Ile Sainte Marie

An island paradise perfect for relaxation, seasonal whale watching, and just playing in the ocean.


Ile Sainte Marie Hotels

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.

Madagascar - Ile Saint Marie Princess bora lodge

Ile Aux Nattes

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!

Access to Ile Sainte Marie

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.

Turtles off Ile Sainte Marie Madagascar


Why you may love it

  • Laid back charm with only low key development.
  • Pousse-posse (bicycle taxis) are a charming way to get around, or take a bike ride yourself.
  • Great diving and snorkelling off the island at nearby coral reefs.
  • Ile Sainte Marie is one of the best spots for whale-watching in Africa, from June to September.
  • Experience divers can dive amongst the sunken pirate ships from the 19th century.
  • Take an excursion to the romantic car-free island, Ile aux Nattes.

When to visit Ile Sainte Marie

December to March

Rainy season

The East coast of Madagascar has quite a different climate to the western and southern parts. Here, the south-east trade winds release their moisture as they encounter the eastern side of the island. So it rains throughout the year. Summer months bring the most rain with rain either every day or every other day. Temperatures are hot and humid with warm sea temperatures.
MAX TEMP 30 ℃ / 86 ℉
MIN TEMP 23 ℃ / 73 ℉

April to May

Good time to visit

This is a good time to visit. However, the afternoon rainclouds continue.
MAX TEMP 29 ℃ / 84℉
MIN TEMP 21 ℃ / 70 ℉

June to August

Start of whale season

This is a great time to visit. Although the afternoon rainclouds continue, the sea temperature remains warm at 26c. Between July and September there are plenty of humpback whales to be seen as they come from the Antarctic ocean to breed. They like to hang out in the channel between the island and the main coast.
MAX TEMP 25 ℃ / 77 ℉
MIN TEMP 17 ℃ / 63 ℉

September to November

Best time to visit

Great time to visit with a combination of whale sightings and best weather. This is probably the driest time on the island with afternoon rain-showers every second day on average, and these are the sunniest months. It gets hotter and more humid towards the end of the year.
MAX TEMP 28 ℃ / 82 ℉
MIN TEMP 20 ℃ / 68 ℉

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Princesse Bora Lodge review

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.

Cedarberg : Kate Bergh
Did you know
  • HistoryPirates cemetery with skull & crossbones on the graves
  • WildlifeTop place to see humpback whales (June to Sept)