Something that I learned while being in Madagascar is, that either you have TIME or you have MONEY. The reason is that Madagascar is so big, then if you have time, you can cross the country by car ‘taxi brousse’, but this can take you a terrific amount of hours because of the roads being in poor condition. Or, you can take internal flights, but they can be very expensive. Therefore, good planning is crucial if ever you want to visit the north, the south and west of Madagascar on a single trip.
How to get there?
From Mauritius, there are two ways of getting to Nosy Be. So, either from Mauritius – Tana – Nosy Be OR Mauritius – Reunion Island – Nosy Be. Both are about the same in flight time.
Yes. You get it upon arrival at the immigration desk. The single entry Visa for Mauritians is $10 for a maximum stay of 90 days and with a European passport, the visa can range from $30 to $50.
Money and finances
In Madagascar, the currency is called Ariary (Ar) and the exchange rate is Rs 1 = between 98-100 Ar (as of August 2023)
I wish someone had told me there are a couple of MCB offices/ATMs there, even on Nosy Be. This would have avoided a considerable loss in conversion, especially at the airport exchange counter. My mistake also was that I did not get some Ariary already in Mauritius, due to last minute rush before travelling.
Tip number one, get some Ariary already in Mauritius or exchange about $50-$100 dollars only at the airport if you don’t have the local currency on you and get the rest from an MCB ATM or, even better, ask your taxi driver to stop at Leader Price which is found in Hell-Ville on the way to your hotel to remove money.
Health and Hygiene
Be mindful of your health and hygiene, especially when trying street food and DO NOT drink tap water. Pack a medicine essential pack just in case you catch gastro or fever. Malaria and other diseases are not to be neglected. Better take your precautions and start an antimalarial treatment before going (consult your doctor).
How good of a negotiator are you?
Be aware of tourist traps, especially when dealing with street vendors or taxi drivers. Try to be mindful of the ‘reasonable prices’ before buying anything. Also, do not carry too much money on you.
Most importantly, grab travel insurance before travelling to Madagascar, declare and insure your expensive gear like cameras and others. Do not display signs of wealth such as wearing expensive jewelry or watches.
As much precautions as I thought I had taken, I was still robbed. Luckily, it was nothing of high value, besides money and some other electronics.
Here you go, don’t say you were not told!
Besides these challenges, Madagascar is a beautiful country, the culture, the landscape, the people, the food…. Let’s jump right into my travel itinerary, which many of you have been asking for ever since I came back to Mauritius.
So before I go into detail, here is the itinerary loop I did.
Nosy be – Nosy Tsarabanjina – Nosy Be – Nosy Iranja – Nosy Be – Nosy Komba – Nosy Tanikely – Nosy Be – Nosy Sakatia and Nosy Be
‘Nosy’ in Malagasy means island and Nosy Be is ‘big island’. Probably the most touristic because it’s the main island and it is also a hub to go to other islands. Now, you might want to do your entire stay on Nosy Be, which a lot of people do and go for daily excursions to the other islands without unnecessarily staying on any one of them. Or, the way I did, spending a minimum of 2 nights on each island, which I am glad I did.
Where to Stay on Nosy Be?
I would recommend anywhere between Andilana and Madirokely. Though the nicest beach is in Andilana, this area is very quiet and if you want to be in an area where there are more things happening then choose an accommodation around Madirokely and Ambatoaloka.
Madirokely – Chez Senga
Ambatoaloka – Hotel Gerard et Francine
Andilana – Andilana Beach Resort
Befotaka – Anjiamarango Beach Resort
Activities and places to visit in Nosy Be
1. Island excursion
Well, like I mentioned before there are so many islands nearby to go on excursions, and most of them include lunch and snorkelling equipment for the day trip. You can book any of the excursions at the hotel or Airbnb host you are staying at, they will assist you.
2. Rent a scooter
The best way to explore the island is on wheels. We rented a scooter, the island map in hand and we explored every corner possible. We ended up at Mont Passot for sunset, the highest point of the island giving a view of most of the surrounding islands. It was just beautiful. I strongly recommend going there for sunset. The entrance fee to Mont Passot is 10,000 AR per person. Ah, be careful if ever you are renting a scooter, a quad or a car. Make sure you have a copy of your visa on your phone or printed if ever the police stop you for control and you don’t have it on you, you might pay a fine. Another thing to be careful of while driving are the zébu carts and the tuk-tuks, always horn when overtaking them and of course the big holes on the road.
3. The Lokobe Reserve
The Lokobe reserve, is the last remaining primary forest in the region known for its black lemur, different species of chameleons, reptiles, birds and other spectacular wildlife. You can only access Lokobe by boat. Organise a taxi to Ambarono and from there you will take a pirogue to access the reserve. A half-day tour should be enough to experience Lokobe. I did not do Lokobe since I was going to Nosy Komba known as ‘the island of lemurs’.
Other things to see
- Moraingy boxing/Malagasy boxing which takes place every weekend in Djamandjary is comparable to the Thai boxing
- The craft market in Hell Ville is called the ‘Le Bazar des Arts’
If you are staying in a self-catering accommodation, make sure to make a stop at Leader Price supermarket in Hellville. It is the only supermarket on the island where you can get a wide variety of commodities. The same applies if you are planning to stay a few days on Nosy Komba island, do your grocery shopping at Leader Price prior.
Hellville is the port where you take the boat to the neighbouring islands but also to the main island, Madagascar (La Grande Terre) Be very careful with your personal belongings as it is a very crowded place.
Tsarabanjina is a small island of the Mitsio archipelago, north of Nosy Be. This private island is managed by Constance Tsarabanjina, this 5-star luxury resort is a pure gem. Surrounded by powder-soft beaches and translucent azure waters, its location is quite secluded, with only 24 bungalows. It is the perfect spot for a tropical island getaway if you are looking for tranquillity.
Undeniably the most beautiful resort I have been to, every detail has been carefully thought of.
The unique design of the bungalows blends perfectly with the natural surroundings, the bungalows are split between the northern beach and the southern beach of the island.
The main restaurant which is all-inclusive is located on the beach, all the meals are served there. The restaurant is praised for its local culinary expertise in terms of fresh seafood meals but also Malagasy cuisine. The beach bar is always open as long as the guests are present (kind of never closes).
It is impossible to even think of getting bored on the island. There are so many places to explore. The top views are breathtaking, and the untouched beaches on the other side of the island and even a little fisherman village are present. I even picked a top view where I would go every morning to log in to my journal and do some breathing exercises.
Other things to do
Daily excursions to the neighbouring islands, snorkelling, exploring the marine life while diving on beautiful spots with Blue Wave Diving (the dive centre located on the island) going for a sunset cruise, watching stunning sunsets, having romantic dinner on the beach or on the cliff or even opt for a relaxing massage with the sound of the waves.
More information on the resort’s online booking site: Constance Tsarabanjina
After Nosy Tsarabanjina, to go to Nosy Iranja we had to come back to Nosy Be and take a boat to Iranja.
Nosy Iranja means ‘turtle island’ and the beauty of this island is the two parts connected by a 2-kilometre-long sandy causeway. The island is a nature reserve, sea turtles and palm crabs live there. It is surrounded by a paradise beach, and the ocean gives shades of blue. Nosy Iranja is the nesting ground for two types of turtle species all year round, the green turtle and the hawksbill. Witnessing a batch of baby turtles making their way to the ocean is a heart-warming experience.
If you wish to stay on Nosy Iranja, which is an ABSOLUTE experience you can do it in a Bivouac with Les Baleines Rand’eau.
Nosy Komba, referred to as the ‘island of lemurs’ is also accessible by boat from Nosy Be (Hell Ville port).
Nosy Komba is circular, which is due to the fact that the island was originally a volcano and still is but has not been active for many years and so there are now a series of small villages around. The largest village on the island is called Ampangorina and is the most visited due to the presence of Maki (lemurs), lots of huts and stalls offer souvenirs – decorative tablecloths handmade from the island, wooden statues, Malagasy paintings, lambas (pareos).
There are several hotels and residences to stay on the island. I split my stay on Nosy Komba into 2 parts, a few nights in Ampangorinana village and a few other in Andrekareka Hely.
For 90% of the accommodation on Nosy Komba, you will have to walk a lot of stairs because there is no beach as such around the island, therefore all the accommodations are on the slope. Get ready for some serious leg workout. However, do not worry if you have a heavy and big suitcase, your host will take care that all of your belongings are taken to your room. You will not have to carry them all the way up. However, as mentioned before, at ALL times keep your valuable things and money on you.
I prefer natural animal encounters rather than going into animal parks, the reason I stayed in Ampangoriana village up high in the forest is to be among them. My very first encounter with the lemurs was very special, they came to our windows, swinging around letting us know of their presence. I got out and I had a banana in my hands. I sat down and they slowly came closer to me one by one. Very gently, one of them put its paw on me and it was cold as soft as velvet. And within seconds I was surrounded by a couple of them. And it was like this every time I was on the balcony, they would be hiding in trees until I came out with bananas. I preferred this experience 100 times more than going to the touristic lemur park in Ampangoriana.
Another thing you can do while being on Nosy Komba is to go to Nosy Tanikely, a small inhabited island with protected marine park. One of the best snorkelling sites in the area, you can see colourful living corals, an abundance of different species of fish and some sea turtles. For the best snorkelling experience, check for high tide to go there, else the experience is not the same.
Entrance to the marine park is 20,000 Ar per person.
After Nosy Komba, we went to stay on Nosy Sakatia, to be honest, it wasn’t part of the island hopping trip but when I saw that this island and I share the same name, I was like ‘I need to go on my island’.
I recommend staying at Sakatia Lodge as it is located in front of the Ambohibe Turtle Reserve, so you’re right next to the action. Imagine snorkelling right next to giant sea turtles. You will see fewer tourists on Sakatia, they usually come in for a day excursion, so if you stay on the island you will definitely enjoy this experience and be the first one being in the water with the sea turtles.
This is it, after nearly 3 weeks of exploring the northern islands of Madagascar, the holidays have come to an end. This trip has taught me so much: gratitude, humility, patience, self-love and most importantly, the ‘Mora Mora’ lifestyle.
What Malagasy meant by ‘Mora Mora’, meaning; slowly-slowly / there is no point of stressing out / just go with the flow / take it easy.
Here I am, back in Mauritius with Mora Mora on my mind and having one thought, to go back again. But this time, doing the famous alley of Baobab in Morondava.
I wish I had gotten everything right prior to this trip, this is why I am passionate about sharing my travel experiences.
Leave a comment below if you have found this blog interesting or even if you have any questions regarding the Islands above.
Xx Katia M Xx