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Il Sainte Marie is around an hour's flight from Antananarivo. It is an idyllic, tropical island with miles of sand and reef-protected coves and bays, with lush vegetation covering the island's hills, and coconut palms shading the beaches.
The island is 50kms long and 7kms at its widest point. Historically, it was the centre of piracy in the region when pirate ships would use the island as their base from which to plunder ships full of silks, spices, coins and jewels returning from the Indies. The pirate cemetery still stands on the island as a reminder of this history. Most of the hotels on the island are on the west coast, with a few in the east and a couple more on Il aux Nattes off the southern tip of the main island.
The majority of people who visit Il St Marie will be keen to watch the migrating whales which are normally seen here from July-September. You can often see the whales from your beach hotel, or for a more close-up experience, out on one of the many boat excursions available, the best of which is from Princesse Bora Lodge, who offer visitors the chance to assist with research.
There are also several wildlife areas on the island which are home to various types of lemur, birds, geckoes, chameleons, frogs and also many orchid species. Marine turtles also nest on certain beaches on the island. The shallow water around the island is ideal for diving and snorkelling. The coral reefs, various wrecks, tropical fish and turtles make for some superb diving sites.