A 70-kilometer boat ride north of Nosy Be brings me to the Mitsio Archipelago, a cluster of about a dozen mostly uninhabited isles with palm-fringed beaches backdropped by sculptural rock formations and baobab trees. My destination is the tiny private island of Tsarabanjina, whose sole occupant, the Constance Tsarabanjina resort, comprises 25 thatch-roofed villas built by local craftsman and fitted with Malagasy art, sculpture, and textiles.
Many guests are here for the scuba diving, which is said to be the best in Madagascar, while others venture out by boat or on snorkeling excursions with the resort’s resident marine biologist. Wanting to get a taste of local life, I instead hop into a pirogue for a fishing trip with a Seychellois guide named Francis and a fisherman named Jick. From the sugar-white shore, we paddle out into deep water so clear that fish can be seen dashing all around our boat.
“This looks like a good spot,” Francis says assuredly. The pirogue tips gently as Jick hands us each a fishing line, and then we sit and wait with the sound of the water lapping against the hull. Jick is the first to get a bite; grinning from ear to ear, he reels in a snapper as we cheer him on. Between us, we catch five or six more fish before the morning slips away. Jick says it’s a modest catch for these parts.
Back on the island, chef Claude Raherivelo and his assistant Fidele are busy preparing the day’s catch in an open-fronted restaurant that overlooks the resort’s private beach. It’s lunchtime, and they’re concocting a traditional Malagasy coconut-milk curry with wahoo. Succulent cubes of the white fish sizzle as they’re tossed in the hot pan, seasoned with vanilla, pepper, and fragrant spices from the neighboring islands. Once golden, the fish is set aside to make way for the finely sliced onions, ginger, garlic, and tomatoes, combining into a heady aroma. Claude adds the peppercorns, a little salt, curry powder, and kaffir lime leaves, then finally pours in the fresh coconut milk and dishes it up with steamed rice and salad from the garden. “Et voilà!” he announces, and we start digging in. Like everything else I’ve eaten on this journey, it’s delicious.
Nosy Be is connected to the Madagascan capital Antananarivo by daily flights with Air Madagascar, which also operates a twice-weekly service to Bangkok. Speedboat transfers to Nosy Komba take 30 minutes, while the crossing from Nosy Be to Tsarabanjina takes about 1.5 hours.
Where to Stay
Tsara Komba Lodge
Nosy Komba; 261-20/ 869-2110; doubles from US$447, all-inclusive.
Tsarabanjina Island; 261-34/021-5229; from US$300 per person, including meals.
This article originally appeared in the October/November print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Calling All Nomads”)