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Sainte-Marie Island

Also known as Nosy Boraha, Sainte-Marie island is one of Madagascar's secluded beach-holiday destinations. The long and narrow main island (a couple of kilometers at its widest) lies off the East coast and 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, including Ile aux Nattes off the southern tip.

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