The North

DIEGO called Antsiranana

Diégo is the Capital of the northern part of Madagascar. It is situated at 1200km north of Tana; also, it is the third port of the island.

The ethnic group in Diégo is Antakarana. Its population is the most cosmopolitan of the country with Sakalava, the Comorians, the Arabic, French, Chinese, and Indo-Pakistanis.

There are several micro-climates including the dry tropical climate (from May to December) which is accompanied by a strong wind from the south-east known as the Varatraza; also, a hot climate that dominates the rest of the year with little rain.

The city is characterized by Tsaratanana massif which is the highest peak in Madagascar (Maromokotro, 2886 m). Traditionally rated second in beauty after Rio de Janeiro; the harbour is encircled by hills, with a conical “sugarloaf” plonked in one of the top of Montagne de Français.

About 45km from the town, there is a National Park called the Amber Mountain National Park which is very rich in fauna and flora.

WHERE TO STAY?

Grand Hotel (Top)

La note bleue (Top)

Hotel Colbert (Top)

Hotel Jardin Exotique (high midrange)

Hotel Moramora (midrange)

Kikoo (midrange)

Hotel Pacific (midrange)

Hotel Ocean (midrange)

Hotel La Rosticceria (midrange)

AMBER MOUNTAIN (MONTAGNE D’AMBRE)

The national park of the amber Mountain spreads on 23,010 ha of which 18,200 ha for the National Park and 4,810 ha for the Reserve Special Forest of amber. It is a volcanic massif covered of forest spreading on 850 to 1,475 m. Six lakes and several streams and rivers furrow the park. The Amber Mountain is a high place of endemicity with 77 species of birds, seven species of lemurs and 24 species of amphibian. The Amber Mountain counts 1,020 plant species listed. The forests of the mountain are populated of palissander, of Canarium madagascariensis or Ramy and Chrysophyllum, Famelona. These big trees serve in the pharmacopeia. We can find there the ferns, orchids, pandanus and various palms that make the amber Mountain a crucible of biologic diversities.

ANKARANA NATIONAL PARK

The park of Ankarana spreads over 18,225 ha. Ankarana is the western extension of a chalky massif of the medium Jurassic that emerges from a basaltic plain located above 50m over the sea level. The plateau, that is a greatly eroded karst formation in surface, is constituted by a lapiaz of Tsingy.

The biological inventories of Ankarana reported 50 herpetofauna species with 40 reptiles and 10 amphibians. Several species are endemic to this region and few of them are classified among threatened species, and important number of them has a limited distribution range. Among these particular species are the rock dwelling frog Tsingymantis antitra (Vulnerable), the ground boa Acrantophis madagascariensis (Vulnerable),the snakes Alluaudina mocquardi and Heteroliodon lava (known only from Ankarana). The biological inventories also reported 96 species of birds, 50 species of mollusks and a huge number of snails of The tsingy. 14 species of bats, either the half of the bats of Madagascar lives in the underground cave of Ankarana. Two among them are the smallest and biggest bats of the world: the Megachiroptere and the Microchiroptere.

11 species of lemurs live in Ankarana. Besides, it is in this park that the famous Propithecus perrieri, known under the vernacular name of Black Sifaka was seen for the last time by the agents of the park in 1995 and 1996. Meanwhile, the presence of the” Dwarf Microcebus» Microcebus myoxinus still needs to be to reconfirmed. At least 330 plant species are known in Ankarana. Most trees carry the deciduous leaves and many bloom from September to November. Several endemic species of the far north meet in Ankarana: Pachypodium baronia, Adansonia perrieri, Delonyx velutina, Hildegardia erythosyphon.

Several types of plant formations distinguish themselves inside the park. Xerophyte vegetations on the Tsingy, these plants are adapted to droughts.

The forests that are formed themselves in the gorge are the richest in diversity of the species. The most typical are Ficuses of the Morcacea family, Andansonia of the Bombacacea family, and Pandanus, of the Pandanaceae family. These forests are always green in general and are found in the canyons, safe from the wind.

We can also see the raised savannas made of Commiphora of the Burseracea family, Hildegardias of the Sterculiacea family. The canopy culminates over 20 meters. It is the kind of well-known forests in the west of Madagascar.

NOSY BE

Nosy Be is the high place of tourism in Madagascar. This island moored in the North-West of the Great Island off the coast of the bay of Ampasindava, remains the most visited place in the country.

The beauty of this tropical island and the charm its beaches offer, its ocean bottom, its vegetation, its population and its sun were assembled to found its fame.

This haven of peace received many qualifications from visitors, to indicate its beauty but it seems that the term “paradise on earth” is best adapted to qualify the extremely rare beauty of this island, which means not easily seen from other part of the planet. The other terms, like the pearl of the Indian Ocean, does not completely manage to qualify it because it does not evoke the width of its splendour.

Among the most envied beaches of Nosy Be, one can quote the beach of Ambatoloaka, the beach of Andilana and that of Madirokely. These superb beaches are formed by very fine and nice coloured sand which goes from white to black passing from grey, yellow and even red sand. While lying on these beaches, one can easily contemplate turquoise and scintillating sea water; this panorama is sometimes disturbed by the shaking movements of coconut leaves and the scene of a dugout canoe advancing nonchalantly. By the end of the afternoon, enjoy an attractive spectacle offered by the sunset and a melodious crumpling of the ocean. To perfect your stay in this corner of Madagascar, it is strongly advised to visit the small islands around Nosy Be. These small islands are as quite paradisical as the main island and offer to the visitors a legendary memory. The two nearest small islands which really deserve a small touring are Nosy Tanikely and Nosy Komba with their clear blue sea-beds.

HOTEL AMBATOLOAKA

Hotel Sarimanok (midrange, top)

Hotel Cocoplage (midrange,top)

Chez Gérard et Francine (midrange)

EXCURSIONS:

MON PASSOT

Mont Passot is the highest peak in Nosy be (300m). There are good views of series of deep-blue crater lakes, which are said to contain crocodiles and to be sacred as the home of the spirits of the Sakalava and Antakarana princes. It is fady to fish there, or to smoke, wear trousers or any garment put on over the feet, or a hat, while on the lakes’ shoves (fady = taboo)

LOKOBE

The whole island of Nosy Be is a volcanic region characterized by basaltic lava flows that have given rise to fertile soils. It is located in an area of Quaternary eruptive rocks. The Complete Natural Reserve of Lokobe consists of low hills altitudes not exceeding 432 meters that lead sharply to the sea in its southern and western parts. The coastline consists of rocky chaotic clusters which only appear at low tide. Coast Main Lokobe is relatively broken.

The forest of Sambirano essentially covers the reserve. It is the natural habitat of Eulemur macaco macaco, endemic lemur of Lokobe. In this forest, this species plays a very important part in the dissemination of the seeds encouraging the natural regeneration of the forest.17 birds thus have been inventoried like the Ipsidina madagascariensis and Asio madagascariensis, which constitute the most remarkable species.

WHERE TO STAY?

Eco-village Fihavanana Hotel (midrange)

Jungle-village (midrange)

NOSY KOMBA AND NOSY TANIKELY

Nosy Tanikely constitutes an underwater reserve which offers a very suitable diving site. With just a mask and a tuba, one can start appreciating the parade of the thousands of species of fish starting from only some meter from the beach and see grouper, moonfish, swordfish, barracuda, parrots, lines, clown fishes, moray, turtles…These species grind around splendid corals, like a patrol.

Not very far from Nosy Tanikely, can one visit Nosy Komba, which in Malagasy means “the lemur island” because it shelters one of the fulvus lemur specie called black lemurs with a thick black fur for the male and russet-red for the female, these free range lemurs are not wild but are used to receive visitors. They easily approach you for a photograph if you bring a banana to attract them. Lastly, if you do not have time for shopping down town or in the capital, this village of fishermen offers a large market of various memories which deserves your attention. This island of volcanic origin reserves also beaches to you as pretty as that of Andilana or Ambatoloaka.

NOSY SAKATIA

Nosy Sakatia is renowned for wild orchids, turtles and majestic Cycads. This rather bare island lies off the west side of Nosy be. Nosy Sakatia means Orchid Island, but a more remarkable aspect of its flora are the baobabs. There are some well-run hotels here catering for divers.

WHERE TO STAY?

Sakatia Passions (midrange)

Sakatia lodge (top,midrange)

NOSY MITSIO

The archipelago of Nosy Mitsio lies at some 60 to 70 km from Nosy Be and about the same distance from the mainland. This is a beautiful small island.

LA GRANDE MITSIO

The largest island is populated by local Malagasy. Ankarana and Sakalava, who survive on their denuded island through farming, cattle and goats; over gazing has devastated the island but some forest remains in the southern area,. Huge basalt columns are a prominent feature on the north-west, used as an adventure playground by enterprising goats.

The island attracts yachters to its coral reefs and good anchorages. Maribe Bay provides good anchorage, protected between two hills. This is a good area for seeing manta rays.

TSARABANJINA

This incredibly beautiful island means “good to look at”; made famous by the British actress Joanna Lumley who was “cast way” here. The red, grey and volcanic rocks, rising quite high at its centre, has a mass of lush green vegetation clinging to them, from baobabs and other large trees to pachypodium and tiny lap of a crystal-clear green / indigo sea.

Turles and rays rest near the beaches.

WHERE TO STAY?

Hotel Tsarabanjina (top)

NOSY ANKAREA

Nosy Ankarea is another beautiful place to visit due to its gorgeous beaches and a nice place for a pleasant walking excursion. The island is superb. Fabulous pachypodiums, flamboyant surrounded by coral reefs. The forest on the island is relatively undisturbed because of the numerous fadys (taboo) and the fact that no one lives there except Marlin Club Tourists. It is possible to climb up the highest hill (219 m – quite steep but well worth it) to reach a plateau covered with pachypodiums and lots of weird and wonderful other succulents.

WHERE TO STAY?

Marlin club Ecohotel Annex with 6 luxury tents

LES QUATRES FRERES (The Four Brothers)

These are four imposing lumps of silver basalt, two of which are home to hundreds of nesting seabirds, including Brown boobies, Frigate birds and White-tailed tropic-birds. A pair of Madagascar fish eagles nests on one of the rocks. The sides drop vertically to about 20 – 30 m, and divers come here because three of the boulders can be circumnavigated during one vigorous dive. There are huge canes, spectacular overhangs and rock falls in the area.

NOSY IRANJA

This wonder of nature made up of two small islands is surely the two most beautiful islands amongst the Mitsio archipelago. Nosy Iranja absolutely combines the peace and the beauty of the natural tropical forest.In Nosy Iranja, the water is so clear that anyone manages to see from the surface which is the ideal place for the snorkelling with a mask and a tuba with a perfect visibility and without difficulty. Nosy Iranja is a splendid small island and a perfect place of escapade. This small island shaped like the letter “T” with a drag is moored on the north-western coast of Madagascar. Nosy Iranja is one of the five major islands which form the Mitsio archipelago, not far from Nosy Be – located in the Mozambique Channel. It is precisely an hour boat ride (30 nautical miles) in the north of the perfumes island.

Nosy Iranja hotel (top)

NOSY MAMOKO

This little island is at the southwest end of Ampasindava Bay. Known among the yachting fraternity for its exceptional shelter in all weather, it is a lovely, tranquil spot for a few days of relaxation. Nosy Mamoko is on the itineraries of two or three operators, based in Nosy Be, that organise lengthy trips into the region. There is good fishing here and whale watching from October to December.

NOSY RADAMA

The Radama islands, which lie to the far south of NOSY BE and thus are only really accessible to yachters, compete with the Mitsio’s for the best diving sites in the north-east of Madagascar. They are set in a breathtaking coastline of Bays backed by high mountains. Most of these high sandstone islands are steep-sided above and below water and covered with scrub, grass and trees. Sharp-eroded rock formations, however, render the remaining forest rather difficult to explore.