothing to do with fear at all. Renzi doesn’t part with food easily. But after a minute of sizing these new creatures up, the giggles returned to his sweet face. He even let the lemur take his only snack.
When I ask them now, months after the holiday, what their favourite part was, the boys talk about lying on the forest floor in Vakhona and looking up at the wild indris playing above us in the ylang ylang jungle of Jurassic vegetation – delicious monsters, mammoth elephant ear plants and some of the most unique orchids in the world. Totally unhabituated to humans, the indris seemed to speak our language – the language of the wild and free.
We took a bus to Antananarivo, a plane to Nosy Be, overnighted at the Vanilla Hotel and then hopped on a two hour boat ride to Tsarabanjina, a small island off the northwest coast of Madagascar in the Mitsio archipelago, land of seafood, luminous mangos and a snorkelling heaven. So heavenly it was that the boys only remember how salty and blue the sea was, how we floated on our bellies, face down, snorkelling for the first time in our lives. They’ve forgotten about the plankton that stung their nether regions. Probably because it hardly made a blip on their radar, they were too excited to get back in the water, to continue playing.
Renzi’s fear dissolved within a minute and he let go of my arm as we flippered along the seabed. On kids, at least these two, fear stands no chance – whether it’s canoeing over the rapids back home on the Zambezi River, or trusting the snorkel to be their breath, on an island in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Fear stands no chance because their enthusiasm for fun outweighs it. Their desire for all that is wild and free too strong. A desire I hope will endure.
At Tsarabanjina, I was convinced I had lost the boys to the call of the ocean. They didn’t call for me. They simply, peacefully, joyously, spent hours, canoeing, snorkelling, swimming, teaching themselves the ropes. We entertained the Easter Bunny one day, with an Easter egg hunt on the beach sand, celebrating old ceremonies in new lands, and we ate together every night, uniting again like the ocean tide, coming in after its journey out.