Hilary Bradt, founder of Bradt Travel Guides, reflects on the pros, cons and ultimate ambiguity surrounding cultural tourism.Read more...
Nosy Mangabe has beautiful sandy coves, marvellous trees with huge buttress roots and and it’s bursting with wildlife.
The weirdest of all lemurs, the aye-aye was once believed to be a squirrel © Daniel Austin
In fine weather the island of Nosy Mangabe is superb. This 520ha special reserve has beautiful sandy coves, marvellous trees with huge buttress roots and also strangler figs. And it’s bursting with wildlife including, of course, its famous aye-ayes which were released here in the 1960s to prevent what was then thought to be their imminent extinction. There is plenty of other wildlife to see so, while a day visit is quite possible, a couple of nights’ stay is recommended. Inhabiting the island are weird-and-wonderful leaf-tailed geckos, green-backed mantella frogs, stump-tailed chameleons, white-fronted brown lemurs and black-and-white ruffed lemurs. The bay offers excellent swimming and you may see dolphins and turtles enjoying it too. Aye-aye sightings are rare and in any case night walks are forbidden nowadays.
The circuits are well maintained and range in difficulty from easy to moderate. In rain – and it rains often – the paths can get slippery. Trails lead variously to the 332m summit, a rather rusty old lighthouse, and the Plage des Hollandais with its fascinating 17th-century Dutch inscriptions carved on the rocks (if you don’t get time to do this last trail, ask your boatman to stop by there when you leave).
As the whole island is a protected area, there are no hotels on Nosy Mangabe, but the reserve runs a campsite with sheltered pitches, showers, flush toilets, and a couple of newly constructed huts for those without tents. Permits are available from the park office on the island itself. If staying overnight, you are expected to provide or pay for your guide’s food. For your own meals, you can bring a camp stove or employ the services of a cook (some guides will double as cooks if you pay them a little extra).