Nosy Be (pronounced noo-see bay) literally means “big island” in Malagasy. It is a volcanic island located 5 miles (8 km) off the northwest coast of Madagascar, about 30 miles (48km) southwest of our previous home, Nosy Mitsio. It is 10x larger than our previous island home but is still a relatively small 124 square miles (320 square km). In 2013, the population was estimated to be around 73,000. The main people group of Nosy Be are the Sakalava people speaking the Sakalava dialect of Malagasy. Much to our relief, the Sakalava and Antakarana dialects are nearly identical, which will help tremendously in our transition to Nosy Be.
Nosy Be is Madagascar’s biggest and busiest tourist destination, bringing the island much diversity. One can go to an all-inclusive resort on one corner of the island and then visit many villages with no electricity or running water, such as our village of Bemanondrohely. While the island boasts an airport and some good, paved roads, many parts of the island remain difficult to reach by vehicle. While traveling the island, one will see many ylang ylang trees. Aside from tourism, the production of ylang ylang essential oils is its biggest industry.
Nosy Be is a tropical island, home to many species of lemurs, chameleons, and frogs. Near our village of Bemanondrohely in the southeast corner of the island is the Lokobe Nature Reserve, one of the nation’s five strict nature reserves.