Ambodifotatra, Madagascar

Photo: Hotel Princesse Bora Lodge
Photo: Hotel Princesse Bora Lodge

Do your travel dreams revolve around islands in the Indian Ocean? From the Seychelles and Mauritius to Zanzibar and Pemba, you’re ready to travel to Africa on a moment’s notice. So why isn’t Madagascar on your list?

It’s funny that the continent’s largest island—and one of the largest islands in the whole world—can be overlooked. But it constantly is. It shouldn’t be. Madagascar’s coast is as beautiful as those on the islands to which tourists flock. It has protected lagoons, undisturbed reefs, and groves of palm trees. The air smells like cinnamon, orchids, and vanilla. Lemurs are friendly and curious. While the beaches are wild and empty. Especially on Madagascar’s own islands.

That’s right, more islands. You can still visit Madagascar and feel like you’re staying on a tiny, remote island. Take Nosy Boraha. The long island, originally called Île Sainte-Marie, was founded when a ship wrecked off its coast in the early 16th century. Pirates, the French, and a penal colony arrived after that. Ancient lighthouses, an old military fort, a pirate cemetery, and Madagascar’s first church are hidden among the dense greenery today. Plus a little lodge sits along the southwestern coast.

Photo: Hotel Princesse Bora Lodge
Photo: Hotel Princesse Bora Lodge

Nosy Boraha is a one-hour flight from Antananarivo, Madagascar’s capital. You fly over the Baie de Tintingue and exposed reefs en route to the little airport near the island’s southern tip. A zebu (ox) cart is awaiting your arrival. From there, it’s a short, though slow, ride to the Princesse Bora Lodge & Spa. The lodge sounds luxurious—and, to extent, it is—but it still fits right into its surroundings. Comfortable villas are made of cut stone and rosewood. They have thatched roofs, suspended wooden beds, and stone bathtubs. Wooden boardwalks link the villas to the Jungle Spa, the open-air restaurant, and a beachfront plunge pool. While everything is surrounded by lush, fragrant gardens.

Then there’s the beach. It may be narrow, but with white-sand and turquoise water, it’s absolutely stunning. A pontoon stretches over the water and expands into a wide deck over the barely submerged reef. Sun loungers and umbrellas await you. Plus a natural swimming pool has been created in the reef.

Once you add private-label wine in the wine cellar, elegant meals like zebu medallions with foie gras at the restaurant, and an essential-oil laboratory at the spa, you almost forget that you’re on Madagascar instead of one of those more popular islands. But why would you want to forget a place like this?

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