Nosy Be or Sainte Marie: Where should I go?

For travelers who wish to conclude their journey in Madagascar with beach relaxation or water activities, we understand the dilemma you often face: whether to choose Nosy Be, renowned for its numerous islands, pristine sands, coconut palms, vibrant seabeds, miraculous fishing, nights spent to the rhythm of surf under starlit skies; or Sainte-Marie, affectionately known as Nosy Boraha by locals, an island of perpetual beauty, serene and enchanting, caressed by tepid lagoon waters where palm trees bow in reverence a paradise far from mass tourism. Both islands of Madagascar are all exceptional, and truthfully, we struggle to choose between them as well. Here are a few insights that might help you decide:

Why go to Nosy Be : The perfume island :

One of Nature’s most beautiful attractions :
Nosy Be Island by Madagascar Tourisme

Nosy Be, affectionately known as the Perfume Island due to its ylang-ylang, vanilla, and sugar cane plantations, is a true tropical paradise exuding a vibrant coastal charm. Resembling a scene from a postcard, its white sandy beaches, turquoise waters, and coral reefs create perfect settings for scuba diving, snorkeling, and fishing.

Regarded as the jewel of Madagascar, the island is also home to the Lokobe Nature Reserve in the southeast, where lemurs, chameleons, and unique flora thrive. To the north lies the expansive Andilana Beach, promising great tourism potential. Further beyond, a chain of high islands and islets, surrounded by warm turquoise waters akin to an underwater aquarium, beckons visitors to escape the world and its concerns.

Things to do in Nosy Be :

Nosy Be is renowned for its array of water-based activities, including diving, deep-sea fishing, and boat trips to neighboring islands like Nosy Komba, Nosy Tanikely, Nosy Iranja, and numerous other captivating spots. Each island offers its own unique charm. Climbing to Mont Passot, the island’s highest point, is a dreamy experience. Atop Mont Passot, accompanied by a complimentary glass of champagne or cocktail, visitors can enjoy a breathtaking panoramic view, especially magical during sunset. For those interested in culture, a visit to ylang-ylang distilleries and local markets is a must.

Atmosphere :

The ambiance on Nosy Be is relaxed and festive, with numerous bars, restaurants and discos. Nightlife is lively, especially in Hell-Ville, the island’s main town. However, Nosy Be doesn’t always exude the fragrance of a Garden of Eden. There is mismanagement of resources, poverty, as elsewhere in the country, and the ugliness of sex tourism, mostly confined to seaside resorts. Despite this, the superb setting takes over, in an atmosphere that invites idleness.

How about Sainte Marie : The Pirate Island :

Preserved natural attractions :
Sainte Marie Island By ORT Sainte Marie

Sainte-Marie, also known as Nosy Boraha, is a smaller and more tranquil island compared to Nosy Be, celebrated for its lush landscapes and untouched beaches. This hidden gem, spared from mass tourism, is renowned for hosting humpback whales that migrate to its waters during the austral winter, from July to September. The island comes alive with cultural festivities as locals celebrate the arrival of these majestic creatures. Sainte-Marie is also rich in dense vegetation and intriguing historical sites, such as a pirate cemetery and ancient fortress ruins. Exploring the island’s interior allows encounters with local communities, while a range of welcoming hotels catering to various budgets and a perpetual sense of verdant beauty define its allure.

Activities you can do :

Visitors to Sainte-Marie can explore secluded coves, coral reefs and lagoons in complete tranquillity. Cycling or scooting across the island reveals fishing villages and magnificent landscapes. Diving and snorkeling are also popular, with unspoilt, less-frequented sites such as Île aux Nattes. And as mentioned above, humpback whale watching, accompanied by a local carnival atmosphere, is not to be missed from July to September. One of our favorites on Sainte-Marie, although it also exists on Nosy Be, is the possibility of driving around the island in Badzaz or renting vintage cars that still run perfectly and quietly.

Atmosphere :

Sainte-Marie offers a more serene and authentic atmosphere. In any case, if you like peace and quiet, the choice is quickly made. The island is ideal for those seeking peace and quiet, nature and immersion in the local culture. Accommodations are often small and intimate, making Sainte Marie an ideal destination for your honeymoon.

So which to choose : Nosy Be or Sainte Marie?

The choice between Nosy Be and Sainte-Marie depends on your personal preferences. If you seek a lively destination with bustling activities, vibrant beaches, and nightlife, Nosy Be is the place for you. Alternatively, if you prefer tranquility, pristine nature, and an authentic atmosphere, Sainte-Marie offers a haven of peace.

Whichever island you choose, both promise an unforgettable Madagascar experience, featuring breathtaking scenery, exceptional flora and fauna, and a rich, welcoming culture. We look forward to welcoming you

Tongava Soa!

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