Destination Guide

Stephen Bailey
The Mystery of Miavana
The Mystery of Miavana
Stephen Bailey

Miavana is a private Indian Ocean island destination off the coast of Mozambique. Unorthodox Travel takes a look inside this remarkable holiday destination with Michelle Leach-Lewis. 

Unorthodox Travel – Miavana sounds very mysterious to us. What is it?

Michelle Leach-Lewis – It is very mysterious. When you think about the island destinations in the Indian ocean they all have something very similar. Miavana has something totally different. It does have that mystery to it. It’s a remote luxury, private island sanctuary with so many diverse activities. We often refer to it as the James Bond Haven.

The island was originally used as a transit location for seasonal fishermen. And then later the island was actually used by pirates to avoid police control. So I suppose that’s where a little bit of the mystery comes from. 

UT – So where is Miavana?

MLL – It’s one of the largest of the five islands in the Levens archipelago. We are located off the northeast coast of Madagascar itself. It’s a 30-minute helicopter flight from Diego Suarez, or a one-hour helicopter flight from Nosy Be, which gives you an idea of how remote it is. 

UT – Many of our readers know the Seychelles and Maldives. How is Miavana different? 

MLL – It’s totally totally different to anything that you would imagine. Firstly it’s quite a wild island in the sense that it’s very untouched. There’s a lot of adventure linked to the actual island and there’s the ecotourism aspect, which a lot of Indian ocean islands don’t really have. There is also the wildlife. Many of the animals you see at Miavana are actually endemic to Madagascar.

It is the first and only five star eco luxury resort in Madagascar. It’s still classified as part of Madagascar. In other parts of the Indian Ocean there are a lot of five-star luxury resorts, but not from an eco perspective and not with the Madagscan wildlife. So it’s part Madagascar, part Indian Ocean. 

UT – So how big is Miavana? 

MLL – Miavana the island is 10 square kilometers, which is a decent size. You can actually go for very long walks. We have guides who lead nature walks in the pristine forest, where you can look for animals like crowned lemurs. 

Every villa has its own beach buggy, so guests can head off on their own and explore different corners of the island. 

UT – It sounds so Robinson Crusoe? How long do guests stay at Miavana? 

MLL – It’s true, you can do the Robinson Crusoe kind of stuff here, like going out in a wooden boat and fishing in the Indian ocean. There’s so much to do here that we recommend no less than five nights. Many guests stay seven to 10 nights, some stay even longer. We have had one guest who stayed there six weeks and just kept on extending his stay. 

UT – Wow, so what can you do to stay entertained for six weeks on an Indian Ocean island? 

MLL – The ocean has an abundance of Marine life. So we do fly and bird fishing on a catch and release system as well. We take our guests to one of the nearby islands which has one of the largest nesting tern sites in the Indian ocean. Just to give you an idea that’s between 40 and 90,000 birds that arrive each year between June and October. Some guests never ever see anything like that in their lives. 

What we do with the migrating humpback whales and dolphins is we actually take guests out by helicopter and fly fairly low above the ocean. And that is an incredible experience. Of course there’s also all the classic island activities, on the water and on the land, like diving, kayaking and safari. Recently we’ve become popular as a kitesurfing destination as well. 

UT – Okay, we’re sold. How do we get there? 

MLL – So guests can fly either into Diego Suarez, which is the one that we recommend because it’s only a 30 minute transfer by helicopter to Miavana itself. They can also fly into Nosy Be and more commercial flights go there. We don’t really recommend a transfer from Antananarivo because it is a long way down south from us. A lot of the flights get in quite late so guests usually have to stay overnight there. 

UT – How long have you been operating?

MLL – We opened in 2017 so it’s fairly new in relation to a lot of other islands or a lot of other resorts. It was opened by the Time+Tide founder Thierry Dalais, celebrating his three passions: the guest experience, his love for wildlife and his love for islands. 

Another important component is the Time+Tide Foundation where we promote non-consumptive tourism. It’s the most effective way for local communities and their natural environments to really prosper. And we invest in the social and economic projects as well, which is so, so important for community enrichment. Just by guests visiting Miavana they are contributing towards this bigger picture. 

UT – So what makes Miavana so eco and sustainable? 

Nirvana has a full environmental team that lives on the island. They’re trained in wildlife, in monitoring and reforestation. They also monitor the nesting sea turtles, so the marine and terrestrial biodiversity surveys are done by them. The seabird ringing and monitoring is also done by them. 

They also oversee our crowned lemur conservation program. We are really trying to protect the species that are endemic to Madagascar. Part of tourism contributes towards the conservation efforts relating to species like the crowned lemurs. 

From a sustainability perspective there is also us giving back to the community, through education, healthcare and female employment. We work extremely closely with the local community, also supporting the farmers and the fishermen. We have 103 people employed who are locals from the community. 

UT – So how many guests do you have on this island? How many villas? 

MLL – I think it’s beautifully small, and I love that because it’s exclusive. And I think nowadays, you know, through the pandemic, people want more exclusive and more remote.

So we only have 14 villas, with one, two and three bedroom villas. There’s nothing small about them. The smallest is 450 square meters. The total number of guests that we can take when the island full is only 44.

When I say the villas are luxurious, I really mean luxurious. They each have their own private deck and own private plunge pool. There’s direct access to the beach for snorkeling and swimming. Each villa comes with their own butler. 

Guests have the option to actually dine in-villa, opposed to actually going to the main restaurant area and dining there. So there’s a lot of choice in terms of what our guests can do and what they want to do, which is all part of the exclusivity of Miavana. 

UT – How about the seasons? When is a good time to go?

MLL – It obviously depends on what you want to do, but there is no real best time. Summer season is between November and May. And it’s not about the sunshine because it’s sunny and warm all year around. It’s about how warm the water is. 

The water during summer is 26 degrees, which is really warm and very pleasant. Generally overnight we have the occasional rain but it doesn’t affect your daytime activities at all. And it’s actually quite nice because it cools things down in the evening. Summer is great for scuba diving, snorkeling, fishing, turtle watching and lemur trekking. 

Whereas winter is when to visit if you want to spot humpback whales and manta rays. It’s also when you can see the nesting terns, but it’s not ideal for deep sea fishing. 

UT – And Michelle, when you’re not loving island life, where do you like to travel?

MLL – I love going to the bush and going on safari. You can go to the Bush for four days and you feel like you’ve been there for 10. You really, really do switch off, which is quite an amazing thing.

Similar articles

Mozambique - Where Sky & Sea Meet
Designer Kelly Hoppen Made This the Coolest Mauritius Resort