Great Island In The North Of Madagascar
|Nosy Be, is
situated in the North of Madagascar, in the Mozambique Canal Waters(Click
Here) to see map of Nosy Be). This great island has been granted several
nicknames in the course of centuries. The most relevant of those nicknames
seems to be “Nosy Manitra” (the scented island in Malagasy). Getting
down from the plane in Fascene airport, you can feel the ylang ylang, frangipani
tree, coffee, cocoa, vanilla, cinnamon, sugar cane balmy fragrances wash
over your sense of smell. As a matter of fact, those plants are intensively
cultivated all over the island. The first inhabitants of Nosy Be, in addition
to the Sakalava that represent the most numerous ethnic group, belonged
to small bands of Antankarana and Zafinofotsy, joined afterwards by some
Comorians , Indians or Antandroy. Nosy Be Island started finding its place
in Malagasy history when King Radama the First made it clear that he intended
to conquer the whole West of the red Island up to the sea.
was eventually achieved when the Sakalava Boeni Kingdom came into his possession.
Towards 1837, Queen Tsiomeko’s army was defeated. She and many of her subjects
took refuge on the islands of Nosy Komba and Nosy Tanikely.
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were unable to pursue them onto these islands and eventually settled on
the neighbouring coast, keeping the Sakalava under threat on the islands
beyond. Nosy Be’s notables tried to call to Zanzibar’s Sultan for help
in order to free themselves from those fearsome neighbours.
sent a ship, but the Sultan's ship turned back almost as soon as it arrived.
In 1840, the first French ship, the Colibri, entered Nosy Be’s Bay.
sent emissaries to this ship’s captain to call to France for help and protection.
On July 14th, 1841, Queen Tsiomeko and Captain Passot(the latter had
in the meantime acquired a French government agreement of peace)signed
a treaty that established French authority over the islands of Nosy Be
and Nosy Komba.This began a period of French protectorate over the
islands though the Merina raided the French controlled areas up until 1870;
this period of conflict lasted for a short period and was followed by a
period of great peace.
position of Nosy be, south latitude 13° 21’ and east longitude 40°
21’, and the Tsaratanana Massif protect the island
|From the very
strong north-east winds that mostly blow in August or during the tropical
depression period and make it a tropical island that benefits from an exceptional
climate, flora and fauna. The warm waters of the Mozambique Canal and the
microclimate that determine seasons make Nosy Be a tourist tropical paradise.
There are eleven volcanic lakes on the island. They constitute an enormous
water reserve that may be used for human needs or cultivations. The banks
and the waters of those lakes are covered with lush vegetation. In the
daytime, many crocodiles hide under the vegetation. At night, they get
out and go hunting.
landscape is varied and it is characterized by a great many
hills that are overlooked by Mount Lokone (450m) and Mount Passot (350).
From these high vantage points, you have an exceptional view onto Nosy
Be Bay, but also on the Radama Islands (south) and Mitsio Islands (north).
The coast is very jagged and puctuated by a great many bays and gorgeous
coves and also deserted beaches lined by palm trees. There are also many
small islands and rocks that may constitute perfect refuges for tourists
wanting to isolate themselves in total privacy. Temperatures are rather
pleasant, except in summer (December, January, February).
period, night rainfalls combine with the day’s heat and result in a tiresome
humidity. During the same period, some places (generally along the east
coast) can be stricken by cyclones. For the most part Nosy Be is not
directly affected by bad weather, however, if other other parts of Madagascar
have bad weather then you will find very strong winds and daily rainfalls
on Nosy Be. Tourist infrastructures remain insufficient and inadequate
even though many tourists, seeking a different holidays, start visiting
Madagascar and Nosy Be.
cannot therefore accommodate many tourists. On the other hand, this
situation constitutes an asset if one takes into consideration the fact
that there is no massive flow of in coming tourists. The tarred road that
leads you from Fascene Airport to the city and hotels, amidst coffee, ylang
ylang, sugar cane and pepper plantations, gives you a general idea of the
island’s very rich vegetation.
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after the airport, there is a junction for Ambatozavavy (7kms after this
junction), a small village on the east coast of Nosy Be. That road (in
very bad condition) is lined by ylang ylang plantations. Just before the
village, you will notice the building of the Swiss Malagasy Foundation;its
aim is to develop agriculture, education and health.
You can visit
this centre in exchange for a meagre entrance fee and meet the director:
who lives in a nearby village. Very close to the village, you will have
the opportunity of visiting the sacred stones, a place venerated by the
inhabitants of the whole Lokobe area of which Nosy Be is a part. The Swiss
foundation’s guests or the visitors can stay at the “Fihavanana Ecolodge”,
a pleasant hotel equipped with bungalows.
It is very
well situated if you want to visit the neighbouring age-old forest. Another
place you can try is the Jungle Village. It is very close to the village
of Ampasipohy and can only be reached by sea. They have six bungalows built
of local wood. They are quite friendly and the place is perfect if you
feel like relaxing for a few days amidst Nature. Just before Hell town
(Hell Ville), the most important of the county towns in Nosy Be, you will
catch sight of a very beautiful view onto the bay but also onto Nosy Tanikely
and Nosy Komba islands.
The roads will
usually allow tourists to go and visit the most important places in the
surrounding area. Yet, we do advise you not to venture on hard-packed earth
tracks during the rainy season. If you visit Hell ville and its surroundings,
you will certainly notice some construction that dates back to the Colonial
period:these are mostly old houses surrounded by long terraces. In the
upper part of the port, old cannons dating back to the time of the pirates
watch over the harbour. If you feel like having an aperitif, a delicious
fruit juice or an ice cream, your best bet may be the Oasis, the Nandipo
(the local rugby team’s favourite bar) or the Papagajo. The market
which is called a Bazaar is a very coloured place, above all in the afternoon.
At that time, many farmers come from the Great Land (the continent or Madagascar
for the people who live on the island), carrying their load of vegetables.
The fishermen also come back to the harbour to sell the fish they caught
in the archipelago’s waters .
From the top
of the hill where the hospital was built, one can have a magnificent view
of the day's sunset. The sea gets dotted with white sails when the fishermen’s
launches come back to port. If you keep driving, heading to the east, you
will cross the village of Ambanoro that was the first foreign settlement
in Madagascar. The ancient constructions have been overgrown with the roots
of the sacred tree. The tree’s branches cover the buildings and drop down
to the ground. As part of the trip to Hell ville, you can see old documents
on the traditions, culture, and history of the Sakalava and Antankarana
tribes. There are a great many shops along Hell ville’s main avenue.
They sell local
handicrafts or local gastronomic specialities: dried fish, black, white
or green pepper in the bazaar, lemon, mango or tamarind achards. Driving
on the road that takes you toward the north of the island, turn right,
just before the junction that takes you to the village of Ambatoloaka.
When you turn, you will drive on a magnificent lane, shaded by tall “kapok
trees”. Then, you will arrive at Ampasindava, a village adorned by a great
many bushes of multicoloured bougainvilleas that creep along the filaos’
the admission fee, you will walk upon a little path that will take you
to a very beautiful waterfall. The stretch of smooth water created by the
waterfall is surrounded with big clumps of papyrus. Go back to the main
road and take it until you reach the junction that leads to Ambatoloaka.
That village is one of the most picturesque villages on the island. Because
of its population that is mostly composed of fishermen. Every morning,
they bring their launches out and go dragnet fishing. In the evening, they
sail back to the beach. Upon their arrival, the whole village gathers around
them to buy their multicoloured catches. The village of Dzamandar is the
second most important inhabited place in Nosy Be; here you can visit the
Sirama sugar refinery which produces 15/2000 tons of sugar a year, but
also a very good rum that you can buy provided you have a bottle and a
cork with you.. The road, which is lined with sugar cane plantations, continues
toward the north after Dzamandar. From May to September, sugar cane is
in blossom and the fields will turn to stretches of silvery panaches that
will offer you a beautiful view.
In spite of
the beauty of its natural sites, the kindness and hospitality of its inhabitants,
one must not consider Nosy Be as a mere landing place to spend great holidays
on deserted beaches. It can also represent a point of departure toward
the surrounding islands: Nosy Komba, Nosy Tanikely, Nosy Sakatia or even
more remote islands such as the Mitsio Arcipelago, the Radama Islands or
Nosy Iranja. A great many tour operators now organise not only visits to
these islands but also bivouacs and cruises.
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