Madagascar is a country often considered to be off the beaten track for many travellers and holiday makers. It is difficult and expensive to get to, with no direct flights from the UK, resulting in the need to fly via one of the mainland African cities, such as Nairobi, or Johannesburg, or to stop off in Reunion Island. However, for those who are determined to make it to ‘the land of the lemurs’, Madagascar certainly holds its treasures.
For any person interested in the natural world, Madagascar is a must-visit, with a vast array of endemic species. The island also has 5 major climatic zones, so it is possible to see huge diversity within one trip. However, a traveller must not underestimate the size of the island. Being nearly 3 times the size of the UK in area, it takes 30 hours to drive its length, and the most common way to do this is by taxi-brousse. Having said this, Air Madagascar does provide a good service from the capital city, Antananarivo, to many of the popular destinations across the country, including Nosy Be (admittedly at about 10 times the price!) on which this article will focus.
Nosy Be is an island just off the Northwest coast of mainland Madagascar, and is a popular holiday destination, despite having a reputation for sex tourism (a problem which is it tackling). It is famous for its pristine white beaches and palm trees, and even more endemism can be found here as a result of its island geography. The island has 3 species of lemur, for example, the Black lemur, which is sexually dimorphic, as only the males are black and the females a golden ginger colour. If looking at night, with a powerful torch, you can pick up the eye-shine of sportive lemurs, and the tiny mouse lemur, the world’s smallest primate, which really is a privilege to observe in the wild. Nosy Be also has beautiful birdlife, with kingfishers, and paradise flycatchers being common. Reptiles do not pose a threat here, as the most venomous snake on the island (the hognose) is thought not to pose a problem to humans.
One of the most popular aspects of the island is its location. It has its own airport, and despite the dirt road into town being uneven and bumpy, the farmers herding zebu along it won’t hesitate to give a friendly wave as you pass. Many people on the island own a boat, and tours often operate to the surrounding islands where there is even more to explore. Nosy Tanikely is a 45 minute boat ride from Hellville, and sits slap-bang on a marine protected area, where snorkelling and diving is allowed for just 10.000 Ariary (about £3). The island is uninhabited, and can be explored in about 2 hours, right up to the lighthouse in middle, from the top of which you can see complete panoramic views of the surrounding area, out to Nosy Be, and all the way back to the mainland. Because of the proximities, most of the hotels Madagascar provides include a genuine Madagascan experience. You can have a look at the hotels before you depart, or even pick up a Hotels.com discount code to get a good discount saving.
Madagascar is a fantastic country, with an outstanding diversity of life, great culture and an endless supply of things to do. Any traveller with some spare time and cash should endeavour to make the trip