An island paradise perfect for relaxation, seasonal whale watching, and just playing in the ocean.
Ile Sainte Marie, off the east coast of Madagascar, is the ideal spot for a beach holiday after enjoying some wildlife The picturesque island of Sainte Marie boasts scenery to rival the Seychelles. Lovely bays protected by soft coral reefs with quiet white sandy beaches. The tropical climate creating verdant green vegetation. Add in a mysterious pirate history and it has romance written all over it.
Hotels on Madagascar range from the stylish Princess Bora Lodge, to eco-retreats to simple family-friendly resorts.
Ile Sainte Marie is only 60 km long and just 7 km at its widest point. It’s an idyllic spot with a cute little airport at its southern tip. This offers 50 minute flights direct from the capital Tana. There’s only one town on the island and the hotels and beach resorts are all small-scale and low level.
Outside of the Ile Sainte Marie hotels, English is not widely spoken on the island. But many people speak good French.
To many people this little car-free island off the south tip of Ile Sainte Marie is even better than the main island. The circumference of the island is just 8km, and it takes just three hours to walk around it. You can stay at one of the small guesthouses but most people just come for the day to enjoy the white sandy beaches, orchids and seafood restaurants. The best beach is at the north of the island, crystal clear and shallow water, calm tide, soft sand – absolute paradise!
You can fly in and out of the island a tiny airport in the south. But many people meander up the east coast. And then take the ferry (1 to 1½ hours depending on the seas) for some beach R&R at the end of their trip.
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I loved Princesse Bora Lodge. There is a great sense of space (which many of the other hotels on Ile Sainte Marie don’t have, being hemmed in by the road running alongside the coast.) This hotel however is spread out over lovely gardens with a stretch of almost private beach.
The three standards of rooms are quite different from each other so you have to decide whether you are going to splash out for the Luxury Villas which are massive suites or economize in the garden chalets (called Charme rooms).
There’s a large and very nice spa, shop, cosy sitting room with fireplace, restaurant and bar. There’s a large lap pool and a private jetty area with a swimming area from the jetty. (The tidal range is great on ile sainte marie so it’s best to swim from here.
The food was delicious both at lunch and dinner. I also had to sample the spa (in the interests of product research you understand!) This was very impressive, again one of the best in Madagascar and very well priced.
The Deluxe Villa suite was easily the smartest of accommodation on Ile Sainte Maire – a massive room with bedroom, dressing area, large open plan bathroom with massive sunken bath, double shower and enclosed loo. Outside your private deck with loungers leads down to your private garden area and your beach loungers. My only comment is that the massive bath would take an age to fill so I recommend taking their pre-prepared romantic bath option. I contented myself with the lovely double shower.
The garden chalets (Charme villas) are perfectly fine but a big difference in standard. They were probably the least impressive thing about Princesse Bora. They are simple wood and thatch chalets in the gardens close to the spa and restaurant. Some of them are close to the beach so that you would get a sea view but they cannot guarantee these rooms. The family chalets are similar in style to the garden chalets but have a mezzanine level with two beds for children, and a larger deck.
I strongly recommend - if you are going to spend the money on Princesse Bora - opt for the Deluxe Villa suites. Otherwise you may be vaguely disappointed by the garden chalets as they are not as smart as the main areas of the hotel.