Île Sainte Marie is the best place in Madagascar for whale-watching - a tropical island of sandy beaches and luxuriant vegetation.
Every year Humpback Whales migrate from the Antarctic to the narrow channel between Île Sainte Marie and the Madagascar mainland. Humpbacks are, without doubt, one of the most entertaining marine mammals to observe due to their exuberant displays of breaching and tail slapping - and the best time to see all this is between July and September.
That is not to say that the island is not worth a visit out of whale season - and with daily flights from Tana it is remarkably easy to get to. The whole place has a heady holiday feel, there are no towns of any size, rather apparently endless deserted beaches, overhung with coconut palms and protected from sharks by coral reefs. So what's the catch?
Île Sainte Mairie has a far less settled weather pattern than the west side of the Madagascar - cyclones strike regularly between January and April, and you can get several days of wind and rain at any time of year - albeit interspersed with sunny weather. This lack of meteorological reliability is a double-edged sword as it has almost undoubtedly saved Île Sainte Maire from overdevelopment, which is at least half the charm of the place.