A turquoise-striped helicopter emblazoned awaits us on the tarmac at Antsiranana. It flies us across a verdant landscape of rolling hills, silty rivers winding through mangrove forests and fishing villages dotted with wooden pirogues.
Soon, we’re flying low over a shimmering turquoise lagoon dotted with circular clusters of coral reef. We approach a jewel-like island fringed with a gleaming stretch of white sand. This is Nosy Ankao, a private island sanctuary off Madagascar’s northeastern coast.
As we land, a golf cart whisks us away to our private Time + Tide Miavana’s villa, where our butler Christian proffers a refreshing fruit cocktail. Th e enormous space is full of designer furniture and dozens of beautiful, carefully-chosen objects. Steps away from the wooden deck, with its private pool and stylish deckchairs, is a picture-perfect white powder beach. We spend the afternoon snorkelling peacefully on the reef immediately offshore.
After a delicious in-villa breakfast of tropical fruits, pastries and fresh coffee, we set off for a walk in the forest, accompanied by our guide Simon. Nosy Ankao has been cleared of non-native flora and fauna and is now home to a family of Crowned Lemurs. We emerge from the trees onto a pillowy white beach, which is also a turtle-nesting site.
In the evening, we enjoy a gourmet feast with wine pairings in Miavana’s main “village”, a stunning edifice of ochre stone with three dining areas, a rooftop bar and an infinity pool. We also browse the Cabinet of Curiosities, a miniature museum that houses curios including an Aepyornis egg (also called “elephant bird”) and items salvaged from wrecks.
We climb aboard a Time+Tide liveried speedboat for a day trip to Manamphao, a nearby desert island that is one of the Indian Ocean’s largest nesting sites for terns. The sand is so soft that we sink into it up to our shins. It’s easy to imagine that no other human has set foot here before.
We return to Miavana to find a gin and tonic bar set up on a spit of white sand facing the sunset. We sip our drinks, settle into the deckchairs that have been placed there for the evening and make plans to go scuba diving with the Activities Centre team the next day.
Aboard a helicopter this time, we spend a half-day being guided around Amber Mountain National Park. Full-day helicopter safaris are also available to see the golden-crowned sifaka or black lemur on the mainland, but we opt to spend the afternoon exploring Nosy Ankao, walking to the lighthouse to admire the view it offers of the island and lagoon. Afterwards, we head back to our villa, where two beauty therapists give us a massage using products from ethical luxury brand Terres d’Afrique.
We fall asleep to the whispering of the ocean, finding it impossible to believe that we’ll be leaving this place the next day…