Why an Island Off Madagascar Should Be Your Bucket-List Honeymoon Destination

Helicopter

Courtesy of Miavana by Time + Tide

There are not many places on this Earth where a couple can feel on its very edge, totally isolated yet completely safe, and looking out to an expanse of water marbled in every dreamy shade of blue, with matching skies above and monumental mountains in the distance. Where, standing on the velvetiest of beaches, they can appreciate every balletic leap of tiny silver fish over the sea’s surface, each call of a bird overhead, and the rippling of gentle waves. If you can make it to the island of Nosy Ankao, off Madagascar’s northeast coast, this is your reality. There, the bucket-list resort to end all bucket-list resorts, Miavana by Time + Tide, gives newlyweds the most intimate of opportunities, in one of the most spectacularly beautiful parts of the globe. 

Madagascar is already remote, but this isle is even more so, requiring the charming aquamarine-and-white-striped Miavana helicopter to ferry you from the “mainland”—in a splendiferous spread of aerial seascapes—known for its incredible endemic biodiversity (much of it endangered) and an adorable animal that only exists in the wild here: lemurs. It’s part of Africa, but has strong influences from South Asia, and feels like an exotic mix of many cultures, with some of the most lovely and genuine people anywhere. 

What To Do

As much as you might be tempted to simply bathe in the sun and Indian Ocean shallows and admire your surreal surrounds, a honeymoon at Miavana is so much more. That helicopter is like a portal to strange new worlds, available for day trips to even more remote areas of dense forest to search for rare lemur species (there are more than 100!), hike deep into tremendous caves, toast to your new chapter from the top of a mountain, run an ultra marathon on a ridge line, or tip-toe over oddly spiked limestone formations called tsingy. A fleet of boats opens the door to all things salty. There are fishing excursions, turning up yellowfin tuna, Spanish mackerel, bonito, grouper, and maybe marlin (the latter is catch and release). While cruising, diving, or snorkeling on a blue safari, you might find hawksbill and Olive Ridley turtles amid vibrant hard corals, damselfish, dolphins, manta rays, whales or even the odd whale shark. Afterward, enjoy a luxurious tapas lunch for just the two of you on an uninhabited island. Sporty types have the option of kitesurfing (May to October), SUP, wakeboarding, waterskiing, and jet skiing. There’s yoga, Qi Gong, CrossFit, a gym with ocean views, and virtually anything else you could wish for—here, they not only aim to please but in hyper-customized and also surprising ways. 

The 360-hectare island is also home to half a dozen crowned lemurs that were translocated with the help of a local NGO from a place they were threatened to here, where they’re protected and their offspring have a better chance at survival and proliferation. You can’t miss the flat trek in search of the sweet tiger-striped creatures that are a blast to observe. (Newlyweds seeking more diverse wildlife can also combine this property with Time + Tide’s more traditional safari camps in Zambia’s South Luangwa.) 

Hop aboard a quad bike for the most romantic way to savor a sunset in 360: snuggled up with Champagne at the top of a decommissioned lighthouse, where the island and ocean stretch out below as the sky is painted in pinks all around you. The coolest way to toast the setting sun, however, may be when about 20 Malagasy in traditional dress and face paint (women only) put on a joyful dance show, silhouetted against that unforgettable natural backdrop. For a taste of local life, grab a couple (probably warm) Three Horses beers at the one bar-slash-shop in the village of bismarck palm huts, and the cute, curious kids may well start a dance party. 

What To Eat

Rice is the staple food in this country, but you’ll find a veritable smorgasbord of influences in the fine cuisine served in the open-air restaurant, by the main pool, or in your own villa if you wish. There are incredible freshly baked breads with moringa or maybe baobab butter, tsaky tsaky canapés (treats such as quail lollipops spiced with vadouvan), delicate line-caught mackerel, wood-fired oven pizzas and handmade pasta, exquisite sous vide octopus, and tender pork belly, always paired with South African wines poured in elegant stemware, craft cocktails, or fresh tropical juices. The wine cellar is an impeccable spot for a private candlelit dinner, as is the ever-expanding Cabinet des Curiosities where you’ll never run out of fascinations at which to gawk, from now-extinct elephant bird and pygmy hippo skeletons to amulets and even a love letter message in a bottle, dropped into the ocean in Indonesia and washed up in Madagascar. 

Where To Stay

A South African design team created the 14 indulgently expansive villas, constructed with traditional influences of locally sourced stone, with soaring ceilings, sustainable flooring, massive bathrooms (including a delightful outdoor shower and a bathtub with pristine ocean views), Pinterest-worthy kitchenettes, dining tables, and large oval pools. It’s as if midcentury modern met island style, and amounts to furnishings and decor that you’ll wish you could take home. Each guest gets a 30-minute head and shoulder massage (from the Malagasy and Balinese masseuses on staff), too, yet you’ll likely be so blissed out you’ll want to book more, say, a local coconut scrub for two. 

One example of the incredibly personal service by your private butler is that if you take your aqua beach cruiser to the main bar for cocktails before dinner, it'll likely be swapped out with your personal golf cart so that later you’re not riding in the dark. Afterward, have a float in the pool to admire not just the stars but the planets above. Nights can also end with a movie screening on your own stretch of beach. As the generous and accommodating staff like to say, “Impossible is nothing.” 

The current outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. As the situation remains fluid, we’ll be sharing tips and stories from industry experts to give you of-the-moment advice and help you navigate wedding planning today. For the most up-to-date guidelines and latest on travel restrictions and requirements, check the CDC and U.S. Department of State websites.

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