Northern Madagascar is a real gem with its geographical sights of the red Tsingy, National Parks, and islands. There is something for everyone in the Northern Madagascar region.
The main city in Northern Madagascar is Antsiranana (formerly Diégo Suarez); which is a cosmopolitan seaport overlooking a beautiful gulf so some great beaches to visit. From here; there is a lot to do and explore; with many watersports like kayaking, scuba diving, kitesurfing, windsurfing, fishing, etc. If you prefer more land-based activities, Diego Suarez offers many trekking tours as well as quad bike tours.
Dominated by two great mountains: Maromokotro in the Tsarantanana Massif; is the island’s highest at 2876 meters, and Montagne d’Arbre (Amber Mountain) at 1475 meters. Wildlife and flora include lemurs, crocodiles, and orchids.
Mahajanga is the second most important seaport on the west coast and stands at the mouth of Madagascar’s largest river; the Betsiboka. There is a nature reserve at Ankarafantsika. Mahajanga also has beautiful beaches and a coconut tree-lined boardwalk (La Boru).
Boats depart for Nosy Be and several other islands from Mahajanga.
The monsoon falls in northern Madagascar between December and March.
Islands of Northern Madagascar
There are many islands off the coast of Northern Madagascar so here are the main one’s:
Nosy Be is Madagascar’s most important holiday resort. An island surrounded by smaller islands lying off the northwest coast, it is one hour by air from the capital. Nosy Be means ‘big island’ in Malagasy although it only covers an area of about 300km². The main town of Nosy Be is Andoany, formerly known as Hell-Ville.
Nosy Be offers plenty of water-based activities plus excellent seafood and idyllic scenery; fringed with ylang-ylang and vanilla plantations (Madagascar is the world’s largest producer).
Temperatures are pleasant; although in the summer (December – February); the night rains combine with the day’s heat which results in heavy humidity.
Iranja Island consists of two islands connected by a 1500m sandbank which you can walk across at low tide.
The northern island; Nosy Iranja Be, is home to a delightful lighthouse designed by Gustav Eiffel and a small, traditional African fishing village.
The smaller southern island; Nosy Iranja, is an important breeding reserve for the hawksbill turtle; who come to the island to lay their eggs in the soft, warm sand.
The idyllic white beaches of both the islands with their turquoise waters and pristine coral reefs; offer fantastic snorkeling, diving, and swimming. A close encounter with one of the giant manta rays or whale sharks that frequent these waters; is one of the most exhilarating marine experiences you can hope for! The birdlife is diverse and the lush tropical islands are covered with coconut palms, tropical flowers, and huge coconut crabs.
Sainte Marie Island
Ile Ste-Marie (Nosy Boraha) is an island that lies off the northeast coast of Madagascar. Directly translated it is St. Mary’s Island. It is approximately 60km long and less than 10km wide. The main town is Ambodifotatra.
The island is famous for its beautiful white-sand beaches and coral reefs; making it an ideal romantic honeymoon or getaway.
In August, the channel between St Marie Island and Madagascar is a hot spot for whale-watching; in particular humpback whales who migrate from the Antarctic to this idyllic breeding place.
There are several historic sites, including Madagascar’s oldest Catholic church (1837).
Sakatia Island is a tropical paradise near Nosy Be. With no roads or motor vehicles; there are many footpaths to explore the beauty of the island. Sakatia Island is surrounded by spectacular coral reefs therefore diving and snorkeling are awesome.
Fishing in Madagascar
For all those avid fishermen and women, Madagascar offers the best conditions and great catches. Charter a fishing yacht or stay in the lodges and enjoy daily outings.
The main places for organizing deep-sea fishing excursions are Morondava, Nosy Be, Radama Islands, and Ile Sainte Marie. Most of the local game fish species are found in abundance; on the northwest coast. These include sailfish, marlin, giant trevally, dorado, king mackerel, barracuda, wahoo, and Dogtooth tuna, amongst others. Reef and bottom fishing are equally good.
April through to July/August seems to be peak sailfish time; with approximately 100 fish a day remaining near the surface. It is a sight to behold. These sailfish are quite big; many of them weighing over 100lbs. There is also abundant marlin, mostly black. Fishing overall hits its peak between June and November. December through March is the rainy season; with heavy tropical rain that mainly falls at night; leaving the days clear. The fishing declines somewhat during the rainy season, but you’ll still get plenty of action in the water.
Water conditions around Nosy Be are fantastic, with very calm water, virtually no shore break, and extremely high visibility. Large bays, headlands, rocky outcrops, and small islands, many of which are uninhabited, characterize this area. It is an ideal introduction for a new saltwater fisherman; as well as a paradise for the more experienced; due to the sheltered and calm water conditions.