A unique culture that visitors love, abundant and varied animals and plants, plus pristine reefs and diverse marine life are what makes Madagascar more than just a tropical paradise. The fourth largest island in the world, this independent island nation is located about 250 nm off the east coast of Africa.
Dream Yacht Charter’s Madagascar base is on the island of Nosy Bé, which lies at 13 degrees 18 minutes south latitude and 48 degrees 15 minutes east longitude. From your first moment on the island you will understand why Nosy Bé is nicknamed the “Fragrant Island.” The air is filled with the heavy scents of ylang-ylang, or Cananga tree, which is valued for its perfume; also grown are coffee, sugar cane, and pepper crops.
Although you can sail in Madagascar any time of year, the best cruising season is generally April to November. From December to March it’s a bit warmer, rainier, and there’s less wind. Still, because Madagascar lies near the Equator, the water remains warm and good sailing is guaranteed throughout year.
A volcanic island, Nosy Bé is the largest and most populated of the Malagasy islands. It lies northwest of Madagascar, which gives it shelter from the southeastern monsoons. This makes it the perfect launching point to explore several other smaller islands including Nosy Komba (the lemur island), Nosy Tanikely, Nosy Sakatia, Nosy Mitsio and Nosy Iranja (the turtle island).
The local people are truly warm and welcoming. Originally of Indonesian and African descent, the population is now a mixture of many cultures. Nearly all islanders speak Malagasy, and many can speak English, French, and German as well. Music plays a big part in their daily lives, as do unique customs or, rather, taboos, known as “Fady.” These Fady differ from region to region, and it is fascinating to learn about them from the local islanders you meet and befriend as you sail to various destinations.
On land, lemurs, chameleons, frogs, geckoes and boa constrictors are the most popular indigenous animals you will encounter. In the water, the reefs around Nosy Bé are brimming with life. Soft and hard coral groupers, turtles, whale sharks, barracuda, huge gorgonian fans, crocodile fish, octopus, leopard sharks, the mysterious dragon fish, black and white mantas, plus many other species are plentiful in Madagascar’s protected waters.
From October to January, the biggest fish in the world – the whale shark – can sometimes be seen in large schools as they feed unmolested in the calm waters of the archipelago. During July and August, humpback whales and sometimes sperm whales migrate through the area.
If your idea of the perfect sailing vacation is an adventure that includes meeting exotic people in a distant, as yet unspoiled location, a place where the sailing, the wildlife, the marine life is abundant and diverse, Madagascar may well be your perfect choice.