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Île Sainte-Marie, known (more formally) as Nosy Boraha [ˈnuʃ buˈrahə̥], is an island, physically off the east coast of Madagascar, and is integral to it. The main town is Ambodifotatra. The city covers an area of 222 km2, and had a population estimated at 16,325 in 2001.
The population has changed over the centuries. Originally it as Austronesian, as on the larger islands of Madagascar and then reverted to pirate control, however most inhabitants now are similar to the rest of north east coast Madagascar.
This island is 60 km long and less than 10 km wide.
The channel between Sainte-Marie island and Madagascar is a hot spot for whale watching. Substantial groups of humpback whales (Megaptera) migrate from the Antarctic to this idyllic breeding place. These quiet giants find conditions here that are favourable for the growth of their young and well suited to their courtship and acrobatic games before their big return toward the cold seas.
Ile Sainte-Marie, or St. Mary's Island as it is known in English, became a popular base for pirates, starting with Adam Baldridge in 1685, in the 17th and 18th centuries due to several reasons: it was not far from the maritime routes along which ships returning from the East Indies sailed in transit, their holds overflowing with wealth, it was provided with bays and inlets protected from storms and finally, it had abundant fruit and was situated in quiet waters. Legendary pirates like William Kidd, Robert Culliford, Olivier Levasseur, Henry Every, Abraham Samuel and Thomas Tew, lived in the île aux Forbans, an island located in the bay of Sainte Marie's main town, Ambodifotatra. Many of them would found a family line. Numerous vestiges of this history remain at Sainte Marie. For example, several authentic pirate vessels still lie within a few meters of the surface in the Baie des Forbans. One of these has been tentatively identified as Captain Condent's ship, the Fiery Dragon.
The utopian pirate republic of Libertalia was also rumored to exist in this area, although the republic's existence, let alone its location, has never been proven.
Safe from sharks, the lagoon of Sainte Marie island is endowed with significant coralline growth. Its underwater fauna is preserved as a natural heritage and first-class diving site in the Indian ocean.
At Sainte Marie, the inhabitants are attached to traditions. The social or family events are faithfully linked to practices invoking the ancestors' spirits. The wealth and variety of these rituals underline the authenticity and depth of the "Saint-marien" cultural identity.
Fauna and flora
The insular character of the place and the particularities of the coralline soil encouraged various adaptations, as much on animal as on plant structure, leading to unique interrelations. Thus, Sainte Marie is endowed with a very rich fauna and flora. You can meet here among other species several types of lemurs as well as a multitude of orchids, among which is the magnificent Queen of Madagascar (Eulophiella roempleriana). The island was the only place where the magnificent Delalande's Coua, a non-parasitic cuckoo, was known to occur; this species became extinct in the late 19th century, probably due to predation by feral cats.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Île Sainte-Marie.|
- Tourist map of Ste. Marie
- Humpback whale of Sainte Marie island
- Sainte Marie island
- All maps of Sainte Marie island and accommodation on the island