Sainte-Marie island

SAINTE-MARIE ISLAND : a little history...

Sainte-Marie Island is an enchanting island on the northwest coast of Madagascar whose name, in local language, is Nosy Boraha. In addition to being a true jewel nestled in the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean, its name is associated with the history of piracy, during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

In 1640, there was a first French attempt to create a new colony on the island, immediately curbed by strong tropical fevers that killed most of the pioneers.
Later, it is its strategic maritime position that will make the island a privileged port by various pirates and filibusters, with the aim of plundering ships and merchant fleets returning from the East Indies.
Thus the island, for a short time, was populated by several buccaneers, thus becoming haunt of international pirates (English, French, Portuguese, Americans), among which the famous William Kidd, John Avery and Olivier Le Vasseur "La Buse". The latter settled on the island and were fully integrated into the local population, giving rise to an ethnic group of mixed blood.
Some vestiges of this period are still present in the Pirates cemetery, located on a small island called the island of the Forbans, which has become a tourist attraction.


During this period, according to local legend, a Frenchman named Jean-Onésime Filet (better known by his pirate name "La Bigorne") was wrecked on a beach, fleeing the unfortunate consequences of his relationship with the wife of a colleague officer. One of the women of the region found him and then looked after him. She was none other than Princess Betia or Bety, daughter of King Betsimisaraka Ratsimilaho, himself a son of an English pirate.
Bety and "La Bigorne" married and, in July of 1750, after the death of the king, Bety ceded the island to France.

Subsequently, in 1752, the local population rebelled, massacring French settlers and exiling Princess Bety on Mauritius, with the aim of restoring control of the island to the Betsimisaraka.
But, in 1818, the return of the French turned the island into a penal colony.
In 1960, France granted independence to the inhabitants of Sainte-Marie island who, after the recognition of the generous gift of Princess Bety to France, could choose between French or Malagasy nationality.  Although the majority chose to remain Malagasy, many on the island still retain French names.

Church and Fortress


In 1857 was built the first Catholic Church in Madagascar, which you can visit just a few steps away from the village of Ambodifotatra and the Hotel of Vieux Fort. The hotel is also close to the old military fortress, which it takes the name, former French garrison, still occupied by the only military garrison of the island.

Fauna and Flora

Every year, humpback whales are a big event. Indeed, from July to September, these large marine mammals, after 5000 km of crossing from the frigid waters of the Antarctic, come to join the warm and shallow waters of the Malagasy coast in order to reproduce and give birth.  
The humpback whale is a species of baleen whale. Adult, it can reach twenty meters in length and weigh between 25 and 40 tons. She lives in the oceans and seas of the world. Cétamada, a Malagasy non-profit association founded in May 2009 and based on the island (see "Our partners") organizes every year whale safaris, respectful of sustainable ecotourism.


The interior of the island also contains some treasures like the primary forest of Ikalalalo or the bay of Ampanihy. You will be able to observe many endemic species : lemurs, orchids (including the magnificent Queen of Madagascar), spices (cloves, cinnamon, vanilla, coffee, pepper). The lagoon, sheltered from sharks, is endowed with important coral constructions.
It's up to you to choose your way of discovery: hiking, diving, biking, canoeing, to name but a few. Various guides await you to take you to meet the beauties of the island!

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