Nosy Be – called the busiest and the most touristic part of Madagascar, still not as crowded as the islands of Thailand or Zanzibar. Nosy Be literally means Big Island, as it is the biggest one among hundreds of small archipelagos surrounding Le Grand Terre – the main island of Madagascar.
The best things to do in Nosy Be and the neighbouring area
Visit the most beautiful beach on the island
Andilana is located on the north-west coast of Nosy Be and it is definitely its most beautiful beach, easy accessible by scooter or tuk-tuk. There is one big bar&restaurant just at the entrance and you can find another small place to eat between souvenir shops. Sunday is a popular day for local picnics so you can also find some food stalls. Don’t be fooled by the guy sitting right next to the parking — trying to charge you for the entrance to the beach – just tell him you are going to the restaurant. And just to let you know – Andilana beach is still nothing to compare to the beaches on the islands surrounding Nosy Be so your next ‘must do’ is to…
…discover the neighbouring Islands
The best advantage of Nosy Be is the fact that it’s a perfect base to see paradise neighbouring islands. You can do it as a daily excursion or stay overnight in some of them.
Nosy Iranja – the most beautiful and idyllic beach close to Nosy Be. There are actually two islands connected together during the day with the sand strip (due to the tides it disappears at night). It’s really a ‘must see’ while you are in Nosy Be. You can go there as a daily excursion from Nosy Be (1.5 hour by boat) but I highly recommend staying there for one night. The island becomes so peaceful and quiet after 3 pm, when daily trip boats leave with most of the tourists. You can use this time to visit nearby village, discover the view point or enjoy the night on the beach.
There are two hotels in Nosy Iranja. One is called Le Zahir de L’ile and is located right on the main beach. The night there cost 240 Euro and includes 3 meals per day. More adventurous and budget friendly is the hotel located on another beach, behind the football field. There are very simple and tiny huts just in front of the sea and the cost is around 20 Euro per night.
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Nosy Sakatia – if you want to swim with the turtles or stay in a quiet resort on beautiful remote island, that’s the perfect spot.
Nosy Tanikely – a very small island, popular place for snorkeling. There are no hotels and restaurants there, but you can go to the top of the lighthouse and check stunning view. Don’t forget to look around on the way there, I noticed few creatures including a lemur family.
Nosy Komba – a good place to see friendly lemurs, there are a few accommodation options there. The island does not have electricity, so eco friendly hotels run on solar power.
Watch the wildlife in Lokobe Natural Reserve
If you want to see the lemur in its natural environment, Lokobe is a perfect place to spot them. The natural reserve is a home for black lemur and few other species. There are also tiny chameleons (the smallest in the world – around 1 cm big), owls, boa constrictors, many birds and plants such as ylang-ylang or vanilla. You have to have a guide to visit reserve – you can find them at the entrance or buy a package tour (around 90 000 Ar per person).
Madagascar is a paradise for snorkeling and diving. There are many schools around – we tried Oceans Dream in Ambatoloaka. The best spots are around Nosi Tanikely, Iranja and Sakatia.
Skipped by many guides, deserve your attention if you are in Nosy Be for a few days. Beautiful place, away from crowds. To get there turn right around halfway between Helle Ville and Ambatoloaka. Ask locals about “La Cascade” and follow the signs. If you are lucky local kids will do the show for you and jump to the water. The mosquito repellent is a must.
Dojazd: skręć w małą drogę po prawej stronie, mniej więcej w połowie pomiędzy Helle Ville i Ambatoloaka. Spytaj lokalesów o “La Cascade” i podążaj za znakami na niewielkiej polnej drodze.
The highest point of Nosy Be, great for sunset or admiring the view and crater lakes on the way there. Google maps show you two ways to get there. Don’t go thorough Dzamandzar as the road is almost impossible to pass, even by 4x4. Take the one going from Helle Ville.
Take part in local life – Helle Ville and Dzamandzar
Helle Ville is such a busy and vibrant city – mix of travellers, locals or foreigners who decided to stay in Madagascar. And all of this closed in bursting every day life, mainly centred around the port and main streets close to the market. This capitol of Nosy Be has little colonial charm which reminds me a bit of Stone Town in Zanzibar.
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Dzamandzar is a small village on the west coast, half way to the north of the island (on the way to Andilana beach). It’s known for Malagasy boxing competition called Moaringy which is an amazing experience to see if you are around. Just ask the locals about it and for less than 1$ for entrance you will enjoy your afternoon in Malagasi way.
Sacred Banyan tree
Not very far from Helle Ville, behind the small village called Mahatsinjo there is a huge and stunning Sacred Banyan Tree. It was planted by the Queen of one of the tribes in 1836 and has grown its roots to the size of 5000 sqm. As it’s a place of ancestors and nature worship, you have to remove your shoes and cover your legs with sarong provided by the guide. And if you need a quiet and magical spot for meditation this is the place to be.
Have an island tour on quad or scooter
Nosy Be is a perfect island to discover on a quad or a scooter. It’s not very big so you can do the tour around the island within one day. The roads are slightly better than The Big Land and it’s easy to find rental places. Prices depend on the rental period and your bargaining skills (scooter around 10 Euro per day, 4x4 around 40 Euro).