The little island of Nosy Be is situated just off Madagascar’s north east coast and is blessed with a near perfect climate, lovely beaches, sheltered bays, a well-developed tourism infrastructure and exotic blossoms which lend the island its nickname of ‘Perfumed Isle’.
Tourism started here long before it did on the mainland, and many of the hotels and resorts are situated on the west coast, where the beaches are whitest and the water clearest. Fragrant ylang ylang bushes, sugar cane plantations and rum distilleries are dotted around the countryside of this exceptionally laidback island. Lemuria Land is one of the most popular tourist haunts, allowing visitors to view and interact with a number of lemur species, reptiles and birds.
A guided tour of the buffer zone of the Lokobe Strict Reserve comes recommended, generally including an hour long trip on a traditional pirogue, lunch in a small village and walks in the wildlife-filled forest. Lemuria Land and Lokobe are both easily accessible from the suspicious-sounding Hell-Ville, which was actually named after a French admiral and is quite upmarket by Madagascan standards. Situated on the south coast, Hell-Ville is the only significant town on Nosey Be, and its main street is lined with boutiques, tourist shops and restaurants. The tourist office here is an extremely helpful stop-off for tourists who want to make the most of their stay on the island.
The vast majority of tourists fly into the Fasène Airport north of Hell-Ville, although there are also ferries linking Nosy Be with the mainland. One good tar road leads from the airport to Hell-Ville and the west coast, and taxis, motorbikes, scooters, quads and hired cars are all possible modes of transport.
A suitable vehicle and driver are needed to take you up the rutted road to Mont Passot, the island’s highest point at 326 m. Along the way, there are lovely views of a series of sapphire-blue crater lakes.
Several operators offer hiking and cycling tours of Nosey Be, while most also do boat trips to the smaller islands of the region. Trips to the islands of Nosy Komba and Nosy Tanikely are especially popular. Nosy Komba offers lemur interactions and a spectacular hike, while Tanikely is a marine reserve that boasts spectacular coral reefs that are perfect for snorkelling. It is possible to walk all the way around Tanikely, during which time you may see lemurs and flying foxes.
The most impressive and pristine islands are situated slightly further afield and can normally only be reached via multi-day yacht charters. Fifty kilometers from Nosey Be, the Mitsio archipelago boasts world-class diving and spectacular beaches, as well as a variety of wildlife. The Radama Islands are also home to some of the best dive sites in Madagascar and are part of the wildly beautiful Sahamalaza-Iles Radama National Park.