While there are so many stunning things to do in Madagascar, she has some of the best beaches in the world. With blue skies, clear waters, the chipper rustle and fluster of fat-feathered birds and the restful sigh of palm trees, let the beaches of Madagascar deliver you a slice of restful happiness.
Here's an inside guide to the best beaches in Madagascar.
The Best Beaches of Madagascar
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Want to know which I think is the best beach in Madagascar? My absolute favourite is Tsarabanjina Island. It lies just 40 km or so west of Nosy Be in the Nosy Mitsio archipelago and can only be reached by boat.
There's just one place to stay on the island: the cool, calm and mellow Tsarabanjina from Constance Hotels.
Think barefoot luxury with secluded beachside villas decked out in natural fibres. Fresh juice delivered by the door. Plenty of bird life, traditional Malagasy fishing boats and nothing but sea air and the stunning beaches of Madagascar.
Get active with humpback whale watching expeditions or just lie back and relax. This is a luxury version of a Robinson Crusoe escape.
How to get there: take a boat from Nosy Be. This can be arranged through the hotel.
What is a nosy anyway?
Nosy is the Malagasy word for island and it's pronounced with more of an influence on the second syllable, sounding aloof and exotic rather than soap opera prying.
Nosy Be means big island and you say it more like this: no-SAY BAY - than this: NOzy Beee. Just in case you still read aloud in your head or want to ask someone else about it without sounding like a fool...Your secret's safe with me.
Tucked up in the north, off the west coast, Nosy Be counts as Madagascar's most popular beach area, although that's still quiet when compared to other regions.
Nosy Be means "big island" in Malagasy and it almost has a mainland feel, certainly when compared to the other islands. It also goes by the nickname Nosy Manitra, or scented island, thanks to its spice markets and flavoursome food.
Volcanic peaks Mont Lokobe and Mont Passot form the backdrop for the sandy beaches of Ambatoloaka and Ambondrona.
Related: see the Red Tsingy of Madagascar
It's one of the few places in the world where you stand a chance of spotting the Omura whale, named as a species in its own right in 2003.
How to get there. You can fly direct from Europe to Fascene Airport on Nosy Be. This cuts down on your travel time enormously if you're looking to hit the beach straight away. Otherwise, most international flights head into Ivato International Airport in the capital Antananarivo. From there, you'll need to take a direct flight to the north.
A private island right by Nosy Be, this place also goes by the name of "the island of turtles." It's actually two islands, connected by 1500 kilometres of soft, powdery white sand. You'll only catch a sight of this at low tide, though. Look out for the lighthouse on the northern island, designed by a certain Gustav Eiffel.
Between Tsarabanjina and Nosy Be lies Nosy Komba, home to a few resorts and plenty of stunning white sand beaches. As a volcanic island close to the mainland, it has unexplored coves, chamelons and lemurs if you're lucky.
Madagascar Beaches Beyond Nosy Be and Around
Ile Sainte Marie (Nosy Boraha)
Another popular spot on the eastern coast is île Sainte Marie. This sparkling expanse of white sand runs for 36 miles along the Indian Ocean, with numerous smaller islands nearby.
It's a diving hotspot, with snorkelling too, and in July and August it's rumoured to be the best spot to catch sight of humpback whales.
On pirate's island, Île Aux Forbans, lives the pirate cemetery, complete with skull and crossbone graves.
It's a busier place than many of the others on this list, apart from Nosy Be, but head south to the Île aux Nattes for a more peaceful stay.
How to get there: take a flight from Antananarivo to Ile Sainte Marie
The Humpback Whales off the Coast of Madagascar
It's the memory of a lifetime: the moment two humpback whales leapt from the slate-grey water of the Mozambique Channel. We'd taken a small boat from the beach and sped after these beauties. I was too slow to catch them both but my heart still flutters when I look back at this shot.
Ile Aux Nattes
At the southern end of Sainte Marie, find this slip of an island, which also goes by the name of Nosy Nato. At 3 kilometres wide, it's easy to get around, car free and utterly idyllic. As with the other gorgeous beaches in Madagascar, expect plenty of chances for snorkelling and spotting humpback whales. Here, you can take the easy route with a glass-bottomed boat.
It's not completely isolated, though. From here, you can walk to local village Agniribe and find restaurants and normal, everyday life.
To walk around the island completely takes between two and three hours. Look out for the small lighthouse Phare Pointe Blévec. It's the highest point on the island and offers some unforgettable views.
Right at the edge of Anjajavy National Park, this beach has 400 metres of pure white sand. It's surrounded by coral reefs with crystal clear water and makes a great place for snorkelling.
Things get a little more active here, with surfing, kitesurfing and jetski opportunities available.
Traditional Malagasy Fishing Boats on the Beach
Yes, these fishing boats look unbalanced and treacherously unstable on land. Once you perch within them, however, you find... that first instincts sometimes are the best.
Ah well. The locals managed to make it look easy...
Mahavelona Beach (Foulpointe)
Where the Onibe River meets the Indian Ocean, a reef lies offshore. Stretching for 150 metres, it results in calm, swimming waters on the beach.
Manafiafy/Baie de Sainte Luce
Further down south, off the coast from Taolagnaro (Fort-Dauphin,) you'll find the secluded Baie de Sainte Luce (Manafiafy.)
It's also the site of the first European settlement, a small French trading post, set up in 1642.
The Sainte Luce Reserve is a community-based project that's doing its best to support the area's rare costal forests and home to the endangered collared brown lemurs as well as many reptiles, amphibians and birds.
For visitors, the big draw here the Manafiafy Beach and Rainforest Lodge, a luxurious retreat with beach access and conservation at its heart.
Plage de Ramena
While not quite the most beautiful beach in Madagascar, Plage de Ramena is relatively easily reached from northern city Diego Suarez. You can be on the sand in 40 minutes by car from the centre of town and find seafood restaurants and bars to keep you fed and watered. It's a great spot for swimming and a springboard for day trips to the La Mer d’Emeraude lagoon.
More About Travel in Madagascar
Voyage beyond the best beaches in Madagascar with stories from the past and travel tips for the future.
What is Madagascar famous for?
Beyond her stunning beaches and welcoming people, it's her wildlife. Leaping lemurs and colour changing chameleons amid historic architecture and sweeping landscapes. Find my collection of wonderful things to do in Madagascar here.
What are Madagascar beach resorts like?
You'll find a range of options along the Madagascar coastline and out on the islands. Some are eco-oriented and basic, while others offer exclusive, back to nature luxury. You won't find many big, all-inclusive resorts with casinos. The Madagascar beach scene is a more low key, barefoot luxury vibe.
Madagascar hotels range from extremely basic to exclusive luxury.
Things to do in Madagascar
Leaping black lemurs, strange graveyards, famous Boabab trees and more. Find out more about the wealth of things to do in Madagascar.
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