Offshore from Nosy Be lie several smaller islands, some with upmarket resorts offering a taste of barefoot (and exclusive) luxury, though idyllic Nosy Komba and Nosy Sakatia, famous for its orchids, make for straightforward day-trips from the mainland. Excursions to the former are often combined with the marine reserve of Nosy Tanikely, perfect for snorkelling.
The almost circular island of Nosy Komba, just 3km from the Lokobé peninsula, is a highly recommended day-trip from Hell-Ville. Peaking at 569m, this conical, partly forest-flanked island, has one main village, Ampangorina, on the north shore, and no roads. It is home to black lemurs (komba), traditionally protected by a fady and now the object of a flourishing village tourism industry, with habituated groups coming to feed on bananas and hop onto shoulders.
Nosy Tanikely Marine Reserve
Some 10km south of Hell-Ville, Nosy Tanikely is a pin-prick-sized, star-shaped marine reserve of forest-cloaked, black volcanic rock and pale sandy beaches, and, like Nosy Komba, is a high-profile excursion destination. Just 500m across, this is one of the best snorkelling sites in the area, its waters protected for a further 500m radius from the low-tide mark, and can get busy in high season. Big brown-marbled grouper fish (Epinehelus fuscoguttatus) come here to spawn in November and December, and there are black lemurs on the island and a good variety of other wildlife.
Pockmarked with ancient volcanic craters, and harbouring the most important turtle-nesting beaches in the Nosy Be region, Nosy Sakatia is Nosy Be’s second-biggest offshore island (4km long and 2km wide) and lies just off its northwest coast. There are several small villages, but no roads: you move around Sakatia by boat, or hike through the bush on well-worn paths.
Another important turtle nesting site, Nosy Iranja is really two islands, joined by a sandy spit (exposed at low tide), off the west coast of the Ampasindava peninsula across the bay from Nosy Be. The large resort hotel occupying most of Iranja Kely, the smaller, southern island, has been abandoned under a cloud, leaving a visit here to adventurous travellers, who camp on the beach, or to people booked to stay at Zahir Nosy Iranja, the small establishment on the north island, near the village.
Nosy Mitsio and Nosy Tsarabanjina
The volcanic archipelago of Nosy Mitsio, around 70km northeast of Nosy Be, consists of the main island of Mitsio, a 40-square kilometre, dragon-shaped outcrop of beach-fringed bush and patchy cultivation, and a clutch of uninhabited satellite islets, one of which – tiny Nosy Tsarabanjina – is dominated by Constance Lodge. This whole area of shallow seas is excellent for diving and snorkelling.