Off the north-west coast of Madagascar, Sainte-Marie is a decidedly mellow holiday haven. Wilder and less developped than its famous cousin Nosy Be, Sainte-Marie boasts long beaches of fine sand lined with coconut palms and surrounded by a coral reef and a lagoon made for diving. In the south of the island you can at once see a great number of lemurs and observe whales from July to mid-September. The island though does also owe it notoriety to the presence in the past of pirates. Ideally placed on maritime routes where ships fully charged with tempting cargos such as Indian spices, gold silver and precious stones once sailed, Sainte-Marie was a popular base amongst pirates throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. Not only did they find here a secret place to drop anchor, but also sweet water in abundance as well as fruit and meat to reenergise after their gruelling voyages. Legendary figures of piracy such as John Avery, Christophe Condent, Thomas Tew, William Kid and Olivier Levasseur (nicknamed The Buzzard) stayed on Pirate's Island in the heart of the bay of Ambodifotatra, the capital of Sainte-Marie. Several dozen authentic pirate ships still rest on the sea bed. Do not miss the world famous pirate cemetery with its skull and crossbones graves and evocative epitaphs. Eternal resting place for adventurers of the South Seas, this green cemetery is situated on a headland facing Pirate's Island, accessible at low tide. So kit yourself out to go treasure hunting!