Ampefy is a little town about 100km west of Antananarivo, in a landscape dominated by volcanic landforms – many of the surrounding hills have the telltale conical shape of dormant volcanoes. There are a few hotels in town, but we opted for an AirBnB (yes, even in Madagascar!) lakeside lodge that went for around $22 per day and settled in for the weekend on the eve of Madagascar’s Independence Day celebration. The rural town’s surprisingly snazzy fireworks celebration caught us by surprise! And we learned that our recently-adopted dog is no fan of fireworks.
The town is a nice place to escape the city for a few days and enjoy some fresh air. Our first morning after arriving, we decided to launch the drone for an aerial overview of the area, which is dominated by the Itasy lake. Like all the videos I share, if you have decent bandwidth, it’s worth taking a moment to maximize the resolution settings and full-screen the video.
Once it had been launched, the local kids at a nearby school figured out quickly the source of the buzzing sound in the air, and quickly came running to get a closer look. As I squatted to allow even the smallest kids a look at the screen, I quickly found myself weighed down by about 20 kids who were all hanging on my shoulders and arms to try and get a closer look.
At night, we walked around the grounds with flashlights and discovered no less than four pretty large chameleons asleep in the nearby trees. And a hugh-jass spider eating a moth. The next day we went out in the morning and discovered them in their same places. It turns out that chameleons don’t necessarily change color to match their environments – it’s more a question of mood, and species.
There are a few other interesting places to visit nearby, which require a bit of 4-wheel-driving. First, we went to see the Chutes de la Lily – literally, the waterfalls of the Lily (river). When we arrived, we were once again mobbed by local kids – this time, trying to sell us volcanic rocks shaped and painted like hearts, turtles…and guides wanting way too much for their services. We walked out to the first waterfall, where a couple of enterprising teens had set up a photo station – with a printer powered by a solar panel set up out in the sunshine. Again, I launched the drone, and when it landed somewhat close to the cliff, made the mistake of grabbing it a little too hastily. It got the kids’ attention – that’s for sure!
But we eventually made our way down to the second falls as well, and were rewarded for our efforts. This was the walk where we learned our little dog is also terrified of crossing running water. I carried him across several shallow river crossings, but he quickly caught on to the gig and we had to get a bit devious to avoid leaving him behind. But in the video below we test the 3DR Solo’s new orbit/follow feature (that’s our Land Cruiser) and overfly both falls. You can hear in the audio the local kids remarking on the Solo.
Finally, as the sun was getting lower in the sky, we rushed out to catch a glimpse of the famed local geysers – the “Geysers d’Andranomandroatra” – accessible via a brutally rutted 10 km long road that winds through villages where everyone stops to wave at the “vazaha” (literally “white people” but meaning “foreigners”) driving through their hamlet. We arrived at sunset and were underwhelmed by the geyser, which only shoots up a meter or so due to local mining activity, but the light from the setting sun was pretty amazing from the drone’s eye view.
There are apparently other interesting things to see in the area – volcanic lakes and scenic hikes. Unfortunately, these will have to wait for our next visit – the next day, it was time to head home.