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Nosy Be: the island of perfumes and lemurs

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Nosy Be is a small island located in the Mozambique channel just 8 kilometers from the northwestern coast of the large African island of Madagascar. Nosy Be measures 321 sq km and is an island of volcanic origin. The island is formed by low hills and its highest mountain is Mont Lokobe which reaches 455 meters in height. This mountain occupies the southeastern peninsula of the island.

The island is surrounded by other smaller islands including those of Nosy Komba, Nosy Sakatia, Nosy Tanikeli, Nosy Tanga etc. Its volcanic nature is clearly visible in the rocks that form the island and in volcanic craters, often with within the lakes, which dot it. In total there are 11 volcanic lakes on the island which the population considers sacred.

Nosy Be, as indeed all Madagascar is important for its biodiversity. There are both animal and plant species that are endemic to Madagascar. In particular, the island is known for the presence of lemurs and chameleons. Nosy Be has a tropical climate with a rainy season that lasts between December and March and a dry season between May and October.

The island has some areas still occupied by tropical forests, parts of which are protected by the Lokobe nature reserve. This reserve occupies the southeastern peninsula of the island, around the highest mountain of Nosy Be, Mont Lokobe. In the forests there are rosewood, camphor trees, palm trees, kapok, tamarind and casuarina.


Nosy Be was colonized by the French from 1841, the year in which they founded the town of Hell-Ville. The French introduced many plants and spices to the island which today, together with tourism, are the wealth of Nosy Be. Among the most important: sugar cane and coffee.

The island has an agricultural economy, sugar cane, indigo, coffee, sesame, ylang-ylang flowers, rice, corn, sweet potatoes and cassava are grown there. The most important inhabited center of the island, the town of Hell-Ville (Andoany), is located along the southern coast. The island is the main tourist destination in Madagascar and is served by an international airport. The Fascene Airport which has direct connections with Europe (France, Italy), with South Africa, the Comoros islands and Reunion.

Tourism is together with agriculture the most important source of income on the island. There are numerous hotels of various types and the island is the most popular tourist resort in Madagascar. However, the island still offers authentic and unspoiled places to discover and natural spaces free from mass tourism.

On the island there are ancient colonial buildings, such as the seat of the prefecture. The clearest traces of French colonization are found in the town of Hell-Ville. The Hell-Ville market is a rich sample of the population that inhabits Madagascar and of fruits, plants, spices and other foodstuffs that are grown and produced on the island. Among the excursions to do from the island of Nosy Be there are those to the island of Nosy Komba, the archipelago of the Mitsio islands and the white sand strip of Nosy Iranja.

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