Words and photos by Brett Goulston
Off the north east coast of Madagascar lies the tropical island of Sainte Marie, a place where bragging rights are assured because you can almost certainly be sure nobody you know will have heard of let alone this majestic island. The word paradise simply doesn’t do it justice!
This best way to reach this small island - barely 50km from top to bottom and very narrow - is to fly from Madagascar itself. Air Madagascar flights are frequent but frankly, not known for their accurate departure and arrival times. Book a minimum of two nights on Ile Sainte Marie but three or four is even better!
I first travelled to the island with a small group. We booked into the Masoandro Lodge and checked into a delightful bungalow. Run by French woman Anne Baruch Huguet, this is basic but very comfortable accommodation and certainly all you need. The food is great and the views from the restaurant balcony are stunning. During your stay you can choose to chillax but if you are the more active type, then there is plenty to see and do.
Around July and August, the humpbacks come to the warm channel to breed. We spotted dozens very close to our boat. My photos may have been average (I'm blaming the stability of the boat) but regardless, it was amazing watching them breach and come up for air. Rent a bike from any of the hotels and, depending on your level of fitness, ride the length or just a section of the island. There is just one road up and down the island so do take care! Make sure you take a tour to the pirate cemetery and book the services of a guide so you can learn the fascinating and somewhat scary history from a few hundred years ago. There is one absolute must-do on the island: head to its southern tip by 4WD to the smaller island of Ile aux Nattes. Canoe or take a small boat across the channel of 200-300 metres, depending on tides. There are a few small villages and a bar or two serving lunch. The bar where we lunched served lobster which was to die for! Our cook assured us it was caught that very morning and judging by the freshness, I doubt he was fibbing!
Blue Dot Travel's next small group tour to Ile Sainte Marie and Madagascar departs August 2019. Do yourself a favour and hop on board. Click here for more information.