Constance Tsarabanjina

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October, 2018

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During our six-week trip to Madagascar, we wanted to relax on a beach and chose the “Constance Tsarabanjina”: for 9 nights. The hotel, located on the island of Nosy Tsarabanjina, is the only place there and you arrive by small speedboat from the neighbouring, more well-known island, Nosy Be. This takes around an hour and can be very bumpy, depending on the tide.

Nearing the island, we noticed the row of 10 staff standing on the beach waving to us in welcome. As there is no jetty, the boat moors as near the beach as possible. Then paddling is involved, so shorts are a good idea. Alternatively, you can pay £1000 for a private helicopter from Nosy Be as the hotel has a helipad.

On arriving we were told to put our watches back an hour as they operate an unofficial “island time”, designed to give you a longer day (the sun set at around 6.30pm island time). This is what is described as a ‘barefoot luxury place’ with shoes being taken off at the entrance to the central bar. This had a couple of decks ideal for watching the sunset, small library with board games, and upstairs restaurant. The wooden bar had brass plates affixed with the names of guests who had returned three times: one lower down near the floor had the name of a dog. The hotel is all inclusive and the bar was open from 10am until the last person left. However, this is not a late place and attracts many young honeymooners and couples. It’s certainly not child friendly and guests have to sign a disclaimer saying they take full responsibility for their children.

There are 25 villas on either the south or north beach: those on the north beach have AC throughout, whereas our south beach bungalow had it only in the bedroom. The thatched rooms are well spaced out in a staggered line at varying angles, so have privacy. They are right on the white sandy beach where we had our two allocated sunbeds and sunshade.

Our large, covered wooden deck, had long sofas on both sides which were ideal for a post lunch snooze in the shade.

The large room housed an equally large bed with fabulous pillows and mosquito net, which was turned down each night (the island is malaria free). The bed was positioned so we could see the beach and sea through the huge French windows. The wooden flooring was practical, bearing in mind we constantly brought sand into the room despite using the foot bath on the deck. There was a safe, good hanging space, plenty of shelves, easily accessible plug points, coffee machine and kettle for tea, complimentary mini bar stocked with white wine, beer and soft drinks.

The bathroom was large with a huge, but shallow sink, shower designed to resemble a baobab tree and separate loo. Cotton robes, lined with towelling, were heavy and more appropriate to Siberia than the seaside.

Having been travelling for a month and washing clothes by hand in bathroom basins, we were delighted to find laundry was complimentary and on arrival, virtually emptied the contents of our cases into the laundry basket.

There was a spa, but it only provided massages which were around £80 for an hour.
Reception, with a small gift shop, was on the way to the bar/restaurant and was the only place Wi-Fi was said to be available. The plus side of this was that in the bar and restaurant, people engaged in that old-fashioned activity of conversation, rather than being head down into the phone during dinner. The downside was an extremely poor signal which was sadly not strong enough to download podcasts of the Archers and it was days later when I found Freddie Pargetter had gone to prison!

Numerous activities were on offer: sunset cruise (guests staying 7 nights receive a complimentary one), Malagasy night with cocktails at the high sunset viewing point, snorkelling, diving and fishing trips, bird watching, or just walking around the island. However, we settled for a very lazy few days of sunbathing on what was a beautiful white sandy beach and snorkelling from there, in what was fabulously clear, turquoise waters.

Breakfast was relatively simple with a buffet of juices, yoghurt fruit, cereals, cheese, ham, breads, pastries and cakes. Eggs could be ordered from the egg chef.
Lunch had an extensive, changing buffet with lots of my favourite dishes: salads, pasta, pizza with fresh fish and meat also available. There are direct flights to Nosy Be from Italy and therefore around 80%+ of the guests are Italian and staff are more likely to greet you with ‘buongiorno’ as they are with ‘salama’ or ‘good morning’.

We were encouraged to have pre-dinner drinks, served with daily-changing nibbles, in the bar where the management team were happy to chat and you could arrange any excursions. Dinner was a served three course meal with two or three choices. The portions were not too huge and there was always something we liked.

In some all-inclusive hotels we’ve stayed in, the wine was only available by the glass, with a choice of red or white. Here there was an extensive wine list with around 7 different Sauvignon Blanc on offer, which we tried and returned to our favourites on the extra days of our stay.

If all this sounds idyllic, there was a major downside, especially for Silver Travellers. The walk to the central bar and restaurant was long and involved trekking on very sandy paths, a raised wooden platform, shallow steps and then 32 steep steps down into the bar, or worse, uphill out of it. An alternative from the south beach was clambering over rocks but only at low tide. It was one of those walks that didn’t get easier as the week progressed. Still, it did help combat the effects of the food and drink.

Helen Jackson

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