Madagascar > Nosy Be

Nosy Be

Nosy Be is an island off the northwest coast of Madagascar. Nosy Be is Madagascar's largest and busiest tourist resort. It has an area of 320.02 square kilometres and its population was officially estimated at 73,010 in 2013.

Nosy Be means "big island" in the Malagasy language. The island was called Assada during the early colonial era of the seventeenth century. Nosy Be has been given several nicknames over the centuries, including "Nosy Manitra".


The first human inhabitants of Nosy Be were small bands of Antankarana and Zafinofotsy, before the Sakalava migrated there and became the most numerous ethnic group on the island. These people were joined later by some Comorians, Indians or Antandroy.

Nosy Be made first major appearance in Madagascar's history when King Radama I announced that he intended to conquer the whole west of the red island up to the sea. That plan was eventually achieved when the Sakalava Kingdom of Boina came into his possession in 1837 when Queen Tsiomeko of Boina's army was defeated. The French colonized the island from 1840, founding an outpost named Hell-Ville (from French Admiral de Hell). In 1849, slavery was abolished by the French, though the slaves were owned by Malagasies. It caused a Malagasy revolt against the French. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the island was ruled by the French, using military force and diplomacy to maintain their position in the Island. Though it was difficult for the French to control the littoral, they found a plantation colony in Nosy Be, mainly producing sugar and cash crops. During the Russo-Japanese War Nosy Be became a supply station for Russia's Second Pacific Squadron. The main fleet led by Admiral Zinovy Rozhestvensky reached Nosy Be on January 9, 1905, where it met a smaller detachment led by Admiral Dmitry von Fölkersam that had arrived already on December 28, 1904. The fleet stayed for two months for refurbishing and coaling, leaving on March 17 to meet its fate ten weeks later at the Battle of Tsushima.

Lynching of tourists, 2013

The island, like most of Madagascar suffers from an extreme level of uncertainty linked to crime and violence. Rumours quickly turn into accusations in Madagascar and lynchings are common, even for allegations related to traffic accidents or theft. On October 3, 2013, the body of an eight-year boy was discovered at the beach of Ambatoloaka on the island. The condition of the body was poor after one week in the water and a rumour was spread that the child had been murdered by Western organ-trafficking tourists. The uncle of the boy, a local named Zaidou was retained by the local police for questioning, but a violent mob gathered to storm the local jail to punish the supposed murderer. As the uncle was not found, the anger of the mob turned to the Westerners having been in contact with the person, that is a French 38-year divorced busdriver, Sébastien Judalet, and a 50-year old French-Italian cook, Roberto Gianfalla. Sébastien Judalet was found and dragged from his small hotel at 3 am in the morning to the beach of Ambatoloaka where the large mob repeatedly hits him with sticks and stones. The police received at least five calls from bystanders or expatriates, but did not respond although two police officers actually joined the mob, one of which who was filming the lynching on his smartphone. After three hours of torture and humiliation, the naked and bleeding tourists were put into car tires and thrown alive into a bonfire on the beach. In the afternoon of October 3, 2013, the uncle Zaidou was found driving on the island, a mob of several hundred quickly lynched him by burning him alive on a public street next to a mosque at about 5pm. Both events were filmed abundantly by the bystanders, publishing the murders on the internet. In spite of this mass of evidence, the local justice took two years of investigation to finally convict Oct 9,2015 four members of the mob to lifetime imprisonment and six others to shorter sentences, 26 suspects in custody were released without charge as well as the two police officiers. A local politician, Joseph Yoland, is claimed to have incited the killings on his radio station at the island, but the charges were dropped when the court allegedly was unable to retrieve any recordings of the aired shows that evening. The French authorities are warning travellers for "high risk of assaults, that could be extremely violent", US travellers are also advised "[to] be aware of the potential for mob violence and ‘popular justice’ that is sometimes directed towards foreign nationals.". The lynching in Nosy Be is a rare public murder of expatriates in Madagascar, most lynchings concern locals. However, expatriates are frequently subject to kidnapping and extortion, such as the January 2015 kidnapping of a 12-year French child outside of his school, and two separate kidnappings of French citizens of indo-pakistani origin in April 2016 that triggered the intervention of the French SWAT team (GIGN) in Madagascar.


Nosy Be is located about eight kilometers (5.0 miles) from the coast of Madagascar in the Mozambique Channel; several smaller islands are located nearby, including Nosy Komba, Nosy Mitsio, Nosy Sakatia, and Nosy Tanikely. The island's main town is Andoany.

The volcanic island has an area of about 312 square kilometres (120 sq mi), and reaches its highest peak at Mont Lokobe at 450 metres (1,480 feet); the volcano is of Holocene origin but has not erupted in recorded history. There are eleven volcanic crater lakes on the island.

The island is known for having one of the world's smallest frogs (Stumpffia pygmaea) and chameleon (Brookesia minima). The Lokobe Reserve is one of Madagascar's five Strict Nature Reserves (Réserves Naturelles Intégrales). Nosy Be is also home to a specific color of panther chameleon (Furcifer pardalis).

Omura's whale

Recent studies indicate that adjacent waters around the channel between Nosy Be and the Madagascar host a habitat for notable number of Omura's whale, and this has allowed researchers to conduct field studies targeting this rare, one of the least known species, for the first time.


Nosy Be has a tropical climate. It is most humid in summer (December, January, February). The Tsaratanana massif partially protects the island from the strong north-east winds affecting the region in August or during tropical depressions.


The island constitutes a department within Diana Region and is organized as the City of Nosy Be (Commune Urbaine de Nosy Be). Its mayor is Mr. Ali Aboudou.


Once a major location of plantation of sugar cane and production of its derived products (sugar, rum), the island's main activities are now the plantation of Ylang Ylang (for the production of essential oils) and tourism. Nosy Be is the most developed tourism destination in Madagascar. This is the only place in Madagascar where all-inclusive large resorts can be found.


The island is served by Fascene Airport. The airport is serviced by commercial flight with AIr Madagascar, Air Austral, Ewa, and has direct flights from Europe on Air Italy. Its main city and harbour, Hell-Ville, can be reached by boat from Ankify.


French international schools:

Twin towns — sister cities

Nosy Be is twinned with:

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