It is the perfect island escape: miles from the mainland, pristine beaches, excellent coral reefs, and an abundance of exotic flora and fauna. It is Tsarabanjina.
Even the name conjures images of a mythical escape. And rightly so. It’s beautiful. And peaceful. And oh-so-tranquil. And it’s just off the coast of Madagascar.
Tsarabanjina feels like another world. Two hours by boat from northwestern Madagascar, the island offers blissful seclusion. Two impossibly white sand beaches are lined by 25 private bungalows. There is little else on the island besides a lodge and a dive center. The rest of the land is home to the many trees, flowers, birds, and wildlife that call Tsarabanjina home. Even when the resort is full, guests still feel like they have it all to themselves.
Tsarabanjina offers a mix of relaxation, excursions, activities, and exploration. On most days there are snorkeling and diving outings along the beaches and out by the Four Brothers, a set of rock formations jutting out of the water off the coast.
Other days there are birdwatching excursions with the resident biologist. During these outings, which take place on a boat, guests can often spot a pair of endangered Fish Eagles, of which there are only around 100 left in the wild.
Once a week there is an excursion to Nosy Komba, an island known for its Black Lemur population. The lemurs often jump onto the shoulders of visitors as they feed them bananas.
But excursions are not the only things on offer at Tsarabanjina. It is just as easy to pass the days reading, getting massages, kayaking, playing tennis, and exploring the island. The most exciting place to explore is a traditional burial site in a cave at the far end of a small peninsula. The cave itself is not large, but there are always new offerings at the mouth: money, coins, and shells. Inside are the remains of several wooden pirogues.
If seeing burial sites is surreal in one sense, watching huge sea turtles lay eggs on the beach is surreal in another. Turtles often make their way up to Tsarabanjina’s beaches to spend an hour digging a hole, laying eggs, covering them with sand, and making a decoy nest to confuse potential predators. It is amazing to watch, and come later in the year other guests can see the tiny eggs hatch and the baby turtles make their way to the water in the moonlight.
With its blend of unspoiled beaches, exciting excursions, enchanting local lore, and world-class wildlife, Tsarabanjina is the perfect island getaway. Well, almost perfect. The only flaw is that guests eventually have to leave.
Julie Falconer is a travel consultant and blogger based in London. She is the founder of the global travel and London expat blog A Lady in London, as well as the European travel website VisitingEU.com. You can read more of Julie’s work and see her photos at www.aladyinlondon.com.