Tuesday, April 05, 2011

A weekend at Niger’s new Eco-lodge awesomeness!!

This past week a friend of ours suggested we all pile into his truck and go south for the weekend, to a National Game Parc on the Niger/Benin/Burkina Faso border. There is also a new eco-lodge that I have heard great reviews of that we were wanting to try out! So we headed out Friday after w

Our whole plan for the weekend was to relax, enjoy our surroundings, and not go anywhere. We succeeded! Even though we were on the edge of the parc that is known for its animals, we took little interest. I didn’t even bring the majority of my camera gear, just a little one! Shocking I know. But I wanted nothing to distract me from good friends and having adventures and fun with our kids!

This new eco lodge, called “Ile de Lamantin” is located on an island. You take a long canoe to reach it with your belongings and it is nice to know you are both safe and secluded because of your location! For any of you in Niger who have not been there (which is likely most of you since it just opened- I highly highly recommend it. It is an awesome location, beautiful cabins and gourmet food! The hostess Natalie takes care of you like a Bed and Breakfast (which she also runs 4 months a year in Southern France when the rainy season shuts down access to this eco-lodge).

Check out their website at: Ile du Lamantin

There are 10 cabins on the island. Each one carefully made and nestled either by the river bank or up on the rocks amongst Baobab trees. Every cabin has a great view of the river and you can sit on your terrace and enjoy it.

Here are some of the cabins and their surroundings.

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_MG_8784This is the one we stayed in, down by the river bank. At night all the windows open up (we have full mosquito nets) and the cool air was wonderful!_MG_8770

The scenery is breathtaking. There was a tiny island in the middle of the river (like the size of a large boat) that we could see easily from our cabin and the main restaurant porch. All day Saturday there was a Hippopotamus there, just hanging around. He would lay, half in the water, and move around and splash. He napped I am sure, he wandered around, ate the grass and gave us all quite the show.

We sat on this terrace here at nightfall, watching the sunset and the river.

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This large boat went by at dusk. It was loaded down with baggage and around 50 people. It was really low in the water with all that weight. It made me nervous for them just watching but apparently it is a normal sight, with the people in the villages down river heading up river to a day market in a larger market.

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The famous Baobab trees are an important part of the landscape. They are enormous and look like they have trunks of carved cement. Many of them grew right around large rocks and into cracks, becoming one with the rocks around them.

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The fruit of the Baobab tree is called Monkeyfruit here. It isn’t a fruit we would think to eat but our hostess made juice and ice cream with it. It tasted somewhat like pear juice. However, the fruit shell is known to be a skin irritant to some people, and Paul can attest to that with with a few irritated skin spots on his face.

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The food- oh did I mention the food! It was awesome! Each meal that Natalie prepared had a variety of tastes, textures and colors. She really is a “foodie” and everything was wonderful, using many national ingredients from Niger as well. She made her own bread, her own desserts, her own yogurt, her own lime ice cubes (so yummy in my Coke!).

Here was one lunch: White fish with chives and mint in a citrus sauce, tiny pasta balls with tomatoes and a sauce, baked zucchini muffins, homemade buns and beet ricotta cheese. And lets not forget the awesome layered banana/yogurt/cinnamon cookie dessert parfait!

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She also made all her own jams and conserves and bought local honey. Here is her citrus peel jam, local honey, bissap (hibiscus flower) jelly, orange jam and apple spice sauce. Amazing for breakfast with coffee, homemade yogurt, fruit salad and her buns!

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The adventures.

We did get a lot of exploring in around the island. The kids loved climbing all the rocks and following the paths. The island wasn’t large enough for them to get too lost, so they had a blast running around.

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In addition to seeing hundreds of hiding places in crevices of rocks with there were long millipedes hiding, we found the “graveyard” of all those millipedes! When they die their shells harden and turn sort of white and the kids enjoyed looking closely at them, trying to count the legs, etc!

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On Saturday afternoon Paul and I took the kids (and a few local kids who joined in) on a treasure hunt around the island.

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It was hot and muggy. A few minutes in there were some raindrops falling and we thought nothing of it. The sky turned dark.

Rainy season is still months away. The odd time you might get a few sprinkles, but no rain at this time of year. It is almost unheard of. And yet rain it did. For an hour it poured down a deluge of rain on us. Even though we ran back to the porch of the restaurant, we were still all soaked through!

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One other thing we did was go on a long canoe ride in the “pirogue” boat. We saw lots of villages on the banks, women washing laundry, 2 Hippos, fishermen and other boats. The air was cool and everyone had a great time!

 

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So there you have it. Our weekend away was so relaxing and just what we needed. I highly recommend this place to anyone going down to Parc W. It is better than anything else around there! For those of you who come to visit us- you know where we are going to take you now! I can just imagine my little nieces and nephews running around and having a blast!

 

Chantelle

3 comments :

Anonymous said...

Magnificent! Thank you for the weekend tour. heather

Esther Garvi said...

Wonderful tour!!
We looked as if we would have "mango rains" too, but in the end, the clouds changed their minds and headed elsewhere...
Warm greetings from Zinder!

Anonymous said...

This was great to read!

I look forward to visiting the eco lodge this February!

nb