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Île Sainte-Marie: Map

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Location of Île Sainte-Marie in north-eastern Madagascar
Île Sainte-Marie, known (more formally) as Nosy Boraha, is an island off the east coast of Madagascarmarker. The main town is Ambodifotatra. The city covers an area of 222 sq.km, and had a population estimated at 16,325 in 2001.

City

The island is organized as The City of Île Sainte-Marie (commune urbaine) in the Analanjirofo region and the Toamasina Provincemarker.

Mayor: Désiré Tsivatou.

Geography

This tourist destination is 60 km long and less than 10 km wide.

Humpback whales

The channel between Sainte-Marie island and Madagascar is a hot spot for whale watching. Substantial groups of humpback whales (Megaptera) migrate from the Antarcticmarker to this idyllic breeding place. These quiet giants find conditions here that are favourable for the growth of their young and well suited to their courtship and acrobatic games before their big return toward the cold seas.

Pirates

The cemetery of past pirates at Île Ste-Marie (St. Mary's Island).
Ile Sainte-Marie, or St. Mary's Island as it is known in English, became a popular base for pirates throughout the 17th and 18th centuries due to several reasons: it was not far from the maritime routes along which ships returning from the East Indies sailed in transit, their holds overflowing with wealth, it was provided with bays and inlets protected from storms and finally, it had abundant fruit and was situated in quiet waters. Legendary pirates like William Kidd, Robert Culliford, Olivier Levasseur, Henry Every, and Thomas Tew, lived in the île aux Forbans, an island located in the bay of Sainte Marie's main town, Ambodifotatra. Many of them would found a family line. A lot of vestiges of this history remains at Sainte Marie. For example, several authentic pirate vessels still lie within a few meters of the surface in the Baie des Forbans. Two of these have been tentatively identified as the remains of Captain Kidd's Adventure Galley and Captain Condent's Fiery Dragon.

The utopian pirate republic of Libertatia was also rumored to exist in this area, although the republic's existence, let alone its location, has never been proven.

Diving

Safe from sharks, the lagoon of Sainte Marie island is endowed with significant coralline growth. Its underwater fauna is preserved as a natural heritage and first-class diving site in the Indian ocean.

Traditions

At Sainte Marie, the inhabitants are attached to traditions. The social or family events are faithfully linked to practices invoking the ancestors' spirits. The wealth and variety of these rituals underline the authenticity and depth of the "Saint-marien" cultural identity.Fragile, Sainte Marie unveils her appeals with modesty and discretion. Nevertheless, numerous places remain as evidence of an earlier time or belief. The visitor will discover many places that testify of an exceptional past and that will move him.

Fauna and flora

The insular character of the place and the particularities of the coralline soil encouraged various adaptations, as much on animal as on plant structure, leading to unique interrelations. Thus, Sainte Marie is endowed with a very rich fauna and flora. You can meet here among other species several types of lemurs as well as a multitude of orchids, among which is the magnificent Queen of Madagascar (Eulophiella roempleriana). The island was the only place where the magnificent Delalande's Coua, a non-parasitic cuckoo, was known to occur; this species became extinct in the late 19th century, probably due to predation by feral cats.

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