Where: Madagascar, off South-East Africa
When: August – September
Happenings: Humpback whale watching, diving or snorkelling in the warm seas with their amazing biodiversity
Remember to Bring: An underwater camera to capture the array of exotic sealife
Watch out for: Grey reef sharks
Where It’s At
Southern Africa is home to superb diving, from Mozambique’s reefs to South Africa’s shark diving. Little visited Madagascar is fast becoming a popular place to slip beneath the waves. From the northern islands to the southwest, 1500 miles of pristine reefs fill the Mozambique Channel. The country is now very popular with divers searching for unspoiled sites.
What makes the diving so good is the biodiversity here. Fish and coral species from the Indian Ocean are among the world’s most diverse and with locals often indifferent to eating fish, reefs have been left alone.
Geography also plays a part because the east coast is too rocky and rough to nurture coral life; the east coast, which is protected, allows the fragile organism to flourish. Being near the equator doesn’t hurt either; the warm water with its higher salt content is also a benefit.
When to Go
The best diving season is between August to September, avoiding the heavy summer rains and heavy swells.
Great Dive Sites
The diving is good off of Nosy Be (Be Island).Nosy Komba, Nosy Tanikely, Nosy Sakatia, Nosy Mitsio and Nosy Iranja are smaller islands that also offer good diving; common fish seen are triggerfish, eagle rays, damselfish, barracuda, and reef sharks. Invertebrates include sea stars, anemones,and sea urchins; while manta rays and whale sharks are common.
In the right season (August) even humpback whales can be seen mating.
With so many dive centres located on the northern coast, if you want total solitude head to thesouthwest coast where dive operators are few, but the fish and coral are plentiful. Here, moresharks can be seen and the coral is more vibrant. Grey reef sharks can be aggressive, and care needs to be taken when diving here; the Mozambique Channel is the most shark infested in the world! Other shark species like the black tip are harmless and are commonly seen in the afternoon, when they hit the reef to hunt.
Resorts: Isle St Marie
The island of Saint Marie is a picture perfect tropical island of coconut palms and bays protected from sharks by coral reefs. The beaches are the pictoresque workplaces for Magascens who harvest the sea for their living. 200 years ago, the islands was the only buccaneer kingdom in the world, a hideaway for more than a thousand pirates who would hide in the tiny bays ready to pounce on unsuspecting cargo ships. Today the island still houses an important pirates cemetery and a community of descendents of the pirates and natives, the Malates.
The island consists of a series of tiny villages with homes made of ravinala, which is found on the seashore. The island is famous for clove trees and a mating ground for humpback whalesto meet, breed and give birth during the summer months. Visitors can sea the whales leaping spectacularly in the sea during their mating period (August).
Transport around the island is reassuringly old fashioned: lazily hike by foot or bicycle from village to village, on sandy roads or through the inner land’s lush vegetation.
The island possesses numerous treasures to be discovered: walks, bathing, deep-sea diving and coconut punch tasting can all be enjoyed in front of the sea, illuminated by a breathtaking sunset.
Dogs Breath Divers
Divers personally recommended dive companies in Madagascar.
By Dave Lowe