I´ve seen direct flights advertised to Nosy Be from Europe and never known where it was. I assumed it was an Italian island. But actually, its a Malagasy island, just off the coast of Madagascar, full of Italian tourists. It was strange to leave the mainland, where I was always approached in French except for the occasional person who spoke English or mistook me for a local, and arrive to an island where all the locals greeted me with ´Ciao bella!´ The first hotel we stayed at, Sambatra Bed and Breakfast, was even run by an Italian woman who seemed surprised, even a little insulted, that we weren´t Italian guests. We only stayed there because it was across the strait from an even tinier island, Nosy Sakatia.
At Nosy Sakatia, you can snorkel out at high tide, or walk out for a kilometer and then snorkel at low tide, and swim with turtles larger than you. I found two, three, even four at a time, and as I floated above them and waited for them to surface right beside me for water, I tried to measure their width and length with my outstretched arms, and sometimes, I couldn’t even reach as wide as their front legs. If you stay at Sakatia Lodge, there´s also unlimited use sea-kayaks and a dive shop with a couple of dive masters who can take you out for night dives with black lights – you´ve never seen the corals and fishes glow so colourfully.
Nosy Be is famous for the production of Ylang Ylang, a flower made famous by Chanel no. 5. Even the tree smells beautifully, and a few milliliters of ylang ylang oil can set you back €50. I thought the island would be overrun by tourists, but the beautiful beaches, just like the hotels, were everywhere, but nicely spread out. If you want total peace and isolation, go to the north, and look for a place called TanaLahy lodge in North Amporaha/Belamandy bay. Its just a single bungalow, where all the walls open as shutter windows and the whole front of the bungalow is a glass sliding door, on your own private piece of beach. Two beach loungers, two beach chairs, a picnic table and a separate kitchen and bathroom are all yours… one could easily live there for a month just to get away from it all. The road is only a dozen kilometers way from the main ring road, but its more of a dirt road track where you never know if or when the next pick up comes for public transport. But a bld rickshaw driver will get you there and back, for just a few euros.