The low, gnarled ylang-ylang (e-lang-e-lang) tree is seen in plantations all over Nosy Be. Its scented green or yellow flowers are distilled to make essential oil for perfume. The trees are pruned into low, rather grotesque shapes to make harvesting easier.
Distillation at the large ylang-ylang distillery at Lemuria Land takes place on Monday, Wednesday and Friday year-round, or daily in rainy season (January to March). The whole process of turning these somewhat insignificant flowers into a valuable essential oil is explained.
The distillery is also home to a small zoo, including a large lemur park. It’s a shame to see these animals in cages or confined to tiny islands (lemurs can’t swim) when they can be viewed in their natural environment just a few kilometres away at Lokobe.
To reach the distillery head east from Hell-Ville along Rte de Marodokana for 3km. All taxi drivers know where the place is (Ar70,000 return, including an hour or so waiting time).
Mont Passot (329m), Nosy Be’s loftiest point, lies northwest of Hell-Ville (a two-hour drive). It’s a wonderful spot for admiring sunsets and the sweeping panorama. It’s also one of the best places to see Nosy Be’s crater lakes. Unfortunately, the viewing area is now packed with souvenir stalls, which somewhat detracts from the experience.
If you have your own wheels, the summit is easily accessible by car or motorbike, although the road is badly degraded; it's about a two-hour drive from Hell-Ville. Otherwise, you could charter a taxi from Hell-Ville or Ambatoloaka (allow Ar120,000 for the return trip, including time at the top).
There have been muggings in the area so if you’re on your own or on a motorbike, ensure that you drive back before it gets dark.
The tourist authority has launched a hiking circuit on Mont Passot called Amparihibe (for two Ar10,000). The 6km circuit walk (four to five hours, medium difficulty) takes in the sacred lake of the same name, and the lookout point on Mont Passot. You'll see orchids, ylang-ylang, cocoa and vanilla as well as lemurs. Paths are marked and have information boards, but a guide is obligatory (for two Ar10,000).