Tsarabanjina, Madagascar

Photo: Constance Hospitality Management

There’s a tomb on the peninsula jutting out from the east beach. It’s where the Sakalava people, who live along the northwestern coast of Madagascar, used to bury their kings. It’s a quiet, sacred spot to which visitors still bring offerings of honey, rum, and, sometimes, money. You opt for rum. They aren’t your kings, but you’ve been staying on their gorgeous island. So, this morning, you decided to go on an early morning walk to thank them. You slip off your sneakers—the hilly path was the first time you needed them since you arrived—tighten your lamba (shawl) around your waist, and bow your head in appreciation as you approach the tomb. The Sakalava kings have been very good to you.

The tomb and the beach are on Tsarabanjina. The little island is otherwise deserted, save for a small beach resort, and covered with a dense green jungle. Soft, white-sand beaches and azure water surround it. While les Quatres Frères (the Four Brothers) islets—mythical rocks where seabirds build their nests—stand in the distance. Both Tsarabanjina and les Quatres Frères are part of the remote Mitsio Archipelago.

It took a lot of time—including flights to Johannesburg and Nosy Be—to reach Madagascar. The last leg of the journey was a 20-minute helicopter ride over the archipelago. You had a bird’s-eye view of that small beach resort—the best arrival tour you’ve ever experienced—from it. Then the coconut palms started blowing as you lowered onto the helipad. You waited until the helicopter’s blades slowed to almost a stop before exiting. You finally arrived at Constance Tsarabanjina.

Photo: Constance Hospitality Management

After saying hello to your smiling hosts, you accepted the first offer they gave you. It wasn’t for a cold towel or an iced drink like most resorts. Those would come later. This was an invitation to remove your shoes. With sandy paths and floors everywhere, you wouldn’t need them much during your stay. They were only recommended for walks around the island or hikes up the hills for panoramic views of the surrounding water. So most of your footwear could stay right in your suitcase.

You passed the tennis court en route to the reception area. The diving center and the volleyball court are nearby, while the restaurant, the bar, the boathouse, and Bar Beach are in the opposite direction. Twenty-five beach villas are divided between North and South Beach. The North Beach villas have air conditioning and (slightly) better sunset views. The South Beach villas, whose air conditioners are only over the beds, are quieter and closer to the waterfront spa. Each timber villa has a thatched roof, a covered terrace, and a shower head made out of a tree branch. Hammocks, well-stocked minibars, and coconut oil—your sunkissed skin will crave this later—are among the amenities. There isn’t a bad room, make that a bad villa, in the house.

After unpacking while you ooh and ahh over your villa, you quickly slip into a beach routine. A workout in the aquagym (that’s the ocean) is followed by walks around the island and breakfast with long-tailed paradise flycatchers. Afternoons are reserved for snorkeling with green and hawksbill sea turtles, massages on the rocks outside of the spa, and, of course, hammock naps. Then you move from afternoon tea to sundowners to seafood dinners in the evenings. Yes, you have a lot for which you need to thank the kings.


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