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Off the eastern coast of Madagascar lies the small island of Ile Sainte Marie, which was home to pirates in the 17th and 18th centuries. The legend goes that it was a safe haven for more than a thousand pirates and numerous vessels.
Historical maps from that era refer to Sainte Marie simply as “the island of pirates.”
Because of its proximity to the East India Shipping Company’s trading route – better known as the Spice Route – between the Indian subcontinent and the British and Dutch Empire on the Indian Ocean, and with its numerous inlets and bays to hide ships, the island was the perfect base for the Pirates.
The island was scattered with wooden huts and boasted tropical beaches with crystal clear water, local women to satisfy their lust and tropical fruits to make their favourite rum (Madagascar rum is still great).
Sainte Marie was a true pirate’s paradise back in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Even the famous pirate William Kidd, better known as the notorious Captain Kidd, was once resident on the island. The remains of his legendary ship Adventure Galley were rediscovered here as recently as 2015.
The Pirate Cemetery overlooking the main entrance to the bay is the only thing that remains from the pirate era today and is said to be the only pirate cemetery in the world.
Sainte Marie is still often visited by treasure hunters searching for forgotten and lost treasures around the island. And History Channel recently had a program about looking for lost pirate treasures around the waters of Sainte Marie.
These days the pirates are gone, but it’s still a paradise and is now slowly being discovered by tourists who want to enjoy some of the best beaches in Africa.
NB. Ille Sainte Marie is the setting for the PlayStation 4 game, Uncharted 4 A Thief’s End.
If you’re already on Ile Sainte Marie you should definitely visit and stay a few days at Ile Aux Nattes, a small island right next to Sainte Marie and only reachable with a small wooden canoe.
Ile Aux Nattes is the perfect place to relax and forget about time.
How to get to Ile Sainte Marie.
There´s one daily flight between Ile Saint Marie and the Antananarivo the capital of Madagascar. There´s even a flight to and from the French Island of La Reunion 3 times a week.
While flying domestically in Madagascar is crazy expensive, so are the best way to reach Ile Sainte Marie with taking one of the two ferries between the city of Toamasina on mainland Madagascar to Ill Sainte Marie a day but the ferry depends on the weather conditions. I had to take the boat back to mainland on a very windy day, not fun.
Entrance fee to the pirate cemetery.
There´s a 10 000 Ariary entrance fee to the Pirate Cemetry, and you will be accompanied by a local guide, telling you the history of Ile Sainte Marie, but unfortunately only in French
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