Island paradise in an archipelago off Madagascar combines barefoot luxury with exciting off-the-beaten-track adventures
‘Only accessible by helicopter’ is the only catalyst I require to almost immediately start packing a suitcase. Planning a visit to Miavana is filled with anticipation, as this remote island off the northeast coast of Madagascar is the perfect realisation of the proverb about leaving only footprints behind.
Seated next to the pilot in the Robinson R-66 turbine helicopter for our one-hour flight from Nosy Be to the island of Miavana, the turquoise and white striped chopper is as striking as the cerulean waters on approach to the resort. Stretching as far as the eye can see is the protected 15,000ha marine reserve, which is home to a number of sea turtles, including the critically endangered hawksbill turtle, green turtle and olive ridley turtle. Depending on the time of the year, guests are able to witness the extraordinarily rare occurrence of mothers nesting or babies inching down to the ocean after hatching in close proximity to you villa. Also found here are manta rays, spinner dolphins and humpback whales during their migratory season, returning to the warmer waters of the Indian Ocean between July and November to breed and calf.
Waving us in as we land on the helipad is the management team and a butler, who whisks our luggage away in a golf cart, for it to reappear in our awe-inspiringly imposing villa. The villa is open-plan, barring a turquoise and white curtain as a divider for the bathroom, with floor-to-ceiling windows for unimpeded vistas of a private beach. For guests who enjoy relaxing in a bath, fill your deep-soaking tub any time of the day or night, with or without bubbles (the foamy or the cork-pop type) while gazing out onto the ebb and flow of the soothing oceanic ripples. Leaving the curtains open to let the light stream in and cascade off the super-soft bedding is the best way to wake up.
Padding barefoot on the smooth floor surface for an adrenaline boost, the choice is simple – head to the kitchen for your first shot of caffeine, or throw caution to the wind and jump into the plunge pool! Both options are surefire ways to kick the day off feeling alert and refreshed. As specialists in creating bespoke island design, safari lodges and private homes for more than two decades, Silvio Rech and Lesley Carstens Architecture and Interior Design went to work, completing a masterpiece at Miavana! With this project, they took their designing island language to the next level with a pure, clean canvas. “We wanted to create extreme luxury without the design becoming overpampered,” Silvio tells me. “Our ultimate goal was to focus on the island and the experience, while the guests are submerged in a world of barefoot luxury, albeit with all the modern conveniences at hand. It was imperative for us to create a seamless connection between sea, sand and sky.”
Starting the day leisurely with the most important meal of the day, a healthy and delicious breakfast served on the deck, the picturesque scene is offset by unobstructed views of the ocean and the beauty of palm trees swaying in the breeze. Meals are made using fresh fruits and local ingredients and flavours are implemented to transport diners to the delectable cuisine that is part of every course. Looking around, I notice that the colours of the buildings are all interwoven – even the rocks used for the exteriors of the villas and communal areas seem to be intertwined, sporting the same hues. The architecture and design team brilliantly incorporated the use of light for the buildings and the fusion of a sophisticated proportioning system makes Miavana’s architectural design a work of art. Today we are heading out into the wild. The whooshing sound emitted from the forest canopy forces us to look up. Above, in the treetops shielded by green leaves, we can only make out the silhouette of what could be a crowned lemur. Our guide explains that the V-shaped crown pattern of fur on their heads is why they are called crowned lemurs. This one is distinctively male with his chestnut brown back, lighter-coloured fur on his belly and a noticeable black and orange crown. ‘Whoosh’, again – he is swooping along the branches, playing hide-and-seek with us. These shy creatures are listed as endangered, with their greatest threat being habitat destruction, deforestation and, of course, poaching, as well as the local and international pet trade. A visit to Nosy Manamphao is scheduled, and we depart by boat to the island where about 70,000 terns have taken up residence. Embarking on a trek to the site where the terns have made it their habitat, our guide tells us that they are nesting. Our first encounter is of new arrivals who are here for the breeding season, closely followed by the ones who are guarding their precious eggs. “Watch where you step – there are chicks everywhere,” our guide warns us. They are so well camouflaged that it’s difficult to spot them. The overwhelming noise produced by these birds is almost deafening, and since they feel threatened by human presence, they hover overhead and bestow a few ‘blessings’ (droppings) on us. If Turkish and Italian traditions are true, we’re in for a bout of good luck!
Text and photography | Heléne Ramackers For more information or to book a stay, go to miavana.com.