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Wednesday newsletters always feature a hotel or flight review.
I recently enjoyed a phenomenal holiday in Zambia & Madagascar, which included a stay at Time + Tide Miavana, possibly the world’s most exclusive beach resort. You can read my trip reports here:
Today: Review of Time + Tide Miavana (Madagascar)
Located on an idyllic island off the coast of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean, Time + Tide Miavana is very possibly the most exclusive castaway escape ever built. Fringed by an exceptionally beautiful white sand beach and a sprawling coral reef, the resort represents an insanely beautiful haven where guests can enjoy unique bespoke experiences in ultimate privacy. Dotted along the pristine beach, the resort’s 14 massive pool villas are a masterpiece in luxury and design. Boat and helicopter transfers are provided to the mainland, where the resort’s guides can lead you to a world of lemurs and chameleons, and a mosaic of unexplored coves.
Time + Tide Miavana features in my top 10 lists of the most remotely located luxury hotels in the world and the best things to see & do in Madagascar.
Have you ever stayed at Time + Tide Miavana? If so, what was your experience? Leave a comment.
In this review (more info and photos below my YouTube clip & slideshow):
PROS & THINGS I LIKE
- Time + Tide Miavana (which debuted in 2017) calls the Indian Ocean island of Madagscar its home. Mysterious and shrouded in myth, Madagascar is one of the most unique, iconic and biodiverse places on earth. Once part of the supercontinent Gondwana, the island broke away from the rest of the world about 90 million years ago, evolving into an astonishing mix of fascinating wildlife and amazingly varied landscapes. Madagascar offers it visitors a chance to explore tropical rainforest, arid spiny forests, vast ‘fields’ of razor-sharp limestone pinnacles, mangrove swamps, massive baobab trees, secret caves, and gorgeous beaches.
- The ultra-luxe resort is located on the remote island sanctuary of Nosy Ankao, off the north east coast of Madagascar. The island is the largest of five islands in the Ankao archipelago, offering turquoise Indian Ocean waters, pristine beaches, and untouched wilderness. Nosy Ankao has an interesting history. A transient location for seasonal fisherman, the island’s one small village lost its entire population (of around 10) after they ate turtle meat which was poisoned by seasonal algae. In the 1990s the island was used by ‘pirates’ as a way to avoid police control on the roads in northern Madagascar. Today, it’s home to the world’s most exclusive beach resort.
- The resort is only accessible by helicopter from the nearby airports of Diego Suarez (30 min flight) and Nosy Be (60 min flight), providing an untouched destination for travelers looking for the ultimate in luxury in a truly unique setting. A perfectly relaxing journey (with dreamy music onboard), the heli flight offers breathtaking vistas of the wild landscapes of one of the world’s last wilderness frontiers, including bird’s eye views of humpback whales in the ocean below if you are lucky. Miavana has full-time helicopter pilots on hand that use the resorts’ privately owned Robinson R66 helicopters, which are painted turquoise with white stripes to match the resort’s interiors. I published a separate review of the heli transfer, which you can read here.
- There are 14 supremely luxurious beach villas at Time + Tide Miavana, offering one, two and three bedrooms. Space is no issue as these palatial villas are enormous in size. And what’s more, they are dotted on the island’s western side along the magnificent beach, affording spectacular views of the ocean, mainland Madagascar (at the horizon), and the sunset. Each villa features a private pool, lush garden, stylish dining and living area, well-stocked kitchenette, master bedroom with ensuite bathroom, and a study room which can be converted into a children’s bedroom. Each villa also comes with its own bicycles and electric buggy to explore the island.
- Time + Tide Miavana features a magnificent beachfront public area, referred to as the ‘village’ or ‘piazza‘. The piazza’s central stage is an open-air lounge and dining pavilion under an intricate palm-leaf-woven roof. Seemingly floating on a clear-blue water pond, this pavilion is flanked on one side by a bar which mimics a ruined fort (with rooftop terrace) and by a glorious, curved infinity pool overlooking the Indian Ocean on the other side. The piazza also boasts a beach pizzeria and a chic indoor restaurant with well-stocked wine cellar. The latter is crowned by four domes, each pierced with a circular glass skylight, allowing celestial beams of light into the space.
- The resort features an incredible decor and architecture, designed by Johannesburg-based architects Silvio Rech & Lesley Carstens. Literally translating ‘to reconcile’, Miavana’s design blends barefoot beach luxury with mid-century modernism, which is a welcome relief for the heavy Balinese style with thatched pavilions that you find at many other tropical beach resorts. The airy and light, Le Corbusier inspired interiors feature neutral tones of ivory and light brown, matching the resort’s beach, rock walls, and decks. The minimalist elegance is counterbalanced by a few sprinkles of turquoise (e.g. curtains, daybeds, deckchairs) that bring a decisive island vibe.
- The team behind Miavana is the same team behind North Island in the Seychelles (which I reviewed here). The driving force behind both resorts is Thierry Dalais, a financier from an old French-Mauritian family with a passion for design, beach houses and wild places. Dalais sold North Island in 2010 and then invested in safari lodges in Zambia (now all operated under the Time + Tide brand) but missed North Island so much that he wanted to do it all again (turning a damaged island into a luxury resort with the assistance of North Island’s architects). The result is Miavana, which has the potential to take over North Island’s reign in the Indian Ocean.
- As on North Island, sustainability is at the core of Miavana. The property – which runs entirely on solar and generator power – was built over a time span of 4 years by 500 workers, using local and eco-friendly materials. For example, the beautiful stonework found throughout the resort was created completely by hand by a family-owned Malagasy quarry. A portion of the rates is used to help the local community with building a clinic and school and with upgrading their homes with fresh water, flush toilets, and showers. Environmental protection comprises restoration of the island’s natural vegetation by planting 70,000 palms, fig trees and vanilla specimens.
- As you can expect for a resort of this caliber, food at Time + Tide Miavana is delicious (with all meals and most beverages included in the nightly rate). Every day, the resort’s outstanding culinary team creates exquisite meals that bring together the finest local ingredients with world class skill. Dishes range from light and fresh to indulgent and delectable, with flavors pulled from around the globe. Daily menus are designed according to the latest island harvest and special consideration is given to any dietary requirements you may have. You can choose to dine in the privacy of your villa or under the stars in the resort’s stunning main piazza.
- Located at the central piazza, the ‘Cabinet de Curiosites‘ is the resort’s equivalent of a museum. It holds a beautifully curated collection of natural and cultural items that celebrate the rich and unique heritage of Madagascar. Started in 2006 by explorer Jean Christophe Peyre, the collection has been developed over the years by him and Time + Tide Chairman Thierry Dalais, and includes an extraordinary butterfly collection, two incredible skeletons of now extinct Madagascan species (the pygmy hippo and the elephant bird), a pair of 17th-century cannons, helmets once worn by Malagasy royalty, and a trio of ammonites dating back 65-240 million years.
- Days on the island are filled lazing in a hammock on the beach or swimming in the clear ocean. However, I strongly suggest to drag yourself outside your villa (no matter how difficult that may proof) to explore the beautiful island by foot, bike, or quad. A highlight not to be missed is a guided trek in the local forest in search of the highly-endangered Crowned lemur, a primate known as Madagascar’s most iconic animal. Another must-do excursion is a trip to neighboring Nosy Manampaho, a stunningly beautiful deserted island known as a seasonal nesting colony tens of thousands of terns; the resort can organize a sleep out & picnic here upon request.
- Nosy Ankao forms part of nearly 15,000 hectares of marine space that along with the adjacent mainland makes up the Loky Manambato Protected Area. It means that the water activities at the resort are endless. There are opportunities to snorkel or dive the surrounding reef or venture out deep-sea fishing beyond it. Guided boat tours around the bays, lagoons and beaches provide valuable insight into this stunning and diverse ecosystem. Dolphin watching is possible from October to May, while humpback whales can be spotted between July and October. Four species of turtle are found in these waters and they can be seen nesting between May and mid-July.
- If you feel the need to ‘get off’ the island, then helicopter trips to the mainland can be arranged at an additional fee. Northern Madagascar is home to fabulous landscapes, which includes two of the country’s most famous National Parks. Ankarana National Park is a spectacularly eroded limestone fortress of sharp ridges, patches of dense tropical jungle, deciduous forest, deep caves and canyons (actually the biggest underground network of Africa) and rushing rivers. Montagne d’Ambre (Amber Mountain) National Park offers an enormous biodiversity, with breathtaking waterfalls, volcanic lakes, and wild orchids in an emerald green forest.
- The resort is operated by Time + Tide, one of Africa’s premium safari companies. The Time + Tide story started 70 years ago, when the legendary Norman Carr pioneered a community-based safari experience in Zambia. Father of the walking safari, he paved the way for modern conservation tourism, working hand-in-hand with locals to ensure they would benefit from the protection of their local wilderness and wildlife. Over the years, the company evolved, and today, it manages a portfolio of luxurious properties that stretches across the land and sea, in Zambia and Madagascar, welcoming those who believe the road less traveled has more to offer.
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
Time + Tide Miavana is one of the top 3 best beach resorts that I have ever stayed at (same level as North Island and Soneva Jani, so that kind of says it all). The remote island setting is phenomenal, and so are the villas, design, service, beach, facilities and excursions. You need to know the following though before considering a stay here:
- The resort enjoys a remote setting, which is part of its appeal. That said, getting there implies a long journey: you need to take a flight to one of the two airports in Northern Madagascar (Nosy Be or Diego Suarez), which are only served by a small number of airlines, followed by a 30 to 60 min helicopter flight. Your best option is probably to fly South African carrier Airlink, which flies on Sundays directly to Nosy Be from Johannesburg (with additional seasonal flights on Wednesdays in peak periods). Other options are to fly in via Ethiopia (with Ethiopian Airlines), Reunion Island (with Air Austral), or Italy (with Neos).
- The quality of the wireless internet was a bit spotty during my stay. Most of the time it was fast, but sometimes it was slow, which the resort staff attributed to the windy weather and remote location (which weakened the signal).
- Time + Tide Miavana is among the most expensive resorts in the world (which shouldn’t come as a shock given its reputation as one of the world’s best hotels). The nightly rate is $3000 USD per person, excluding a daily conservation fee ($ 300 USD) and helicopter transfers ($600 USD from Diego Suarez and $1200 USD from Nosey Be). On a positive note, rates include all meals, selected wines, spirits and bar drinks, laundry, service charge, and selected activities (guided lemur walks, forest walks, scuba diving, snorkeling, cultural visits, boat cruises, half day fishing trips, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, kite surfing and bicycling).
- Time + Tide Miavana lacks a spa facility. Spa treatments are provided though by skilled therapists in the privacy of your villa.
- Location: 10/10
- Design: 10/10
- Pool: 10/10
- Suites: 10/10
- Food: 10/10
- Breakfast: 10/10
- Spa: in villa treatments only
- Service: 10/10
- Value for money: 10/10
- Overall experience: exceptional 10/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Save money: get complimentary VIP perks when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. upgrade, early check-in, late check-out, and $100 USD resort credit).
- Room tip: all villas feature the same layout, design and view, so you cannot go wrong with any of them.
- Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
Whilst Madagascar holidays can be enjoyed year-round, the principal wet season is from December through to the month of March; often involving cyclones, it is probably best avoided! The best time to go to Madagascar is therefore between the months of April through to November, with July to September considered the prime months to visit with dry, sunny, albeit often windy weather. Being prepared for all weather conditions is always recommended as weather patterns do not necessarily stick to the traditional seasons.
HOW TO GET THERE
Time + Tide Miavana is only accessible by helicopter from the nearby airports Diego Suarez (30 min flight) and Nosy Be (60 min flight):
- Click here for a list of airlines that offer direct flights to Nosy Be’s Fascene Airport. This includes Neos (direct flights from Italy), Ethiopian Airlines (via Addis Ababa), Air Austral (via La Reunion island) and Airlink (via Johannesburg).
- Click here for a list of airlines that offer direct flights to Diego Suarez’ Arrachart Airport. This includes domestic airline Tsaradia, which is notoriously unreliable when it comes to its flight schedules (often delaying and even cancelling flights).
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