Île Sainte Marie in detail

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Shiver Me Timbers

In the late 17th and 18th centuries Île Sainte Marie was the headquarters of the world’s pirates, who enjoyed its proximity to maritime trade routes, its protected harbour (a great place to hide), its abundant fruit and its women. Legendary brigands including William Kidd once brought their boats here for repairs, and set up house on Île aux Forbans, near Ambodifotatra. At one point the pirate population topped 1000. Today the remains of several pirate ships still lie within a few metres of the surface in the Baie des Forbans, including Kidd’s Adventure, and Captain Condent’s famous Fiery Dragon, while the skull and crossbones can be seen engraved at the nearby pirate cemetery.

In May 2015, to great excitement, a 50kg silver bar was discovered off Île Sainte Marie by US explorer Barry Clifford, who claimed it was part of Kidd's long-lost treasure from the Adventure. It was presented to the Malagasy president with much fanfare. There was hope that tourism to the island would soar as more people searched for 'X marks the spot'. Next up, Unesco sent a team to investigate that scuppered this romantic tale: they say the silver bar is 95% lead, and definitely not old enough to be part of Kidd's bounty.