Grab a map of the Western Madagascar coast between Mahajanga in the south and Diego Suarez in the far north, and you’ll see just how empty this portion of the island’s indented coastline is.
This is a land void of roads, houses, and anything really, except for three distinctly different resorts that can only be reached by bush plane – or in one case, boat. Each is unique, and about as close to paradise as one can get in Madagascar, especially if you are there on honeymoon (or any sort of romantic getaway) and looking for a Robinson-Crusoe-with-a-luxury-edge type of retreat.
Lodge des Terres Blanches
The only lodge that can be reached by boat or plane (but not road), Terres Blanches is owned by a former bush pilot named Jacky Cauvin. It is the least posh of the three properties, with six basic, but comfy bungalows. That said, it is also the most affordably priced, and the beach is superlative – long and pearly white, and backed by a clear turquoise sea on one side and lush forests where lemurs and geckos play on the other.
Don’t expect to be pampered like you would be at the other properties – guests all dine together at a big table in the evening (vegetarians won’t like it here), electricity runs off a generator (but it is pretty consistent) and guests can help themselves to snacks and drinks at any time from the fridge. It’s a simple place that’s popular with sport fishermen and French holidaymakers. Jacky, who speaks perfect English (another plus), can arrange drop-offs for picnic hikes or boat trips to hidden coves and baobab rich islands. He is also full of facts about Sakalava culture – the tribe that buries its dead in erotically carved tombs – as well as Malagasy animals and plants. Get him talking after a few rounds of post sunset tumblers of the delicious house rum. The lodge is located about 100km north of Mahajanga.
A world-class Relais Chateau property, Anjajavy is more than just a posh beach resort; it is also working hard to preserve Madagascar’s fragile, one-of-a-kind environment. The resort leases an adjacent 450-hectares of native dry deciduous forest (which is disappearing rapidly throughout Madagascar thanks to rampant clear-cutting by locals who are too poor to care) and protects this land as a nature preserve. Take a walk through it for for some amazing wildlife viewing opportunities. Coquerel’s sifakas, brown lemurs and grey-headed lovebirds are just a few of the strange-sounding and strange-looking animals you might encounter along the way. At times the forest grows right up and over the karst spires – known as tsingy in Madagascar — poking out of the rich earth.
Back at the resort, the 25 villas are well appointed for this part of the world, made from polished rosewood, and featuring fine linens on comfortable mattresses, not to mention plenty of space to move around. The hotel is completely eco-friendly and also involved in enrichment projects that help the local village. A three-day minimum is required to stay here, but considering the pricey private air transfer (around 500 euros) involved in getting here, it is better to book for five or seven nights. This is a great resort honeymooners and there is plenty to do, including a lot of free activities like guided hikes to a cave where the skulls of extinct lemur species are embedded into the walls, and snorkeling trips to untouched coral reefs nearby. There are also water-skiing, wind surfing and catamaran lessons offered for a fee, and there’s even a massage therapist on staff. If you’d rather relax, the big square pool sits flush to a strip of flawless white sand beyond which a deep blue ocean beckons. Massages are available for 20 euro per hour.
La Maison de Marovasa-Be
This eclectic lodge, founded by a French filmmaker, is located in Moramba Bay. It’s not quite as pretty as the locations of the other two lodges, since the surrounding forest here has been subject to serious slash-and-burn degradation over the years and the water isn’t quite as clear and turquoise. The hotel, however, makes up for a lack of gorgeous surrounds with stunning architecture and amenities. It’s a boutique spot with just six rooms and three suites, all featuring balconies and tasteful décor collected from the owner’s travels all over the world. The infinity-edge swimming pool is a real stunner. Like at Anjajavy, the owners here are involved in admirable reforestation projects, and guests can contribute by planting a tree. Air transfers to the lodge are available from either Antananarivo or Mahajanga (these are quite affordable at less than 200 euros per person return).