Île Sainte-Marie (also known as Nosy Boraha) in Madagascar's Toamasina Province is the relaxed alternative to the resorts of Nosy Be.

Understand edit

La Crique Beach
A humpback whale off the island

Île Sainte-Marie was a popular base for pirates in the 17th and 18th centuries, as it provided bays and inlets for protection from storms, abundant fruit and quiet waters. The utopian pirate republic of Libertalia was also rumoured to exist in this area, although the republic's existence, let alone its location, has never been proven.

Today, Île Sainte-Marie is as sleepy as it is charming. Its only town, Ambodifotatra, is a ramshackle collection of houses and cafes, along with a Catholic church, a market and a pirate graveyard. Villages dot the island, where the locals live in bamboo huts, while quiet beaches line the island, their isolation punctuated only by the occasional tourist lodge. These lodges will facilitate your activities on the island, if you need any, from pirate history tours to whale watching.

On whales – the island is famous for them. Pods of humpbacks use the channel between the island and the mainland as a migration route from the Antarctic to the nearby Baie de Tintingue. From June until September is the best time for whale watching.

Get in edit

Air Madagascar has flights to the island from Antananarivo, but beware, the prices are high. Alternatively, get to Toamasina (a mission in its own right) where there are ferries that head to Île Sainte-Marie, for example the El Condor Ferry.

Get around edit

Tuk-tuks are the main form of passenger transportation on the island. Otherwise, you can hire a bicycle or rent a scooter. Your lodge should find you one if they don't have them themselves. Note the roads are poor... but the scenery's beautiful.

See and do edit

The pirate cemetery
  • Whale watching – from June to September is the best time to see humpback whales
  • Diving – the lagoon is filled with coral and free from sharks
  • Snorkeling – ditto above
  • Bicycling – visit the villages, find the beaches
  • Pirate gravesites – there is a pirate graveyard in Ambodifotatra that is really interesting
  • Ilot Madame Museum – in Ambodifotatra. A pirate history museum as well as the island's only museum

Buy edit

  • Ambodifotatra market – a lively little market, although pretty typical for an African town

Eat edit

Drink edit

Sleep edit

There is plenty of accommodation, ranging from backpackers' hostels to luxury resorts.

Stay safe edit

It's a bit more dangerous than you'd think, although no more so than Madagascar as a whole. Be vigilant and use common sense.

Go next edit

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