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Introducing Ile Sainte Marie

Said to resemble a mildly pregnant woman lying down, the slender 57km-long island of Île Sainte Marie lies 8km off the coast. It’s been popular with Europeans ever since the days when it was inhabited by pirates, and even now its Malagasy name, Nosy Boraha, is rarely used. The pirates are gone, of course, but the island is still a favourite spot for expats and tourists, and beach hotels take up much of the western coastline. Despite this, Île Sainte Marie has avoided some of the resort excesses of Nosy Be and still retains considerable charm, particularly in the remoter beaches and the small villages that dot the lush agricultural interior.

While there’s plenty of scope for sunbathing and beach-bumming, Île Sainte Marie rewards the active type, and its rugged interior is a particularly good place for hiking, cycling or motorcycling. Water sports are on offer everywhere, and between July and September the waters around the island play host to migrating humpback whales, a major attraction for visitors.

Rain can be expected year-round on Île Sainte Marie, although the weather is usually least wet from late August to late November. Between December and March, the island is subject to violent cyclones.

Because it sees so many foreign visitors, prices are slightly higher on Île Sainte Marie than on the mainland.