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highlights and main attractions of ile sainte marie

An island gem located just 8 kilometres off the eastern coast of Madagascar, the narrow Sainte Marie or ‘Nosy Boraha’ as it is known locally, has a considerable amount of island charm. Numerous deserted beaches show off a fringe of coconut palms and luscious vegetation, and intriguing inland villages make the perfect place to explore… 

Ikalalao is a great area of primary forest for exploring, and you may see up to three species of lemur – the Microcebus, mouse lemur and the fat-tailed dwarf lemur. On the east coast, the Ampanihy is characterised by sand dunes and rich mangroves, where tours can be arranged on a pirogue. In Ambodena forest you may come across chameleons, geckos, frogs and a wider variety of lemurs, including white-fronted brown, the rather rare black-and-white ruffed lemur, the grey gentle lemur and mouse lemurs.

At 50 kilometres long and just 7 kilometres wide, Ile Sainte Marie is easily navigable by foot, or by mountain bike on a tour of the palm-lined paths and trails that criss-cross the island, leading to secluded coves.

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One of the island’s most unique activities is whale watching and between July and September the channel that lies between the island and the mainland is a great place to see large groups of endangered Megaptera humpback whales. At this time they migrate from the cold waters of the Antarctic to the calmer channel to mate and give birth. If you are lucky you may witness a mother nursing her young calf or join one of the incredible whale observation teams of scientists. These scientists collate research in order to gain a unique understanding of these fascinating mammals, avoiding causing them any adverse interruption. The stunning Princesse Bora Lodge is one of the best lodges on the island and is able to organise these trips for our clients.


The beach area around Cocoteraie is also an area of breeding for marine turtles, where villagers guard their nests, supported by income from tourists who visit the reserve. Further out to sea, divers and snorkelers will be rewarded with great variety of fish species and marine life, including turtles, skate, crocodile fish, morays and shellfish. 

There are also some wreck sites that range from easy to challenging, and provide interesting dive sites that teem with life and unusual coral formations.

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