Whales Around Sainte Marie Island
Nosy Boraha or - Tamatave in French, and about 370 km from Antananarivo
- is one of the most important ports on the East Coast of Madagascar,
from this port town you can easily reach Sainte Marie Island by boat or
by plane. The island is also called Nosy Mbavy, that translantes into “the
women’s island”. This name is symbolic: “.. once upon time, a certain
Ibrahim or Abraham, who must have been a Yementile Jew, landed on the island.
He was immediately attacked by groups of women from whom he eventually
managed to escape. He met an old woman on a small island. She took pity
on that exhausted, shipwrecked man, hid him and provided him with food
and water. Full of gratitude, the man blessed the old-woman: She and her
descendants would never go without water.
a spring gushed forth near the old woman’s house. "This legend is known
among every villager on the East coast of Madagascar”.
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There is another
legend about Nosy Boraha. According to that legend, a local, called Boroha,
was driven off the coast by a whale but was rescued by a dolphin that brought
him back to shore. The history of Sainte Marie Island is a mixture of legends
and reality, reports Thomas White, the British pirate, who was married
to a princess from the east coast of Madagascar.
their son, united the coastal tribes in a new ethnic group that he called
the Betsimisaraka that translates into “the great many inseparable”.
Queen, King Ratsimilaho’s daughter, played a determining part in the history
of Nosy Boraha which she received as her dowry. She fell in love with La
Bigorne, the Gascon pirate, and gave into his wishes by signing a treaty
in 1750 with a certain Gosse who was sent by the Governor of the Isle of
France (Réunion). The Island became a French Protectorate and eventually
became a French territory in 1818 when Governor Sylvain Roux arrived and
put up the French flag.
When one mentions
Sainte Marie, one often alludes to the pirates who settled there at the
end of the 16th century after leaving the West Indies and Tortuga. Sainte
Marie provided the buccaneers with secure shelters, coves that were perfect
places to carry out repair works upon their ships with the help of a friendly
fit their scheme of scouring the Indian Ocean, seeking galleons filled
with spices and treasures from India. Accoring to some historians, the
number of pirates that found shelter on Madagascar’s east coast reached
about 1,000. The pirates and their captains (Tew, La Buse, North, Williams,
and others) scoured the seas between the African coast and Madagascar.
On the pirate islands, especially in the village of Ambotiatafa, you can
still visit or even uncover pirate tombs signified by their traditional
pattern: a skull, tibias and swords.
Island (65 km wide, 180 square km) stands on the north east of Toamasina,
parallel to the mainland’s coast. It is composed of a main island and several
small islets. The main village on the island is Ambodifotatra (12km from
the airport). You can visit the old fort whose main gate still shows the
insignia of Louis XV, the King of France and Head of the West Indies Company.
Santa Maria Church, which was built in 1859, is the oldest Catholic religious
building in Madagascar.
Island is on the same latitude as Nosy Be. They are both called Paradise
Island, Indian Ocean’s Tahiti or flagship of Malagasy Tourism”.
of peace, tranquility and pure natural beauty prevails on the island. The
sensation that you will feel as soon as you arrive in Sainte Marie, is
emphasized by the joie de vivre of the Malagasy. Bicycle rides will give
you the opportunity of getting to know better the local population. On
your way, you will discover charming coves, buccaneer tombs or blooming
orchid bushes clinging to the trunks of age-old mango and jackfruit trees.
of transport you can use on this island is going aboard pirouges. They
can take you to beautiful deserted little bays overgrown with tropical
vegetation. The Ile aux Nattes, a rather small island, stands south of
Sainte Marie. It is separated from the latter by a shallow canal. A great
many pirogues, transporting passengers, goods or animals ply between those
two islands. There are only a few straw huts on the island. Do go to the
small restaurant called Chez Napoléon-Hotel Orchidée.
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|You will have
the opportunity of sitting there, listening to a small band playing Malagasy
music and treating yourself to one of the best coconut chicken dishes in
the whole of the Indian Ocean.
vegetation is characterized by a great many orchids, palm trees, arbres
à pain, mango trees and badamiers (the tree’s leaves give off a
strong fragrance). Lemurs live in the trees. People's lives on the island
have not changed much since the old days. The rhythm of life is given by
the sun and by small-improvised bands playing homemade instruments. There
are actually very few inhabitants and tourists are welcome. You can dive
off the reef barrier and discover wonderful scenery.
In winter (from
June to the end of September), the sea around Sainte Marie offers one of
the most fascinating spectacles in the world. For months, Humpback whales
can be seen wondering in the ocean as they move and jump out of the sea
in the narrow canal that separates the island from the mainland. You can
see them everywhere from the island but the best way to see is to
go aboard a fast motor launch with a whale watching specialist.
belong to the cetacean species that is divided into two major groups; Ondotoceti
(with teeth) and Misticeti (which in turn can be divided into three families:
Balaenidae (four species), Eschrichtidae (one species) and Baleanopteridae.
The Baleineau Azur is the biggest animal in the world (it can be 30 meters
long and weigh as much as 120 tons). The humpback whale’s characteristic
signs are outgrowths on the animal’s head and long pectoral flippers (about
one third of the animal’s length). Its average weight is about 30 tons
and it is usually 14 to 15 meters long. Its body has a grey, black color
and its belly and throat are covered with white 300/400 70 centimeter long
“fanons” set in the animal’s superior gums.
humpback whales stay and eat in cold seas. At the beginning of spring,
after the birth of their calves, they move to tropical seas in order to
mate close to the coasts. They will stay there up to the end of summer
and start their way back to cold seas and abundant food.
To catch plankton,
whales gather in groups (there can be as many as 200 animals in a group)
and form a circle. As soon as this manoeuvre is over, they start sending
out little air bubbles toward the surface of the water. Those bubbles will
form a sort of screen that will prevent the plankton from escaping and
each whale will feed in turn. A second male often joins the couple to mate
with the female. While courting, the males will emit melodious sounds and
jump out of the water. The total isolation and the sublime beauty of Sainte
Marie constitutes one of the most fascinating and interesting aspects of
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