Madagascar is a country full of unimaginable biodiversity, fascinating history and breathtaking landscapes. In fact, the island nation of Madagascar is so diverse, that naturalists lovingly refer to it as 'the eighth continent.' We are so excited to be adding this wonderful destination to our list! On the north-western side of Madagascar lies the small island of Nosy Be, which ironically means 'Big Island' in the local Malagasy language. The island itself is a beautiful mix of seven volcanic lakes, fragrant ylang ylang groves and gentle hillsides covered in vanilla and frangipani. Even though Nosy Be is Madagascar's main beach destination, the island is still quiet and in many parts, very rustic. Several nature reserves on Nosy Be and the surrounding islands offer you the opportunity to see lemurs, chameleons and other key Madagascar fauna and flora, not to mention the incredible life below the surface...
In the quiet waters between Nosy Be and Madagascar main land (called Grand Terre by the locals) whale sharks come to feed during the months of September to November. These gentle giants have been observed by local dive operators and fishermen for several years, but it is only recently that a research project has been initiated to understand the behaviour of the Madagascar whale sharks. It is with this team that we will explore the blue water and it's inhabitants.
We chose this destination, because: there is such incredible biodiversity of life above and below to be explored. We are also very excited to work with our friend Stella from the Madagascar Whale Shark Project and support her invaluable research into the behaviour of these mysterious sharks. Working with a well established local operator who has the highest standards of responsible marine encounters we are secure in the knowledge that we will be offering truly sustainable animal interactions.
WHALE SHARKS are the largest cartilagenous fish in the sea. They are gentle filter-feeders, feeding on tiny plankton while migrating around the great oceans, sadly they are listed as endangered globally. As they feed by opening their large mouth and sucking plankton in while swimming along, freediving is the best way to meet them! With their iconic white spotted backs they are called Marokita in local Malagasy language - meaning milky way, a beautiful alluding to the galaxy on their broad backs.
GREEN TURTLES are some of the wisest looking creatures in the sea, one of the largest of all the sea turtles and in fact the only herbivore in the family. Off the island of Nosy Sakatia, we will have the opportunity to spend hours drifting in a shallow bay observing the turtles eat their salad seagrass, interact and relax. We couldn't believe how unperturbed these turtles were by our presence and how easy it was to enjoy their company.
ALL CREATURES GREAT & SMALL... we will spend times between dives exploring the Nature Reserves on Nosy Be and surrounding islands. You will have the opportunity to see various species of lemurs, colourful geckos, the fantastic panther chameleon and other animals.
We will spend six nights, seven days freediving and experiencing the waters and landscapes around Nosy Be. As there are numerous smaller islands surrounding Nosy Be, our days will be planned to maximise exploration time - full days at sea with picnics on deserted beaches. Of our five full days, four will be on the boat at sea while we will have one day halfway through the week to dry off a little, do a selection of hikes to beautiful volcanic lakes, horseback riding in wild landscapes, visit some of the many nature reserves and even perfumeries.
Welcome to the perfume island! We will pick you up from the airport or if you have spent a few days before trip start on the island, from your hotel. We will settle into our villas, run through the itinerary of the week, check our equipment and enjoy our first evening yoga session on the deck overlooking the sea. An early dinner prepared by our amazing chef and early to bed ready for our first day of freediving.
We will start early with a morning yoga and breath-work session and a light breakfast before heading to a nearby beach where we will be picked up by our dive boat. We will train deep freediving before spending a couple of hours finding and interacting with the amazing whale sharks that frequent these waters. Lunch will be on the beach on a local island, some time to explore and rest before another session snorkelling with large green turtles on a nearby seagrass bed where the turtles feed. The afternoon will be spent relaxing at the villa and enjoying dinner and sunset before bed.
We will have a light breakfast before once again heading out on the boat for deep freediving training and whale shark encounters but instead of returning to the villa, we will travel further out to sea looking for the elusive Omura’s whale, spinner dolphins and any other wildlife the ocean might offer. (Please note we will not be swimming with whales in Nosy Be as this is a regulated activity and we respect these local guidelines, but seeing a rare Omura’s whale from the boat is a great experience!)
We will spend the night on a wonderfully remote small island, in reed bungalows right on the water, a real Robinson Crusoe experience.Waking up early on our remote island we will be on the boat by sunrise and spend the morning training freediving and finding animals before heading back to our villas for lunch and a relaxing afternoon and sunset yoga.
Our island exploration day will start with a later morning, a relaxing yoga session and brunch. The rest of the day we will have various options for adventure, from hikes to one of the many beautiful lakes on the island, horse riding or visits to a nearby perfume factory.
After a light breakfast we will spend our last day at sea, freediving deep along the rope and a last session with the whalesharks. We will have a picnic lunch on a nearby island that is both a marine and land reserve - where we will get to use our freediving skills to explore incredible coral gardens and hike to the top of the island where we will get to see brown lemurs in the trees. A relaxing afternoon back at the villas will be followed by one last sunset yoga session and dinner on the deck under the stars.
We will do one last yoga session together before heading off back home or onward for further adventures on Madagascar. If you would like help and ideas to plan an unforgettable add-on to your trip, one of our travel partners Jacada Travel can create a bespoke itinerary for you to explore when you leave us.
We feel that Nosy Be, the ocean and islands surrounding it is a very special place, a place of vibrancy and healthy ecosystems that we are very excited to share with you!
Please email us for a more detailed daily itinerary and travel recommendations.
Freediving is an age-old practice of exploring the ocean on one breath. With its roots in subsistence living off the sea, freediving has become a competitive sport with disciplines, competitions and records and moreover, one of the biggest expanding water-sports in the world.
In contrast to scuba, freediving is the most natural way of being underwater, enabling you to get much closer to the animals – particularly the bigger ones – while having the least ecosystem impact. Furthermore, it is more athletic than scuba and allows you to move faster and more freely (in all directions). Learning from a good instructor, the art of freediving is simple and is a tool to explore your body’s (aquatic) ability, the physiology of the human body underwater with the impressive mammalian dive response we share with whales, dolphins and seals.
At I AM WATER Ocean Travel, we teach a conservative slow progression approach where you will explore your limitations and capabilities under the expert eye of top certified freediving instructors. Each day will start or end with a yoga session to prepare your lungs and body for deep breaths and time underwater, learning to control your breathing and to slow your heart-rate. You will be offered breath-hold training on land, in water as well as deep diving sessions along a rope to prepare you for meeting the animals. As world-class freedivers we will inspire you to explore your own depths!
At the end of your vacation, we will have covered all the theory and training needed for the Pure Apnea Level 1 Freediving Certification. If you are interested in becoming certified and have met all practical requirements during training, we conclude with an exam on the last night.
Joining us on one of our Signature Trips does not require more than a general interest in the ocean and its creatures, basic swimming abilities and good health. It is open to all ages and fitness levels (medical questionnaires will be required).
For further information please check our Freediving FAQ's.
On the sunset side of Nosy Be, on a high cliff overlooking the endless Indian Ocean we will be staying in two glorious adjacent private villas. With wonderful traditional wooden finishes blended with luxury beach villa interiors and gardens, these two villas make the perfect base for our adventures around the islands. Each villa has pool overlooking the sea, various decks for relaxation and quiet time, as well as comfortable bedrooms with romantic interiors.
The beach is a steep walk down the hill, but with most days being spent at sea, this elevated location offers the perfect place to unwind after long salty and sunny days. We will once again be accompanied by our wonderful private chef, and together with the house staff, she will ensure that you are well nourished and nurtured to fully enjoy your adventures!