While planning our three-week trip to Madagascar I wasn’t sure I wanted to go to Nosy Be. It’s Madagascar’s premier tourist destination, a tropical island off the north shore of the country with more tourist infrastructure than anywhere else. A handful of resorts here attract package holiday makers from (mostly) Europe. There are even two direct flights to Nosy Be each week from Rome. You could buy a week-long holiday package to come to a lovely beach here and hardly even know you’d been in Madagascar.
Our three weeks of travel in Madagascar up to this point have been something akin to “hardship duty.” It’s turned out to be a great three weeks, though it did involve more effort than usual — difficult planning, long drives on rough roads, more one-night stays than usual to break up the travel, some accommodations that were less than ideal, and plenty of long days of hiking. So we are good and ready for a bit of extra comfort and R&R.
And that works out well because our next few stops will be in exotic Indian Ocean island locales — nearly three weeks in Reunion, Mauritius, and the Seychelles. But I decided we’d stop for four days in Nosy Be first, sort of bridging the gap from Madagascar to Indian Ocean tropical beach resorts.
Researching lodging options here, a place called Andilana Beach Resort stood out. It looked like the nicest resort around, and the reviews were largely very positive. A number of reviewers, however, knocked the place for an over-emphasis on catering to Italian tourists. Apparently, the owners are Italian, the vast majority of the guests are Italian, and food, style, and entertainment are geared toward Italians, to the degree that some others felt left out.
Naturally, I wasn’t the least bit deterred by the overly Italian nature of the place. If anything, that means good food because of course that’s what Italians do best, and their standards are high. My own pro-Italian bias blinded me to what should have been the red flag about this place: It is an all-inclusive resort. I booked the place without worry, trusting that Italians wouldn’t settle for crappy food.
Wow, was I wrong. It turns out that even Italy has a market for mass tourism with a big emphasis on quantity over quality. Our room was actually very nice and the beach was beautiful. But the food situation was dreadful — mass quantities of mediocre food served all day in bins in buffet restaurants. Our idea of a disaster. Italy, you let us down!
It’s kind of ironic. As I planned the three weeks in Madagascar I was concerned that’d we’d sometimes have trouble finding great food. In fact we have been very pleasantly surprised by how good the food has been, almost universally — until we arrived at the most expensive destination of our trip, the one where the Italians were supposed to be taking care of us.
Somehow we survived the indignity of “all inclusive” and enjoyed our four days here. And now we’re excited to head on to other, better quality Indian Ocean adventures.