Antsiranana, known as Diego Suarez. The Fantastic place
Antsiranana, known as Diego Suarez until 1975 and still called Diego by many, is the capital of Madagascar's northernmost province. Diego Suarez is a must place to visit, to enjoy the beauty of the Red Island. Antsiranana is located at 400 km from the Comoros Islands and at 1173 km from Antananarivo. It is a jewel that requires a long stay to discover all the treasures it contains.
Diego Suarez is named after the two Portuguese explorers Diego Diaz and Fernando Suarez who visited Madagascar in 1506. Diego is a town rich in history and whose control succeeded pirates, traders and slavers over the centuries before the colonial period.
Diego is the perfect place to hang around and prepare for visiting the neighborhood. This is the town with a huge cozy market, a range of fine restaurants and some fantastic places and national parks to visit nearby. The town is the gateway to Montagne d'Ambre and Ankarana National parks. In Diego there is a special and very pleasant atmosphere where magnificent beaches stretch as far as the eye can see and where natural sites of beauty attract visitors. Visitors love this town, which is probably the most French town on Madagascar.
The bay of Diego, with a perimeter of 156 km has made the popularity of this destination. The Bay of Antsiranana is one of largest and most breathtakingly beautiful lagoons after Rio. Shaped like a four-petalled flower with a narrow mouth at its eastern tip, it opens into the Indian Ocean. At the southern edge of the bay the so-called Sugar Loaf is its fabulous landmark which one can easily photograph by the roadside when approaching the Emerald Sea.
The beauty of the beaches and bays of Diego Suarez. All around Diego stretch of beautiful sandy beaches facing a clear sea. The easiest access, Ramena Beach, is about 20 Km to the east of the town. On this beach, protected by a coral reef, it is possible to practice all water sports. At the same time, the Emerald Sea is a must in the region. It offers a fascinating panorama and with the transparency and the turquoise color of the sea one would think in Polynesia. Shallow in the first few meters- hence the “emerald” appellation and just moderately deep at the center to change the color to turquoise and not blue black. The bay comprises several pristine and empty beaches with almost no tourist development.
A series of beautiful turquoise bays, widely known under the name "Three bays Diego Suarez", lined with long white beaches that bear fascinating names such as the Pigeons’ Bay, the Duns’Bay, the Sakalava Bay. In the latter, there are three islets but also the Baie des Sakalava, a tourist resort in a bay open to the winds and big waves of the Indian Ocean that make this place one of the best surfing spots in Madagascar. The «Three bays» are magnificent wild landscapes.
The quad biking, motorcycle or mountain biking is very entertaining ways to discovery a region.
Cape Ambre. To get to the extreme northern tip of Madagascar, a 4x4 vehicle is essential. The trail leading to the village of Antsisikala passes through a very picturesque limestone relief flanked by imposing baobabs.
There are countless aspects and landscapes to be discovered, including Windsor Castle, a 391-meter rock formerly used as an observation post by local military personnel. At the rock formation you will find some tsingy and a variety of drought-resistant endemic plants. From the top the panorama stretches from Montagne d'Ambre in the south to the remote Cap d'Ambre, the northern tip of Madagascar. This site offers a landscape of great beauty and the trail ends at Courrier Bay where there is a beautiful beach, ideal place for relaxation.
Besides the fact that the region is home to the Tsaratanana high 2874 m high, roof Madagascar, the "Montagne des Français" is also an interesting natural site to visit. It reaches an altitude of 426 m and offers a magnificent climbing course of about one hour, during which one can admire baobabs, aloes, various birds and lizards and offers sightings of Sanford's brown lemurs. At the top, the panorama opens onto the bay of Antsiranana. It is part of the larger Ramena protected area complex which also includes Orangea Reserve and the Ambodivahibe Marine Reserve.
The Nosy Hara Archipelago is a group of about 12 islands which is now involved in a conservation project to protect marine resources. The unique combination of fossil coral cliffs, jagged peaks, remote locality, and proximity to rich fishing grounds provided ideal habitat for Madagascar’s largest extant bird, the endangered and endemic Madagascar fish-eagle. Nearly as large as North America’s bald eagle, Madagascar’s cousin exhibits a white tail and pale head, but it is much more rare. The estimated population now stands at around 300 birds.
Jungle Park is another reason to visit this area. The camp is situated in the natural park of Ambohitra Antsingy, not far from the Montagne des Francais. It offers a wide number of activities to explore and enjoy this beautiful area, like trekking and trails, climbing, speleology or bird watching. The bungalows, all of them built with natural materials, are welcoming and comfortable. Some of them, and this is the highlight of this place, are real tree-houses, built on huge tress a stand a couple of meters above the ground. These cute bungalows are also very comfortable and the in the biggest one can sleep up to four people.
Shopping in Diego Suarez. The town, built around the bay, has a modern and well-kept appearance, but the impression one gets is that the population is not very numerous. The area is famous for its fishing products and handicrafts made of zebu horn and sea turtle shells. Its handicraft men continue a long tradition and manage to create exquisite objects. A visit to the great market where a great many handicraft men, fishermen and farmers sell their products will give you a very animated picture of the economy of the province of Antsiranana. There are many souvenir shops and jeweler’s everywhere.
Interesting facts about Diego Suarez. The bay of Diego used to be the hideout of pirates who had taken control of this part of the island. The legend of Libertalia is said to have its origin here. Libertatia to have consisted of a free enclave forged by pirates under the leadership of Captain James Misson in the late 1600s, though whether or not Libertatia actually existed is disputed and it seems that the whole story could be entirely fabricated. Characters that were closely related to buccaneering: a French pirate named Misson, and a Roman priest, Angelo Caraccioli. They were both inspired by a utopian philosophy based on the freedom of men, religion and races. In 1885, the beginning of the French protectorate, the French Navy built a military base. In 1942, the Allies launched Operation Ironclad and landed forces at Courrier Bay and Ambararata Bay. Hundreds of British soldiers fell in the Battle of Madagascar, most of them buried in the special British cemetery in the center of town.
Watch more photos about Antsiranana, known as Diego Suarez here.