Kitesurfing in Madagascar, Ifaty, Sapphire Coast, Sakalava and the Emerald Sea some of the best locations in the world to kite-surf

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Another Hard Day at the Office has moved office again, and this time we've returned to Madagascar, or the Big Island as the Malagasy call it.

Last year we focused on the North and did spend ten or so days on the NE at Sakalava, where we will again be returning to for the latter part of this visit.

However this trip we wanted to explore what the South West, which is far more remote had to offer. In fact it was only when researching did I become more aware of the kitesurfing potential of the South West, and that unlike the true South of the Island the winds are more cross onshore as they come round in the afternoon.

For sure kitesurfing in Madagascar, especially in the South hit the headlines as it were with the glorious F-One video, Antanadroy People from the Thorns, however 98% of kiters are not able to arrange and be part of a trip like that, and to a certain extent have the necessary back-up which is what is required in the more remote parts of Madagascar, plus the winds are scarily cross off down in that part of the world and if anything untoward were to happen rescue services are non existent!

Another part of the jigsaw as it were for deciding on the South West was that there was also the potential of seeing humpback whales at play, as well as snorkelling and diving.

The South / South West is also a hardcore Surfers paradise, with massive reef breaks in very shallow water, and I would thoroughly recommend watching this video which is one of three chapters which encapsulates travelling in Madagascar so well, right from the initial arrival in the capital Antinanvario, which is always a bit of a shock.

I should mention that we are fortunate to have friends in Madagascar who help us arrange our itinerary. Most travellers you meet in Madagascar are part of organised tour groups who have a guide with them, and they are often on road trips visiting many of the stunning National Parks in the interior. For us travelling independently it helps tremendously to have some back-up as it were, such as internal flights and hotels booked, as well as the all important transfers!

The trip did not get off to a good start with a 15hr delay from Paris to Antananarivo (Tana), then we had to find a hotel as our internal flight to Tulear was not for another 15hrs.

We eventually arrived at the our first of many hotels, Hôtel de la Plage, on the outskirts of Ifaty some 90mins drive from the airport, on one of the best roads in Madagascar.

The hotel is between two coastal fishing villages, home to the Vezo fishermen, a people who live day to day from their fishing using their pirogues, as they have for centuries, which are dugout boats with out-riggers that skim across the water, both shallow and deep in the slightest of breezes.

They paddle out early in the morning if there is no wind and then as the wind builds they raise the craziest of patchwork sails (probably repaired many times over the years), and sail back.

Ifaty Vezo fishermen Madagascar

The first day was 10.5 weather but I was happy to relax after nigh on three days of travelling, then we had a day of uber calm weather and we took advantage of that and went out on a pirogue to the reef and snorkelled. What was memorable was going out to sea with all the fishermen and observing the various fishing methods going on, nets, lines, spear fishing, guys diving for clams etc

Ifaty Vezo fishermen Madagascar

After our dive the sail was put up and we glided swiftly back into shore.

pirogue ifaty sail Madagascar

I think it was the next day that I kited and was a very pleasant 10.5 session, launching low to mid tide.

Yannick who runs the Hotel has a great setup and can offer a water based sport for just about every type of weather.

The bay is ideal for learning and over the course of the three or so days he was teaching one on one with beginners.

kitesurfing hotel de la plage Ifaty Madagascar


Kiting Hotel de la Plage Ifaty

The next day the wind filled in more, and it was 8m weather. I kited up wind a fair distance and had a good downwinder.

Kiting Hotel de la Plage Ifaty

The beach and lagoon at low tide.

Madagascar Kite Surf

A few days later we left Yannick, who I had rented a board from, as I'd only brought my kites (10.5 - 8m & 6m bar & harness) and headed on another leg of our journey up the Sapphire Coast (due to the stunning colours of the sea), where we quickly left the tarmac and hit the 4 x 4 trail, and at times we came close, so I thought to getting stuck in deep sand, but the drivers know their stuff.

This time it was just under 4hrs at an average speed of 24kph and we arrived at the Salary Bay Hotel, a most unique boutique hotel in a fabulous position with a stunning 270 degree panorama...nd we brought the wind with us it seemed.

Kitesurfing Madagascar Salary Bay Hotel

At this location it was obvious that I would be the only kiter and they were not geared up for it, so I spoke to the dive school and had a kid keep an eye out and would help if needed though Elaine helped launch and land in the end, but initially I was a tad aware of being on my own, so if anything happened he could raise the alarm.

Kitesurfing Madagascar Salary Bay

I launched the 10.5 and by the end of the session I was well stacked and as I came in quite crowd of kids were around and I was a little worried that they would get in the way of the lines, but again Elaine to the rescue and the kids moved away.

Kitesurfing Madagascar Salary Bay

Most kids had never seen a kite.

Kitesurfing Madagascar Salary Bay white sand beach

And I even ended up with my own security guide complete with AK47

Madagascar Kite Surf Guard

After lunch the wind had picked up some more, so this time I sourced a length of rope from the dive shop and made an anchor around a rock, and self launched and landed with a bit of help from Elaine and twas well maxed on the 8m.

Madagascar Kite Surf Salary Bay

The next day we continued our expedition along the Sapphire Coast keen to make the most of the wind.

We were taken by motor boat to our next destination, Mikea Lodge though not before travelling back up the coast to pick another couple up, which was a bumpy ride into the wind. The return leg was super fast riding the wind blown swell.

Then it was a quick lunch where I thought I'd might go 10.5 but changed my mind afterwards as again the wind had really kicked in, so it was the 8m again, and I'd found myself another good secure point for launching.

This time there were a few other people that were going to kite, but they wisely chose to wait another 45mins or so whilst I had a 500m across the lagoon in 10cms of water, which in hindsight I could have kited out, but it was not my board.

I was joined by two guys from the Hotel who did find the winds quite strong at times, though one a big guys was on a 9.

That evening the forecast was not so good so we considered our options, as I mentioned earlier the chance to see hump back whales dancing in the air was one of the main reasons to choose the South, however both Yannick and the team at Salary Bay had given up on the whales for this season as there had been no sightings and the general consensus was that the krill had moved away from the shores of Madagascar and closer to Mozambique hence no whales on their normal trajectory.

When I mentioned this theory to the resident skipper at Mike Lodge he laughed and showed me photographs from the day before of hump back whales getting air time 20km out to sea, so game on and plans made for the following day!

24th September

So we didn't get to see any whales, that said we did have a pod of around ten dolphins bow riding and as the water is so clear you could see them coming from every direction.

Madagascar Kite Surf Salary Bay

After we returned to shore we then had an experience that I think was probably better than seeing the whales!

As where we were staying on the coast there is a massive forest (not rain) close to us, the Mikea Forest. And the Mikea people that inhabit the forest must be an anthropologists dream, for as far as we can determine they are more scarce than an Indian Amazonian tribe!

It was amazing meeting these people from a nomadic tribe in that they still have not adopted any element of modern civilisation, David Attenborough would wet himself, a side of me was a tad cynical but the reaction from the kids when I showed them the photo on my phone I had just taken of them sort of confirmed that maybe they had not seen a phone, either that or they were damn good actors and had us fooled.

For sure these were aware we were to meet them, but it did seem very authentic, and unlike many TV documentary "Lost Tribes" they were not wearing watches etc

It is estimated, but that is another discussion, that there could be up a to a thousand, but they do not even have any contact with the local Vezo fishermen, who live a hard day to day life.

Mikea Tribe Family


Mikea Tribe Family


It is estimated, but that is another discussion, that there could be up a to a thousand, but they do not even have any contact with the local Vezo fishermen, who live a hard day to day life.

After that driving back to the Lodge I saw about thirty children playing rugby. Rugby is very popular here with the schools teaching the village kids, so much so that there is a very active series of games and tournaments.

Twelve Malagasy kids are going to Japan for the World Cup, God only knows what they'll think of the highly technical Japanese toilets!


pirogue sand dune

Then we returned back to Salary Bay by SUV Polaris buggy along the beach as well as some interesting trails inland to say the least.

pirogue sand dune

Nert couple of days I donned a tank and went scuba diving, first time in around forty years, and twas a bit like passing a rugby ball and riding a bike, as it was something I used to do a fair amount of!

Only the jackets had changed tremendously!

In Madagascar every day sends the senses into overdrive as it seem's that there's a always a photo opportunity to be had, be it a Vezo's fishing perogue skimming across the water or a group of Malagassy doing their thing with a stunning sapphire sea as the backdrop.

Yesterday was pretty damn amazing!
A dream of many a child growing up, diving on a sunken wreck full of cannon and treasure on the sea bed. In this case it was the Portuguese ship Nossa Senhora which sunk off the reef here Salary Bay in 1774 carrying cannon bound for Goa and a cargo of red Meditarean pearls used for trade, which were in fact coral flowers, when the Med had coral.

As for today wind is up here too after three days of calm, could be 8m laters.



3rd October

Last three day's it's been great playing out on the Reef (2 days 8 one 10.5), and today it's really big tides so waiting for the tide to come in some more, then it's TwinTip and flat water blasting in around 10cm of translucent sapphire water in the Lagoon.