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Beaches

Nosy Be , the beach-fringed "island of perfumes" with its plantations of ylang-ylang and sugar cane off the northeastern coast, is the premier beach destination of Madagascar, with several fine hotels and a lively nightlife. In addition to its splendid beaches, Nosy Be hosts a bona fide low-altitude rainforest sheltering two kinds of lemurs, the mongoose lemur and the dimorphic black lemur (the male is black), though the latter is best seen on nearby Nosy Komba (see the next paragraph - and "nosy" just means "island" in Malagasy). The forest also contains many reptiles and amphibians including the panther cameleon and the tiny Brookesia minima, the Madagascar ground boa, and the orange-backed Mantella betsileo frog. Birds include the hook-billed vanga, the cuckoo roller, the Madagascar blue pigeon, the malachite kingfisher, the Malagasy kingfisher, and the Madagascar paradise flycatcher.

Several smaller islands with nice beaches near Nosy Be include Nosy Komba, home to the "komba" black lemur and to the idyllic tiny up-market "lodge" called Tsara Komba on its own secluded beach, and Nosy Tsarabanjina, a small island with nothing but an eponymous luxury resort where visitors can enjoy the beach, diving, all manner of aquatic sports, and very good service.

Nosy Boraha (also known as "Sainte-Marie" island) off the East coast, is another secluded beach-holiday destination with several accommodation options. The long and narrow main island (a couple of kilometers at its widest) shelters some deserted sandy beaches and fishing villages, with little infrastructure to attract large-scale tourism. The main settlement, Ambodifotatra (the "fotatra" is the Barringtonia racemosa tree, fairly widespread around the island), has an old fort originally built by the "East Indies Company" in 1753 before being converted into a jail, the pirate's cemetery (the tombs have inscriptions in English, French or Arabic), the oldest church in Madagascar, and a small and animated harbor. The finest hotel on Nosy Boraha, Princesse Bora Lodge, is a small up-market "resort" lying near a tranquil lagoon on the leeward shore of Sainte-Marie, with charming small "villas" tastefully designed for comfort and convenience and sheltering discreetly in a wide coconut grove by the Ocean, and excellent cuisine. Activities on the island include snorkeling, diving, water-skiing, sailing, canoeing, fishing, whale-watching, biking, and excursions to the few points of historical and cultural interest.

Anjajavy, Madagascar's only Relais et Chateaux luxury resort, consists of 25 well-appointed bungalows set in a fairly large private reserve bordering a lovely, expansive beach, some mangroves, small "tsingy" karstic limestone formations, and offering many aquatic activities as well as several hiking possibilities most notably to the neighboring Sakalava villages of Anjajavy and Ambodro Ampasy where the owners of the resort have been very supportive in building a dispensary, a primary school, and starting several micro-lending schemes. The lodge's private nature reserve has a varied fauna and flora, with some endemic species and some introduced: Coquerel's sifaka lemurs, Cuvier's spiny iguana, birds of paradise, malachite kingfishers, pygmy kingfishers, hummingbirds ... Access is exclusively by private "Air Hotel" Cessna Caravans, which operate Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays only.

Ifaty beach, about 30 km and one hour North of Toliara, borders Ranobe lagoon, which is protected by the southern portion of one of the longest coral reefs (perhaps even the second-longest depending on how one counts) in the world. Though the beach itself is not spectacular, several hotels offer their hospitality, including the quite pleasant Paradisier. Other attractions at Ifaty include the barely penetrable spiny thicket which extends East as far as the eye can see and attracts all manner of birds, as well as the "tanan'ni sokake" tortoise sanctuary.


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