I had been itching to go to Nosy Be ever since my first trip to Madagascar back in 2010. I wasn’t able to go at that time but I always mentally noted that I wanted to get there at some point. As luck would have it, I was down in Mauritius with SPG Amex on a work trip and was able to extend the trip into a little vacation spending 24 hours on Reunion Island before 4 days in Nosy Be. What a pleasure it was to be in Nosy Be and I couldn’t recommend a destination more.
Nosy Be is an island at the northwestern tip of Madagascar. Nosy Be itself is a nice island with some good beaches and hotels but it acts mainly as the hub to explore some of the neighboring islands; much like how El Nido in the Philippines acts the same way for its nearby islands. Here are 5 awesome things to do in Nosy Be.
Nosy Iranja is a place that dreams are made of. It is the place you dream about at night. It is that tropical island screensaver that comes with the computer. It is pretty much perfect.
Nosy Iranja is a 75 minute or so speedboat ride from the main beach on Nosy Be. You can sign up from any hotel or tour company and it should run you somewhere around 50 euros a person with the tourist markup.
Nosy Iranja is actually 2 separate islands that become one at low tide as the islands become connected by a dreamy white sandbar with stunning azure water on either side. You can walk, swim, sunbathe or do whatever on the sandbar while it still exists.
You can also head into the local village and visit the little handicraft stores and play with the adorable children. What a place to grow up.
The tour will include a great lunch of fish, rice, shrimp and meat skewers and some salad. The food is actually outstanding and I think barracuda is one of my new favorite types of fish because of this trip.
I am not exaggerating when I say Nosy Iranja is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. As I said on Instagram and Facebook, it’s right up there with Aitutaki, Bora Bora, etc. It’s a must when you’re in Nosy Be.
Nosy Komba is a big island not too far a boat ride from Nosy Be, maybe about 20 minutes from the main beach. It is a nice island. It’s very lush and pretty to look at. The beaches are not spectacular but the view and the lagoon is very nice. However, you go to Nosy Komba for animals: specifically lemurs, Aldabra turtles and chameleons.
The lemurs are the star of the show and are of course the most famous animal in Madagascar. The way the guide does it is great because it allows you to actually have the lemurs jump and crawl all over you and they feed them tiny bananas.
It was a lot of fun. I didn’t even mind that one of the lemurs went to the bathroom all over my back and leg!
Feeding the 400-year-old Aldabra turtles was also a highlight. They had the same turtles in Mauritius but these were easy to access. You could get right into their area with them and feed them tiny bananas. As you can see, they are messy eaters but it makes for great photos and a lot of fun.
Nosy Komba was a great place to spend a few hours and the villagers were really friendly although after you see the animals you are forced to walk through an endless labyrinth of gift shops. I do love some of the artwork but I never buy anything thankfully or else I’d have no room in my apartment or storage facility!
Nosy Tanikely is a national marine park in Madagascar and is a great place to snorkel, dive, swim or just chill out after visiting Nosy Komba. The day trips from Nosy Be always include both Komba and Tanikely on the same trip-they are only 15 minutes by boat from each other but offer vastly different experiences.
For me, Nosy Tanikely was the perfect place to simply relax, do a little snorkeling, enjoy the water, hike around a bit and work on my tan. Oh and the view wasn’t so bad either!
Definitely check out Nosy Tonikely and if you’re a serious diver then they have trips specifically for that. I dive on occasion but have trouble equalizing so I prefer to snorkel if possible.
There are several nice options for places to stay in Nosy Be. The alleged best place is an all-inclusive hotel at the far tip of the island so you’d be pretty isolated. I hate that so I opted to stay on the main beach where I could walk to most places and it was a much easier taxi to anywhere else I wanted to go. I stayed at the Royal Beach Hotel.
The Royal Beach Hotel was advertised as a 4-star property but if you’ve traveled around Africa, you know that stars don’t mean anything. The hotel reminded me of an all-inclusive style place in Punta Cana or Riviera Maya. That said, it was actually pretty nice and very picturesque. The room, bed and shower were excellent and so was the pool. However, I had three big problems with the Royal Beach Hotel.
First, the prices for food were significantly higher than just walking to the beach and finding a place to eat or drink. You expect that from a nice hotel but a 5 times markup seemed a bit high for the same things.
Second, the woman who worked the afternoon front desk was completely useless and very rude. My flight on Air Madagascar literally changed departure times 14 times. So I kept asking the desk to call the airline to confirm my flight as the times ranged from 8am to 8pm and I didn’t want to sit in the airport all day obviously. I’ll skip bashing her and the token ‘This is Africa’ reference but the laziness and attitude I could’ve done without from a top hotel employee.
Third and most annoying was the hotel allowed locals to come and not only use the pool but also literally occupy the whole damn thing plus all the chairs so paying guests couldn’t even get a chair. They brought their whole families and it ended up being like summer camp for Nosy Be kids in the pool at the 4-star hotel that none of them were staying in. All the guests were annoyed.
I know some of you are reading this thinking that sounds elitist or whatever but when you’re paying for a top place, you don’t want 50 kids screaming, splashing, peeing and annoying you if you’re trying to just relax and enjoy the pool. Unless they’re actually paying to stay there as well-then you deal with it. So basically I had a love hate relationship with the Royal Beach Hotel but to be honest because of the great location and it was very comfortable-I’d stay there again for sure.
The food on Nosy Be and on the islands that I visited was pretty good. Most things were seafood based as you might imagine but you can find some pretty good deals along the beach. My favorite was Beach Bar.
Beach Bar was the centerpiece of nightlife and dining on the beach and a very pleasant place to hang out at night. They had good live music and excellent food at super cheap prices.
A lobster with fries or salad was $7. Steak frites was $5. A pizza was $3 and they were all pretty darn good. Large beers were $1 plus they gave you movie theater quality popcorn free on the table. I ate there 3 times and highly recommend it!
So at this point my words and certainly my pictures should have convinced you to go to Nosy Be. There are much more than 5 awesome things to do in Nosy Be but these are a few to help you get started!