One arrives in Tulear by plane (the flights are daily flights on Air Madagascar), by bush taxi from Tananarive (Antananarivo), the capital of Madagascar and from all the big cities of the country. The area covered by the Foundation, which extends from Tsifoty to Assassins Bay, is accessible by private vehicle (2.5 hours drive from Tulear).
"Nomads of the sea", place of extreme beauty
Located on the south-west coast of Madagascar, around the city of Tuléar, a place remains forgotten in the world. A natural site of extreme beauty, this area is home to the third largest coral reef in an immense lagoon that borders the coast for nearly 200 km.
The Vezo people, also called “nomads of the sea”, live here in this place of extreme beauty.
Recent archaeological and historical research confirm that the Malagasy people are mainly from the Indonesian archipelago. These first pioneers, who arrived at the beginning of our era, are known in Malagasy oral history as the “Ntaolo”. They were then subdivided at the very beginning of the settlement into “Vezo” and “Vazimba”.
Nowadays, the Vezo are the only clan in Madagascar that still retains the ancient name and way of life of the ancient Austronesian Vahoaka Ntaolo of the West Coast.
Living mainly from fishing, they are one of the country’s last nomadic ethnic groups. There are 20,000 people gathered around 20 villages on nearly 200 km of coastline, who, each season, take their families with them to follow the fish. During this period, they bivouacked in the dunes, using the square sail of their pirogue as a tent canvas.
Under penalty of offending the marine gods, they thus endeavour not to fish more than is necessary for their needs.
Algae culture in the village of Ambatomilo
At the edge of this world, inland, stands the Mikea Natural Park. In these forests, another hidden people lives: the Mikea. They develop their own culture in often extreme natural conditions, and draw their food and water very sparingly from the land. This group of aboriginal people is in every way different from other groups in the country.
But in recent years, the lives of Vezo and Mikeas have changed. Vulnerable Mikea are now endangered by deforestation, which, by domino effect, endangers the Vezo populations, with whom they maintain commercial links.
On the coast, many people settled in villages along the shoreline. The exploitation of the lagoon’s resources has therefore become constant and spread out throughout the year. In a few years, the ecological imbalances linked to overexploitation of certain species have appeared.
The preservation of the environment and culture of the Vezo, and their neighboring peoples, seemed to us to be a priority. It is thus the very essence of the Dunes de Mers project.