Bicycle rides will give you the opportunity of getting to know better the local population. On your way, you will discover charming coves, buccaneer tombs or blooming orchid bushes clinging to the trunks of age-old mango and jackfruit trees. Almost all hotels offer a bicycle rental service. Check the bicycle of your choice before renting it!

Humpback whale Sainte Marie
The ballet of a humpback whale  © Association Megaptera
In winter (from June to the end of September), the sea around Sainte Marie offers one of the most natural fascinating spectacles in the world. Large groups of humpback whales (Megaptera) make their annual migration from the Antarctic to the sheltered waters around Ile Ste Marie where they calve, nurse their young and engage in their spectacular courtship rituals between the end of June and September. 
In winter, humpback whales stay and eat in cold seas. At the beginning of spring, after the birth of their calves, they move to tropical seas in order to mate close to the coasts. They will stay there up to the end of summer and start their way back to cold seas and abundant food. These creatures can grow up to 15m in length and weigh 45 tons, yet they seem incredibly gentle and peaceful as they slip smoothly through the waters. Mothers swim close to their new-born children, shepherding them through their first migration.
For months, humpback whales can be seen wondering in the ocean as they move and jump out of the sea in the narrow canal that separates the island from the mainland. You can see them everywhere from the island but the best way to see is going aboard a fast motor launch with a whale watching specialist. The reputable hotels as well as some operators on Ile Ste Marie arrange whale watching tours that adhere to the regulations to avoiding stressing the whales. Sometimes you are invited to collect data about the behaviour, whale songs, diving length, location, etc. for the world data base. Serious operators are members of the associations Cetamada and Megaptera. Prices from 25 € per participant.

Together with whale watching, diving is the most popular activity in Sainte Marie. You find a list of specialised tour operators on our section Diving & Snorkeling


What to see   

Ambodifotatra (12km from the airport) is the largest and most developed settlement of the island and  offers banking and shopping facilities, a hospital for emergency medical treatment, water sport, some nightlife and a market where you can buy anything ranging from a bunch of fresh bananas to a hand-woven scarf or local artwork. It really just consists of one long, dusty main street extending from the harbour. Thursdays and Tuesdays are market days in Ambodifotatra, although some stalls are open all week long. On market days, you can shop for anything from delicious fresh fruit to some amazing handcraft.

  • The Catholic church

Sites of interest include Madagascar's oldest Catholic church, which dates from 1857 and was a gift to the island from Empress Eugéne of France, and a granite fort (1753), which is now closed to the public. Access to this somewhat mysterious place is, albeit, difficult and absolutely impossible on foot whilst high tide. Even during dry season, though short enough, the stones over the passage are very slippery as the ocean covers them on high tide.

  • The old fort

Built on top of the hill, it is now occupied by the Malagasy army. Its main gate still shows the insignia of Louis XV, the King of France and Head of the West Indies Company. The fort served once as a prison at the time when the island was the destination for convicts. The East India Company built the first building in 1753. The other constructions were added in 1870. Near the fort gate Sylvain Roux is buried.

  • Isle aux Forbans

This tiny, circular shaped island was once the celebration place for meetings held by pirates and also the place where buccaneers divided their loot. One can still recognize the ruins of a arc-shaped on the island. Maybe the a mark that indicates the presence of hidden treasure? The mystery remains unsolved. 

  • The pirates’ cemetery of Saint-Pierre

Located on a peninsula south of the bay, this is the primary touristy site for visitors searching for the tombs of the many pirates, smugglers and slave traders who ended their days on this island.   There are mostly graves from 1800s but only one with the classic skull and crossed bones. The cemetery is also nicely located, overgrown by some mysterious kinds of plants and with the view to the pirate island where you can find many tombs in ruins, some of which date back to the early eighteenth century. To get there (use better a bicycle) take the road to the South and turn left after the dam. Young children will be waiting for the traveller to offer themselves as guides. They will show you the most curious epitaphs. Tip is as always at your discretion.

  • Ilot Madame

At the entry of the “Baie des Forbans”, astride the dike joining the south of Sainte Marie to its main city Ambodifotatra, is located an islet of which the charming buildings and monuments bear a part of the island's history. This place was the home of the King Ratsimilaho's girl; Princess Betia. Formerly named" île aux cailles ", the French Sylvain Roux, renamed it "”Ilot Madame" in 1820 in honour for the King of France's girl. This small islet hosted throughout the centuries many vessels. We still see some remains of a pier more or less abandoned. History enthusiasts will take a look at the former Governors’ residence of, which dates from 1871.


Diving & snorkeling You find a list of specialised tour operators on our section Diving & Snorkeling



pirogue à balancier

île aux nattes



la pêche au gros

les baleines à bosse

la crique

le nord en moto

pierre tombale à tête de mort

le marché d'Ambodifotatra

marché extérieur

nombreux légumes

massif de coraux