The splendor of Ile Ste Marie, nicknamed the “Garden Island”
Whether you call it island of Sainte Marie, Nosy Boraha or Ile Ste Marie, it won’t change the fact that it is a unique tourism spot that resembles no other and it are, besides Nosy Be, one of the most visited islands of Madagascar and has a good infrastructure.
Sainte Marie island is located right off the eastern coast of Madagascar. Its is also nicknamed the "Garden Island", an obvious reference to the Garden of Eden. Indeed, the island of Sainte Marie and its small surrounding islands are a true jewel and very rich in terms of terrestrial and marine biodiversity. Nosy Boraha also offers a stunning landscape: majestic waterfalls, clear natural pools, preserved tropical forests and - of course - fine sand beaches that face the turquoise sea. Its seascape is equally impressive thanks to its coral reef and its waters filled with fish.
Ile Ste Marie it is a narrow granitic island 57 km long 8 km its lush vegetation interspersed with many small villages, the kilometrical sandy beaches shaded by coconut palms, its bays and coves protected by coral reefs have turned this tropical dream island in is one of the most popular beach spots Madagascar has to offer. An atmosphere of peace, tranquility and pure natural beauty prevails on the island, a feeling definitely emphasized by the joie de vivre of the Malagasy.
Ile Ste Marie is famous for its white beaches of dreams. In several places, you can dive and snorkel. The coral reef around the island is untouched and home to a variety of corals, fish and other sea creatures. If you prefer to relax, get a cocktail in a bar and take your place on the beach between palm trees – or have fun in the local discotheque. From a five stars hotel to simple accommodation, Ile Ste Marie has everything for everyone.
Cycling is the most popular means of transport of getting around. Another way to move further is on board of a traditional pirogue. It can take you to beautiful deserted little bays overgrown with tropical vegetation. For outdoor walk-lovers, the island is crossed with tracks, and offers many opportunities to explore on foot.
In 17th and 18th century, the island was settled by pirates, among them legendary freebooters like William Kidd or John Bowen. While the pirates of its past have long gone, there are still a broad array of attractions and activities that make it a favorite spot for tourists. To whet your Island hopping appetite, we’re taking a look at six of the most popular things you can do on the lush and charming Ile St Marie. Enjoy these... experiences:
*The adrenalin rush of humpback whalewatching. In winter (from June to the end of September), the sea around Sainte Marie island offers one of the most fascinating natural spectacles in the world. Large groups of humpback whales (Megaptera) make their annual migration from the Antarctic to the sheltered waters around Ile Ste Marie where they calve, nurse their young and engage in their spectacular courtship rituals between the end of June and September.
*Soak up the Sun. Beach-bumming is a must for visitors to Nosy Boraha, with its ring of palm-fringed beaches and warm, soft sand. Year-round on the Island, the skies clear and it’s nothing besides sunny skies, clear blue oceans surrounded by tropical forests you’ve most likely only witnessed in films! Sainte Marie boasts numerous stunningly beautiful beaches and secluded coves, fringed with coconut palms. The east coast is relatively rugged and - until recently - undeveloped. It offers some of the better beaches, particularly on the Ampanihy Peninsula, which is separated from main island by the long Baie d'Ampanihy. The best swimming beaches are located in the Northern and Western coasts, as well as in the islet aux Nattes. This the perfect time kick back while you soak up the sun, but you’ll also be able to truly immerse yourself in the beauty for which the Island is renowned.
*The pedestrian walks. If there is one thing that can really be said of Ile St Marie, it’s that it certainly rewards the active traveller who wants to get out and experience a place in a myriad of ways. Not only is this an incredibly unique way to experience the Island, but it also brings you up close and personal meet with the diversity of its landscape and the numerous creatures that call it their home.
*Remember ancient rogues in the pirate cemetery. Ile St Marie is the perfect destination for those fascinated by history. In the 17th and 18th Centuries, it’s said that up to 1000 pirates called the Island their home – including the infamous and widely-feared William Kidd and Thomas Tew.
*Dive into the Depths. The coral reefs located slightly off shore of Ile St Marie offer the perfect playground for scuba diving and snorkelling. Its waters are rich with tropical fish, moray eels, dolphins, marine turtles, groupers, lobsters and grey sharks. Boasting a unique and beautiful array of ocean wildlife, as well as a couple of fascinating pirate shipwrecks and, in the Soanambo reef, the beautiful black coral, the waters around Sainte Marie island provide a memorable diving destination for anyone who loves the ocean.
*Fish in the Deep. Those who’ve developed a love for deep sea fishing, are bound to have heard others speak of how Madagascar and its surrounding islands offer some of the best sites in which to cast a line. Some of the species that can be caught, while deep sea fishing off the coast of Nosy Boraha, include marlin, sailfish, kingfish, barracuda and dog-toothed tune – all of which present a worthwhile challenge for anyone looking to reel in a big one!
People's lives on the island have not changed much since the old days. The rhythm of life is given by the sun and by small-improvised bands playing homemade instruments. You will have the opportunity of sitting on the beach, listening to a small band playing Malagasy music and treating yourself to one of the best coconut chicken dishes in the whole of the Indian Ocean. As all coastal regions of Madagascar, Sainte Marie island offers to its visitors a cuisine based on seafood: lobster, shrimp, crab and various fish. You will also taste many Malagasy specialities with meat of zebu, rice, brèdes and other spicy flavors.
Watch more photos about Sainte Marie island here.