Island hopping in Madagascars magnificent Nosy Be archipelago

Situated off the northwest coast of Madagascar, Nosy Be archipelago has become an appealing tropical beach destination for travelers from around the world. But despite its worldwide popularity, the islands of this archipelago remain friendly, low-key and laid-back.

Nosy Iranja is one the best-known islands of Nosy Be’s archipelago and consists of two smaller islets connected by a thin stretch of sand: Nosy Iranja Be and Nosy Iranja Kely. These islets with their tropical forest are also known as “the turtle islands” because of the sea turtles that come onto the beach to lay their eggs at night.

Nosy Iranja offers a wide range of adventure activities, from dhow cruises to windsurfing excursions, snorkeling and even Jet Ski rides. The islet is the perfect destination for scuba diving, as the waters are teaming with exotic fish, sting rays and the aforementioned sea turtles.

True diving fanatics will enjoy a trip to the Nosy Tanikely Marine Park, which is world-renowned for its exceptional biodiversity. An incredible multitude of different exotic fish and coral reefs has prompted locals to label the park a natural aquarium.

Beyond its stunning beaches and water activities, Nosy Be is also a full-fledged nature destination and is famous for its lemurs. Nosy Komba, which means “the island surrounded by rocks” is home to these beautiful primates that are considered sacred by the island’s inhabitants.

Another great spot from where to discover the lemurs is Lokobe, Nosy Be’s last protected primitive forest. The reserve is mostly known for the black lemur. Unfortunately, only a few black lemurs are left in the wild. Apart from the back lemur, there are other nocturnal species, such as the gray-backed sportive lemur and some mouse lemurs.

This forest also shelters many different endemic medicinal plants and trees as well as chamelons and other reptiles, insects and tropical birds, including the owl of Madagascar and the Malagasy kingfisher. Several terrestrial and maritime circuits are being developed for visitors.

Lokobe is not the only natural highlight of this archipelago. A must-visit for nature lovers is the volcano of Mount Passot. Now extinct, the volcano offers an incredible vantage point at more than 1,000 feet high.  It is surrounded by eight small crater lakes, which shelter unique freshwater fish.

Mount Passot offers many hiking circuits that can be discovered with or without a guide. The Antsidihy circuit is ideal for birdwatching but will also give hikers a glimpse of the Sakalava villages amid the ylang ylang and orchid plantations.

Travelers wanting to connect further with the locals and sample the local culture can visit the village of Marodoka, where they’ll get a glimpse of authentic Kiswahili traditions. Marodoka is a former Kiswahili village and is located a few kilometers from Nosy Be’s center. Travelers will be able to take part in Nosy Be’s traditional dances and get a chance to taste the djowa, a traditional dish made of local products and medicinal plants.

Marodoka was established by the first Arab and Indian migrants in the 15th century. Although the village is in ruins, it still boasts colonial architecture with Indian influences as well a mosque. A popular stop there is the “ghost house,” which was once the home of Karim Djikak, the richest man on the island, who legend says lived with ghosts he commissioned for his protection.

Although this village is a unique experience for travelers wanting to truly connect with the locals, a homestay is the perfect option. By choosing a homestay, visitors will be able to build unforgettable memories alongside the local people who will welcome them with open arms.

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