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Sainte-Marie is a tropical island just off the East coast of Northern Madagascar. Once known for being a haven for pirates and vagabonds, it is now a treasure island for those seeking palm-lined beaches, coral reefs and relaxation.
During the 17th century many European pirates elected Sainte-Marie Island as their residence, benefiting from the languorous life of the place and the passage of the ships belonging to the Company of the Indies. More interestingly, the island is also full of love stories between pirates and Malagasy princesses.
Nowadays there are still many vestiges testifying the historical richness of that time: the cemetery of the pirates, the house of the ancient Governor of France on the Îlot Madame, the catholic church of Ambodifotatra (the oldest church of Madagascar), and so on.
The rich history of Sainte-Marie Island has attracted many historians on the island. Among the most important ones is, without any doubt, Barry Clifford, a well-known American diver and researcher, who discovered the wreck of the legendary Captain Kidd in 2000.
The inhabitants of Sainte-Marie Island are proud of their history and traditions. Many of them have Malagasy, Asian or African origins or are descendants of pirates, for example. Due to their history, the inhabitants of Sainte-Marie Island have inherited the culture of welcoming foreigners.
The temperature is between 20 and 30°C during the whole year. The coolest and rainiest season is between June and August (reversed season compared to the Northern hemisphere). However, the whale-watching season from June to September compensates for the rainy period.
The scientific name of humpbacks, i.e. CetaMada novaeangliae, literally means ‘long-winged new Englander’. This nomenclature originates from their distinctive pectoral fins that are longer than in any other marine mammal. Humpback whales can grow up to 16 meters in length and live ca. 60 years although their lifespan is not known with precision. They have a worldwide distribution but they are migratory; indeed we can distinguish between the foraging and the mating season. In the Southern hemisphere, humpbacks spend their summer in the cold Antarctic waters which are very rich in nutrients – they feed primarily on krill and fish, e.g. mackerel; whereas during the winter they migrate to warm waters (low latitude) for mating.
Sainte-Marie Island is accessible by plane or by boat from Soaniera-Ivongo or Tamatave.