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.
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 4×4. 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.
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, 4×4 around 40 Euro).
The best place for short safari from Zanzibar – Saadani National Park
Saadani is one of the smallest and youngest national park in Tanzania.There are two reasons why it is worth to go there – it is not as populated as Serengeti or Mikumi parks and it`s the closest national park from Zanzibar, so you can go for a short safari in 2-3 days without spending most of time traveling.Within the park or in its immediate vicinity there are only 4 places where you can find accommodation. Kisampa Bush Retreat is one of them.
Sunset with savannah view
Kisampa Bush Retreat – our experience
The lodge is located on the border of the national park, on the top of a hill with an amazing view of the African savannah. It`s not usual luxury hotel, actually does not look like hotel at all. It is more cameral place, consisting 8 open, thatched huts (bandas) – kitchen, reception with dining area and 6 individual bandas for guests. Each of them are surrounded by bush and completely separated from the rest, so guests can have quiet and privacy. Lack of electricity, running water and walls give the opportunity to cut off from civilization and get closer to nature at the maximum level.
When we arrived it turned out that we are alone in the lodge. Alone means only us and six crew – chef, cooking dishes according to our tastes and arrangements, manager Bori, guide Umari, driver and waiters.All incredibly nice and helpful, filling the time showing us the area and at the same time giving us freedom and appearing only when they were needed.During these 2 full days we managed to do safari, canoeing on the river, bushwalk at sunset and trip to the nearby village.
Dining room, reception and relaxation place in the same banda
Dining room, reception and relaxation place in the same banda
The lodge is owned by an Australian doctor who has been very involved in the life of the surrounding community and a part of Kisampa`s income is devoted to support the people of nearby villages by building solar batteries and equipping schools.
How to get there? There is an airstrip in the national park, used by local carriers like Coastal Aviation (direct flights also from Zanzibar). You can order transfer from airstrip to Kisampa at an additional cost. Traveling by car from Dar Es Salaam is about 300 km (5.5 hours).
There is no WiFi in the lodge and electricity in bandas but you can charge your devices in the recreational area.If needed, the crew may also arrange laundry.
A local library built with the help of Kisampa
Certainly the nicest people we have met in Tanzania
A morning warm bucket shower under the open sky, delicious breakfast overlooking the savanna or a night bonfire in the middle of the bush are just few moments that will surely remain in a memory for a long time. Although the park itself did not impress me, because it was not my first safari, Kisampa was very relaxing stay. The village Matipwilli, completely without tourists, stands out with its authenticity and extreme cordiality.
If you are thinking of Zanzibar and imagining blue water, white sandand palm treesyou hit the nail on the head. You can even add floating starfishes to your dreams. And if you want to make your dream come true, there is a list of places which are the closestto the ideals from postcards:
The wide, sandy beaches on the north coast of the island. White sand, azure water and perfect place for swimming all day – tides are not that strong as on the eastern side of the island, so you don`t have to walk a kilometer from the shore to swim. Beautiful sunsets that can be seen also on the high seas with a rented fishing boat.Near Kendwa there are several reefs so it’s a good place for snoorkling as well.
The beaches arenarrower than couple kilometersaway in Kendwa butencouraging with turquoise water, white sand andfriendly atmosphere,thanks to thebeach bars in “hakuna matata” style.
Going further to the north, moving away from the typical tourist places, you can run into a fishing village.It is worth to come in the morning to see amazing view of the fishing boats “parked” on the shore, waiting for the evening tide to go again on a night fishing trip and fishermen resting and repairing their nets. And if you desire to buy freshly caughtfish, there is a fish market around 50 meters from the beach, at the beginning of the village.
Paje is a different story. Locatedon the eastern shore of the island is known for its ideal conditions forkitesurfing, due to strong tides.As a result, the village has typical surf atmpsphere but also wonderful, idylliclandscapes. During the day, the water at the shore is very shallow, so if you want to swim you have to walk a bit. It`s worth to stay couple of days to try kitesurfing.
Tip: If youhave not selected kite school before and you care about low prices as much as quality you should go a bit towards Jambiani, skipping thelargest and most popular kitesurfing schools. Few minutes walk from the mainentrance to thebeach there is asmall woodenhutwith rental and kite school. If you can not find it, ask for the instructornicknamedKingSalomon. He is very good teacher and prices are much lower than in other places.
Option for those seeking less crowded places. This peaceful village is located about 10 minutes drive from Paje. Good place to spend a honeymoon.All shades of turquoise water, white sand and picturesque,underwateralgaeplantations. Peace, quiet and relax awayfrom the crowdsandthe bigchain hotels.
According to many sources, including Lonely Planet guide, the beach in Ponwge is considered one of the most beautiful and close to the ideal landscape.Ascalm asJambiani, 5 km away from the larger and louder village of Kiwengwa.
As I live in a country where there is no nightlife, sometimes I try to make up lost time during traveling, and I am looking for not only wild places but those where something happens. Not necessarily loud clubs with commercial music and drunken teenagers. I try to avoid them, but it could be nice to find a reggae bar somewhere on the beach, a hidden street with a spot where you can listen to alternative music or a vibrant place where locals and travelers can meet and enjoy a drink.
Let’s face it – Zanzibar is not Ibiza, Goa or Thailand, where thousands of people practicing party-tourism, but there are exciting places where you can have some fun. If you belong to people who like to relax but also to dance or listen to music in a vibrant bar somewhere on the beach, definitely select the northern part of the island – near Nungwi and Kendwa. Below there is a list of places that are worth checking:
The most bustling area in Zanzibar. Most of the attractions are on the beach.
Gerry’s Bar – definitely my favorite spot in Nungwi, run by a lovely expat couple. Good music, delicious drinks made by a friendly bartender with his head full of dreadlocks, the view on a paradise beach, and surprisingly good food, so you can come for dinner as well.
Guru Guru Bar – we popped in during the day for a drink accidentally, catching our attention to quite a large crowd having fun and dancing to local music. At the same time, there was a kind of “miss Zanznibar” show.
Cholo`s Disco Bar – run byItalians,one ofthe most popular places in Nungwi, worth checking out. They organize bigeventson Thursdaysand Saturdays.
Coccobello – another place run byan Italian woman. It`s located between Nungwi and Kenwa village. They organizelargeevents on weekends, admissionapprox. 2$.
Kendwa Rocks – the most famous place when it comes to partiesin Zanzibar. Kendwa Rocks Hotel is located 10min away bytaxi from Nungwi – costapprox. 15,000 TZS (7$). They organize Saturday’s events at the beach bar and large Full Moon Parties, where you can see live performance of African culture and then dance till sunrise. Kendwa Rocks also organizes the biggest New Year’s Eve parties in Zanzibar. In 2016, about 6,000 people took part in it. Admission to the Full Moon Party 20,000 TZS (approx. $ 10), New Year’s Eve approx. $ 25. No need to book tickets in advance because the event takes place on the beach. Free for residents of Kendwa Rocks Hotel.
Last but not least, something for the fans of rasta – in Nungwi, near to the White Ocean Reastaurantand Bar there is a small bazaar. At theend of the street (going perpendicularly to the sea) there is a very small bar with a mix of happy tourists and locals with a nice reggae atmosphere. Worth a visit during the day. Beware of so-called Beach Boys hanging out in the area and proposing to sell drugs and tours through the village – I do not recommend to use their services.
Paje is the second after Nungwi village concentrating nightlife in Zanzibar. Especially from December to February, where the town is filled by a crowd of kitesurfers enjoying ideal conditions for surfing.
Paje by Night – the hotel bar with a pleasant atmosphere is a no. 1 place on the map of bars in Paje, not only for kitesurfers. Good food, a mix of Spanish, Italian, and local cuisine. The hotel is located on the second line from the shore, near the main entrance to the beach.
B4 – nice beach bar with cushions, lounge chairs, and even beds makes it an ideal place for an evening chill out. The owner is Spanish, so you can drink sangria and eat a good burger. Famous also for incredible milkshakes. Once a week, they organize a movie night. Events with good music (minimal, deep house).
Jambo Beach Bungalows – they organize Friday’s parties at the beach (admission $ 5).
Coco Blue Night Club – located in Jambiani village, 10 min by taxi from Paje. They organize events on Fridays with live music and Saturdays with DJ.
Red Monkey Lodge (Jambiani) – beach bar, have a look on Mondays when they organize Blues Evenings with live music.
Travellers Cafe – rather a restaurant than a bar, but you can enjoy a drink in the evening there. Pretty good place with food, with a sea view.
Forodhani Gardens – although it is not a bar or club, talking about the nightlife in Zanzibar Town, you can not miss this place. Forodhani Gardens is a small park located by the sea, which at night turns into the center of street food. I recommend trying the local pizza from Zanzibar while sipping a beer purchased from a shop nearby. Open approx from 8 PM to 12 PM.
Africa House Hotel– rooftop hotel bar, they play live music in the evenings.
Mercury’s Bar – situated near the port, a good place for Queen and Freddie Mercury’s fans.
The nightlife in Zanzibar is continuously changing. Every month, new clubs and places are opening, so I will be grateful if you share your experience in the comments!
You might also like:
Traveler and Vip flight attendant working and living in the most mysterious country in the world – Saudi Arabia. This blog gives a glimpse of lifestyle and undiscovered culture of Saudi and useful travel feed from around the world. Follow my Instagram to stay in touch with me: @olasupertramp