Destinations · Madagascar · Africa · Things to Do
April 27, 2023 Words: Katie Altman

Madagascar Magic: From Loveable Lemurs to Dreamy Beaches

The amazing island of Nosy Be has it all.

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What’s the first thing you think of when you hear Madagascar? Yes … it’s lemurs! These irresistible creatures have made Madagascar famous, and rightly so. But they are just one of many reasons to visit this fascinating country.

Take the island of Nosy Be, just off the northwestern tip of Madagascar. It’s often called the “island of perfumes,” as the scents of ylang ylang trees, herb plantations and vanilla fill the air. With sparkling water, spectacular snorkeling, diverse wildlife, and friendly towns it’s the ideal location to enjoy a Madagascar adventure. Andoany, the island’s capital, is also known as Hell-Ville, but don’t worry, the name belies its charm. Hop in a colorful vintage Renault taxi for a 5-minute ride from port to the Boulevard Général Charles de Gaulle, the main shopping area. The daily market is vibrant and bustling, with street vendors selling essential oils, spices, local handicrafts and produce. If you love Madagascar’s amazing vanilla, this is the place to buy it. Be sure to search out a vendor selling koba cake, a traditional sweet treat made with peanuts and rice flour.

If you are looking for pearly white sand beaches, you’ll want to head to the northwest side of Nosy Be. Most would agree, Nosy Be’s most beautiful beach is Andilana — its sand is as pristine as it gets, while the warm, crystal-clear waters make Andilana a swimmer’s paradise. Thanks to pristine coral reefs, opportunities for amazing snorkeling abound in Nosy Be. While snorkeling you will swim with hundreds of species including pufferfish, and clownfish — and even swim with green turtles in their natural habitat at the Ambohibe Turtle Reserve.

Mt. Passot, 30 kilometers (about 18 miles) north of Andoany, is the highest point in Nosy Be. It only takes five minutes to walk to the top and the payoff is spectacular: one of the most beautiful sunsets you will ever see. Be sure to arrive early to lay claim to a prime viewing spot. At the foot of Mt. Passot, you can also explore the blue crater lakes, offering more photo ops, from the lakes’ blue waters to crocodiles sunning themselves amid the unique landscape.

And of course, we cannot forget the lemurs. Endemic to Madagascar, these popular and endearing primates live all over the island. But the Lokobe Reserve, on the southeastern edge of Nosy Be, is considered the best place to experience the rare and endangered black lemur and the mouse lemur. In fact, the Reserve’s primary forest is home to an astonishing 370 wildlife species, making it a true haven for nature lovers.

If you just can’t get enough of lemurs, head to Lemuria Land, one of Nosy Be’s most popular attractions. This zoological park allows you to see lemurs up close, both in contained areas and roaming free on the property. Lemuria Land also includes a distillery that turns flowers into the essential oil ylang ylang, a key ingredient in perfumes. It’s a great spot to buy gifts to bring back home.

While the island offers a feast for the eyes with its remarkable beaches, nature, and wildlife, it also offers a feast for the palate. From upscale hotel restaurants to small family businesses with a few tables to beachside grills, you can experience Madagascar’s cuisine at its best while exploring the island. Don’t miss the local grilled fish and seafood, or the national dish Romazava – a fragrant and delicious stew made from zebu — also known as humped cattle—tomatoes, onions, and local island greens including paracress, anamamy and mustard greens.

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Madagascar fruits from Nosy Be
Nosy Iranja tropical beach in Madagascar Turquoise blue water on a tropical island beach in Nosy Be Madagascar, Africa.
Sunset on Nosy Be island and the sacred lake, north of Madagascar Sunset on Nosy Be island and the sacred lake, north of Madagascar.

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