HMAS Newcastle recently conducted a three-day port visit to Antsiranana, also known as Diego-Suarez, in Madagascar, deployed as part of Operation MANITOU.
Located on the northern tip of the island, it is one of the largest deep-water harbours in the Indian Ocean.
Newcastle is the first Australian Navy ship to visit Madagascar since HMAS Stuart I in the Second World War.
Her Excellency Jenny Dee, the Australian Ambassador to Madagascar, travelled from Mauritius to welcome Newcastle and mark the historic visit.
Newcastle hosted an Official Reception for both visiting and local officials and dignitaries with maritime diplomacy at it’s finest as the crew and locals bridged the language barrier, with laughs and persistence.
The Madagascan population speak Malagasy and French with little English, however, Commanding Officer Newcastle, Commander Mark Sirois, was able to assist with due to his French-Canadian background.
Commander Sirois conducted media interviews and assisted with a ship’s tour in French, much to the relief of the ship’s tour guides and to the delight of the local media.
The brief respite stop provided the ship’s company with an opportunity to explore a country which many had only ever dreamt of visiting.
Personnel were able to experience the local cuisine and culture, plus the unique environment and wildlife of Madagascar.
Lieutenant Iris Van Kampen said the visit had been remarkable.
“It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to see such unique wildlife in such a beautiful and isolated part of the world,” she said.
Following the port visit and some much-needed rest and recreation time, Newcastle has continued her deployment, conducting maritime security operations throughout the Middle East region. This has included extensive patrols of the Middle East and East coast of Africa.
Newcastle will be replaced on operational tasking by HMAS Warramunga in the near future and is expected to return to her homeport later in the year.