One of “the” most beautiful touristic spots of Madagascar is the island St. Marie at the east coast. If every touristic places in the world would feel so wild…
Most of the tourists met in Madagascar during our month, have visited or planned to visit Saint Marie island. It’s a big, 57-metre-long island with all a traveller in an exotic country might need: crazy animals (whales and sharks), superbeautiful beaches (kilometres and kilometres), strong waves and reefs (for surfing and diving), old stories (hell a lot of pirates have lived there), a lot of real life (still wildness and lovely corners), a nice way to get to the places (by renting a bike or a motorbike) and still wilder and even more heavenly little islands (like our favourite Ile aux Nattes!). No wonder that every tourist (from outside of Madagascar but also all the local tourists) ends up there!
You can get to the island by a plane from the capital or by a ferry boat. The planes in Madagascar (Air Madagascar) is one big joke, you should never count on. The airlines are called between the people “Air Maybe” and this needs no more comments. In most of the cases there are late, cancelled or at least very expensive. The ferry boats go from the east coast: from two places: Mahambo, longer way, and Soanierana-Ivongo, shorter way. Ferry boat includes also a long few hours of waiting on the beach, when all the people and all the luggage will be transported by little boats to the bigger one. But this only gives you a lot of time for building the sand castles;)
The way by boat can be rough (we had one like this, luckily all of us are really ok with strong waves) but can be also amazing (you can be lucky to see the whales from the ferry!! more about our whales adventures here). Arriving to Saint Marie, it’s probably good to have fixed place to sleep in advance, since the island is big, distances between the hotels are long and places are often booked early in advance.
The only real town is Ambodifotatra, where one might find all needed: shops, petrol station, market and tourist information. We decided to divide our time on the island between 3: the very north, the very south and the town.
The North: wild corners of St. Marie, Madagascar
We decided to go north first and have a little luxury time: a bungalow hotel with a beautiful beach view, a good restaurant (hotel “La Crique”) and an own little whale watching boat. There we also first time ever rented motorbikes to ride around little villages and discover slowly muddy corners. Even in the rain the north of Saint Marie is amazing. Motorbikes have this great advantage (why nobody have ever told us this before?!) that you can stop and go, stop and go, they are cheap but still fast enough. And that’s how we stopped for little snacks in different villages, then went further, stopped at the old Fanilo Albrand Lighthouse, went further, stopped at Piscine Naturelle d’Ambodiatafana natural “swimming pools” for some little swim, and went further… Maybe next trip with motorbikes? After some days we were driving further to the Southern end of St. Marie.
The South: Ile aux Nattes – our favourite place in Madagascar
This was the best! Our favourite place of Madagascar: Ile aux Nattes, which (in our’s girls’ speed) you can walk around in 2 hours. That was our holidays in holidays time. Walking between the green palm trees, in the blue waters and white sand. Jumping between the holes of the crabs, having little interview chats with locals and with expats locals (like Philippe, the French guy running hand-made shops full of music or Ocki, lovely gentleman from South Africa, running since 20 years reggae bar), just walking and being. Even in all the shades of blue, dark blue and grey (we had a lot of rain), when I close my eyes, I see Ile aux Nattes. 2 minutes pirogue boat ride away from the “main” land of Saint Marie. A little island, next to the island, next to the Madagascar island.
It’s not that easy to get in touch with Malagasy people, when you are “just a tourist”. Since there is no really backpackers culture, every tourist is received as a rich-all-inclusive cash machine and we really do feel it. The more “touristic” neighbourhood you visit – the less friendly it gets. The line is clear: service for money / a person being served. We can’t find ourselves well in such a circumstances (suddenly I have doubts: does this person help me with something because she is nice, or because there is a rule I have to pay..?).
We are staying in the tent and cooking on our cooker, so for most of the people think we are like aliens. – Why? What for? What do you want?
Once we stayed in some small bungalow on the island – probably the only hostel in Madagascar (“Chez Sica“): There was a kitchen, that guests can use (very seldom!). So we made our simple dinner (being watched all the time) and divide it between 6 portions: for 4 of us plus for the hungry guys watching us: the gardener and the cooking lady (cooking for the people, who paid for it, while renting a bungalow). They were very surprised when we offered them our food.
The other tourists, who also cooked for themselves before, just came to the kitchen and gave the cleaning lady their dirty dishes (it’s not her job!!) and left her speechless, without even saying “thank you”. She looked away and started to wash the dishes. I was washing our stuff, standing next to her and didn’t dare to look into her eyes.
After maybe 30 minutes someone knocked to our bungalow. That was the gardener and the cook, bringing us two plates of a-m-a-z-i-n-g bananas in caramel. – For your kids. “Have a good night!” – they said without looking into our eyes. You know how does it feel to eat a dessert finally!?!
<3 always comes back, no?
Ambodifotatra – the home of the pirates
Ambodifotatra – the only town on St. Marie (Madagascar) is also okish! With a lovely bakery (how cool is to have a nice, fresh bread!), cultural festivals and some history and traditions. Half an hour walk from the “centre” we found… a pirates’ cemetery! Saint Marie island was totally full of different pirates in XVII and XVIII century. Up to one thousand pirates lived here and the wracks of their ships you can still find under the waters (a pity we didn’t have time for diving!). The cemetery itself is a bit mysterious place, with black graves and hard to read stories. We were lucky to have 3 little local pirates, playing seek and found with our girls all the time, so they were not so scared.
If only we would have time – we would stayed much longer than a week on Saint Marie. All the east coast of the island should be beautiful, intriguing and not easy. Even people from the town haven’t seen all the corners. Just imagine!
Some of the places – especially this sweet little hotel – we could visit thanks to the Madagascar tour operator and travel agency Le Voyageur. Thank you for finding this spot!
Our first book is out!
We have published our first book (for now just in Polish:) about our Central America Trip.
See, read and order here »