Madagascar definitely deserves its growing popularity with keen divers. The islands off Madagascar are famous for their white beaches and warm, translucent waters brimming with colourful reef fish. The Mozambique Channel separates Madagascar - the fourth largest island in the world - from Africa. It is filled with some 1.500 miles of pristine coral reefs.
Most notably, the waters around Madagascar have the highest coral diversity of the western Indian Ocean and the Red Sea. Marine life includes trigger-fish, eagle rays, damsel-fish, barracuda, and reef sharks. Invertebrates include sea stars, anemones, and sea urchins. Manta rays and whale sharks may also be spotted in season.
Diving trips are usually concentrated around the islands close to Nosy Be in the north-west of the country. This is the best area overall - especially Nosy Tsarabanjina, Nosy Tanikely and Nosy Sakatia. The coral reefs here are healthy and full of colour. The islands have escaped the coral bleaching found in other parts of the Indian Ocean. (Researchers believe that the cool water currents from adjacent deep ocean areas have countered the global warming effect.)
What is the best time for diving in Madagascar?
April to May and August to November are probably the best times for diving in Madagascar, with the calmest water and best visibility. July to November offers the greatest likelihood of spotting whales and turtles.
Avoid the heavy summer rains (usually January until March). Heavy swells make it difficult to get to remote dive sites and mean reduced visibility. Cooler waters from June and July increase plankton levels which in turn reduces visibility. (But the upside is that whale sharks are more likely to be spotted during these months.)
Diving in Nosy Be
The island of Nosy Be itself does not have great diving opportunities. However, Nosy Be has a number of dive schools which offer excursions to the superb dive sites at the marine reserve. These excursions take you around Nosy Tanikely as well as Nosy Mitsio and Nosy Sakatia. You may like to stay at Sakatia Lodge to be based right at the heart of the action.
Wreck Diving off the Ile Sainte Marie
Spotting tropical reef fish and wreck diving are both on offer at Ile Sainte Marie. The Ile aux Nattes to the south of Ile Sainte Marie offers some of the best coral reefs. Divers enjoy seeing the turtles, skates and morays around Ile Sainte Marie. But the island’s pirate history means that wreck diving is also an option, as several pirate ships foundered in the bay.
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- Best TimeJuly to November for visibility and whales
- Whales34 different species of whales & sharks in Madagascar