Nosy Be, Madagascar: Step Back in Time

BY Jean Miller Spoljaric TIMEJuly 2, 2014 PRINT

Original article at

I’ve never been much of a ‘Bucket Lister’ but if I was I could now cross Madagascar off my list. My mosquito bites may have faded but my memories of this far away land seem almost surreal. Good thing I took lots of pictures, or I might think it was all a crazy beautiful dream.

Madagascar’s 12-foot tidal change every twelve hours made the forever changing landscape magical. Every moment seemed like a new adventure. This was not just a vacation, it was a mind-altering trip of a lifetime. My adventure to this far away land was the perfect mix of land and sea, I spent equal amounts of time both exploring the land and sailing into the african winds.

I went scuba diving for my first time in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Nosy Sakatia. I danced the night away under the stars with the children of Nosy Komba. I had close encounters with Lemurs, chameleons and snakes at the Lokobe Reserve, and I was stung by a school of jelly fish while swimming to the Island of Ankazobepavina. Ouch!

I hiked to the top of Russian Bay, where I soaked my feet in the rust colored waters of the ancient Russian Bathes of yesteryear. And at the end of everyday I enjoyed the African sunset until it disappeared below the horizon and then watched the stars come to life.

Untouched by Man

Madagascar is a hidden gem, mostly untouched by man, not easily accessed, but well worth the effort in getting there. I spent a week with ‘The Sailing Collective’ sailing in and around the Nosy Be Archipelago.

My time spent on land was most enjoyable, I was lucky enough to call the Anamarango Beach Resort home away from home for about a week. Nosy Be is situated off the north-west coast of Madagascar, and it’s a magnificent place to explore.

It’s tropical climate and superb location makes it Madagascar’s premiere beach-resort destination. Nosy Be is largely a sleepy place with sugar cane plantations, rum distilleries, ylang ylang bushes, lounging lemurs, smiling faces, and with little air of expectation.

To lounge the day away on a beach or to set sail and explore the many islands, most of which can only be reached by boat, Madagascar is a place that will take you back in time.

It’s a beautiful island, it offers amazing snorkeling and diving opportunities and some primitive forests with amazing wildlife that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. So if Madagascar is not on your bucket list, it should be.

Nosy Be

The name ‘Nosy Be’ means “big island” in Malagasy, though the island has been granted several nicknames over centuries, “Nosy Manitra” (the perfumed island) was the most popular of all. As soon as you arrive at the airport your nose will soon understand why.

Scents of ylang ylang,(pronounced lang-lang) coffee, cacao, vanilla and sugar cane plantations spread all over the island and distill a balmy fragrance that will delight your sense of smell.

The yellow Ylang Ylang flower is one of the products used in the production of perfume. The trees naturally bend to the ground to ensure easier picking of the flowers. It was a long, bumpy, dusty, taxi ride to my hotel, so when the driver pulled over on the dirt road and got out of the car only to return through the cloud of dust with a beautiful yellow flower just for me, I was pleasantly surprised by his kindness. Red pepper is also distilled as a perfume too, but the ylang ylang is the most popular amongst the villagers and tourists alike.

Nosy Be’s landscape is varied and it is characterized by a great many hills that are overlooked by Mount Lokone and Mount Passot. From these high vantage points, you have an exceptional view of Nosy Be Bay, but also of the Radama Islands in the south and Mitsio Islands of the north.

There are eleven volcanic lakes on the island, which constitute an enormous water reserve for humans and crops. The whole coastline is punctuated by a great number of gorgeous bays and deserted beaches lined with palm trees.

There are also many small islets and rocks which are often visited by people seeking some private beach time. Temperatures are pleasant year round. The humidity can be particularly bad during the tropical summer.

Land of the Lemur

I explored the lush jungle of Lobeke Nature Reserve in search of the infamous lemurs of Madagascar. Make sure you do this as part of your itinerary, this is the real deal. It’s an adventure that will be difficult to top.

After a long dusty car ride, our driver came to a stop where the dirt road ended, from there we had to walk past a small cattle farm and trudge through a half mile or so of sandy muck in order to reach the outrigger canoes that awaited our arrival.

Lokobe Reserve is located on the Southern end of the island and it’s the only place in the world where you will find the elusive lemurs living and thriving in the wild. These sleepy, big bulging eyed, furry creatures are nocturnal for the most part, they hide in the tops of trees under the jungles canopy by day, and they don’t seem to be bothered by us humans, just as long as you keep your distance.

As I walked through the jungle these magnificent creatures started to emerge, black and brown, blonde and yellow, each one more incredible than the next. Babies and Mama’s, shy ones and others that were a little more active.

I couldn’t help but to think how long it would be until the ways of man destroys this ancient treasured secret land and spoils all of its beauty. As incredible as it was, I still felt like I was trespassing. I respected these creatures, as it should be, I looked but didn’t touch, it should be a requirement for all visitors.

Our guide pulled a six foot baby Boa from a tree, I had hoped he would let it be, but our small group was amazed by the snake. Our keen eyed guide pointed out many chameleons along the way and I even spotted a giant snail all by myself.

Make sure you have local money exchanged and on hand as there is a little village with local artwork and handmade crafts, such as hand sewn and embroidered table clothes and bed spreads. Bottled water and bug spray is a must, and don’t lean on any trees to take a break, the fire ants will eat you alive.

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Copyright © 2014 by Go Nomad. This article was written by Jean Miller Spoljaric and originally published at

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