Memories of Favorite Places: Ile aux Nattes, Madagascar

Off the eastern coast of the island of Madagascar stretches a 57-kilometer long by 5 kilometers wide island, covered mostly in green and dotted with thatched-roof villages. Ile Sainte-Marie (Saint Marie’s Island), or Nosy Boraha, as it is known in the local Malagasy, is a popular destination among the whale watching community (see this post for our whale-watching experience) late every summer.

And just off the southern tip of Ile Ste Marie is another small island, Ile aux Nattes. It’s about 10 kilometers all the way around (I’ve “run” it – involves splashing through shallow water in places or clambering over rocks) and separated from Ile Ste Marie by only about 300 meters and a short pirogue ride.

Inside a pirogue. Aerochrome infrared film turns the trees red.

Ile aux Nattes is ringed with small resorts, most of which have been there for years, and are owned by foreigners who love the simplicity and tranquility of the island. There are no cars on the island, and people get around either via the packed red clay trails that criss-cross the island, or via the small boats that work the perimeter of the island.

Aerochrome infrared photo from the south end of Ile aux Nattes

From the southern end of the smaller island, you see nothing but blue sea as a lagoon stretches at least three miles into the distance before reaching the distant breakers. Les Lemuriens (“the lemurs”), a small resort, is a frequent lunch destination for visitors to the island – the food is excellent – but you can also stay in their bungalows and spend the day reading or napping in a hammock strung from the trees overhanging the water.

It’s a magical place; there’s not a lot of touristic hoopla but you can simply relax, or you can venture over to the main island and rent a moped and explore, stop somewhere for freshly-caught seafood, or dine in some truly amazing restaurants. There’s also a Pirate Cemetery, as the island was once known as a getaway for pirates who marauded the Indian Ocean, and many of whom ended up settling here.

Enjoy my video tour of both islands.

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