Flights & getting there
The sea is rough from March to July, especially in June and July. Boats sometimes don't run for several days at a time. Travellers on a tight schedule, who are not otherwise driving the coast road, should consider flying to/from Tamatave or Antananarivo.
- There are three main shuttle boats between Île Sainte Marie and the main land: Gasikara Be and Cap Sainte-Marie, which sail to/from Soanierana-Ivongo (1¼ hours), and El Condor, which sails to/from Mahambo (three hours). All have ticket booths at the port.
- You can buy a boat ticket only, or, if you're travelling to/from Tamatave, a boat ticket combined with a minibus transfer. The trip between Tamatave and Soanierana currently takes about six to seven hours (and three to four hours to Mahambo).
- If you're travelling to/from Tamatave, El Condor is your best option; if you're travelling to/from Maorantsetra or Mananara, then sail to/from Soanierana-Ivongo. This is to minimise your road travel on the east coast.
- Boats leave Ambodifotatra at daybreak and then wait for their respective shuttle buses to arrive from Tamatave before returning to Sainte Marie.
Cargo boats leave from a different port on Ilot Madame, the tiny island at the entrance to Baie des Forbans, sailing to Mananara, Maroantsetra and Tamatave. There are no set schedules for these; departures are often in the evening or at night, and you will likely have to wait several days for something to turn up.