Madagascar, Diego Suarez Bay: the snorkeling paradise

May 28, 2019

by Johanne Raoelinirina

If you love snorkeling just like me, you will soon discover a hidden snorkeling paradise in Madagascar.

I have traveled in so many places and swam in so many spots. But, until now, I only had two favorites and one of them is the Diego Suarez Bay, in the north of Madagascar.

Madagascar, Diego Suarez Bay: what’s so special about it?

If you have heard about Madagascar, even just a little, you probably know that it’s one of the countries with the most beautiful beaches in the world. It’s then no wonder that this country also has the best snorkeling and diving spots.

How come Diego Suarez Bay is the best snorkeling spot?

I love snorkeling. It’s an activity that I can do all day long without feeling tired. I am this kind of woman who can stay in the water all day long, and get out only when I am hungry.

Hence, I’ve been to many snorkeling spots in Asia and Africa. I still got a lot to discover. However, I’ve seen spots where people said “that was great” when I only saw dead corals. I’ve seen spots where people said “it’s the best in the world” when I only saw one fish wandering in the empty sea. I cannot even name the number of time when people were amazed, but I was not, thinking it was just so-so!

I only compare what I have seen and tested. Try to have in mind the Dory cartoon, or even Nemo. You will see many colorful fishes, any colors, any shapes, any sizes. You will see so many kinds of corals, all forms, all sizes, all colors: orange, green, blue, gray, purple, etc. That’s what I saw in Diego Suarez Bay.

An unspoiled nature, close to Diego Suarez town

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Don’t get me bad, before jumping off the boat, I didn’t expect to be amazed. The Diego Suarez Bay is not far from the land, so nothing can tell that all these species are still there, underwater, completely unspoiled.

Madagascar has not more than 1 million tourists per year, so no mass tourism at all, that’s the number one reason everything underwater is still preserved. And even if the Bay is not far from the land, the local people don’t go snorkeling or diving there. Only a few fishermen do.

There is no tourism industry in Madagascar like it is in countries like Thailand for example. Also, very few agencies or tours will take you to snorkel in the Bay. Most of them will bring you to nearby islands where you can relax on the white sand beach, and enjoy a crystal clear water with few fishes, but no corals. So once again, I’m talking about a hidden paradise.

Last reason? If you don’t care to wake up early, like very early to find some local fishermen who go fishing and convince them to let you follow them, you won’t access the bay. That’s why no one goes there. Most of the tourists don’t, as they don’t know about it. Locals don’t, as they don’t care about it.

Diego Suarez Bay: all you need to know

Traveling in Madagascar is a big adventure. The country is a backpacker’s paradise. You won’t find mass tourism like in other countries there. That means you have to be organized, or at least, be a dynamic person so you can really spend an unforgettable moment.

There’s only one secret to get the very best of this country: knowing what no one else knows.

Fly to Madagascar, then fly or drive to Diego Suarez

Depending on the country you are flying from, the airline companies are not the same.

If you are in Europe, fly from France with Air France which has a direct flight once or twice per week. I believe Turkish Airlines also has a direct flight to Madagascar.

If you fly from Asia, get to Bangkok, Singapore or Sydney. Take an Air Austral flight to Madagascar, with a stopover in Reunion Island.

If you fly from Africa, check for Kenya Airways.

You land in Antananarivo, the Capital city. From there, you can either take a flight to Diego Suarez or travel by road.

There are local flights from Antananarivo to Diego, just check for the national company Air Madagascar, or Tsaradia. It’s a 2 hours flight.

If you want to make it by road, you can either take the bus or rent a car. I advise that you take a bus, only if you’re on a budget, as the road is long (24 hours), and the comfort is so-so, not the same standard comfort as in a western bus. If you have the budget, it’s better to rent a car with a driver so you can take your time. You can even split the trip in two or three stops so you don’t get tired. Make a stop in Ambondromamy and Antsohihy.

How to access the Diego Bay?

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Take a hotel in town or by the Bay. Don’t forget your snorkeling gear as it is not sure that the tours in town have the gears. At your hotel desk, just ask the officer to call a taxi and take you by the Bay where the fishermen are.

Just talk to the fishermen, they all speak French. But, if you don’t speak French or Malagasy, you may need a translator (English to French or English to Malagasy).

They will then take you early morning with them to go fishing. Well, they will fish and you will snorkel. The fishermen fish by swimming with a spear and they usually catch some parrot fish, very colorful. You will have from 2 to 3 hours to enjoy.

There is also another way to go snorkeling if want to avoid all that hustle. Just ask your hotel if you can rent a boat to explore Diego Suarez Bay.

Tip: Learn some basic French when you go to Madagascar, people mostly speak French, not English. Don’t bother learning Malagasy unless you will live there, as the dialects change from region to region, and I don’t think you want to learn them all.

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