You don’t have to own a private jet to stay at Miavana Resort. But it helps.
Because that’s the sort of clientele who head for this idyllic island escape, cast adrift off the east coast of Madagascar. And perhaps that’s why it flies under the radar, spoken of in hushed tones in members’ clubs and private jets, rather than shouted about on social media. For while the hoi polloi head for the colourful jumble of resorts off Nosy Be, those in the know hop on a private helicopter to the island of Nosy Ankao.
It’s the largest of five islands in an archipelago off the northeast coast of Madagascar, with most travellers flying into Nosy Be or Diego Suarez airports for the heli-flip to the island. Once home to pirates and fishermen, since 2017 it has hosted one of the most exclusive resorts in the Indian Ocean, a tropical bolt-hole offering the last word in seaside luxe.
Beyond a small island community and a coterie of staff catering to your every need, Miavana is as close to a five-star (six?) Robinson Crusoe escape as you could hope for. The island’s powdery white beaches are shared by just 14 villas, spaced well apart to ensure exclusivity for the A-list guest list.
Miavana is the work of award-winning Johannesburg-based architects and designers Silvio Rech and Lesley Carstens, the duo responsible for the look and feel of a roll call of Africa’s leading escapes: Jao Camp in the Okavango, Tswalu in the Kalahari, Angama Mara in Kenya, North Island in the Seychelles. You get the idea.
That same sense of considered luxury defines Miavana too. The one- and two-bedroom villas are a dreamy seaside haven, all breezy airy spaces with muted touches of local stone; a place where Malagasy woodwork, mid-century pieces and subtle nautical touches all come together without clashing. Vast lounge areas spill out onto wide decks — private plunge pool, of course — and lush gardens all to yourself. The beach is mere steps away for a dip in warm Indian Ocean waters.
Minibar? Well yes, except here it’s a fridge stocked with fine wines, a selection of drinks and handcrafted bean-to-bar Madagascan chocolate. Need something refilled? Each villa has a dedicated butler waiting at the end of a WhatsApp line.
Of course, you can dine in your villa if you choose, but it’s hard to resist the allure of The Piazza, the resort’s Modernist communal restaurant and bar, where you’ll find yourself ensconced at a table out on the terrace, or perhaps around the firepit. There’s a daily menu drawing heavily on local produce; think crab from the mangroves, fish fresh off local boats, or mangoes plucked off island trees. Of course, if nothing on the menu grabs you, the chef will happily whip up whatever your heart desires. It’s the kind of space where nothing is impossible, and no request is deemed too outlandish.
Happily, Miavana isn’t only there to cater to the whims of the 1%. With an in-house marine biologist, the lodge is an active supporter of crucial turtle research projects, safeguarding nesting sites for the endangered Hawksbill, Green and Olive Ridley turtles. Through the Time+Tide Foundation, the lodge also supports remote schools in the region, while a focus on local purchasing supports fishermen and farmers in the area.
And soaking up that unique island landscape is, of course, half the reason to spend the kids’ inheritance on a visit. Guided walks through the island’s indigenous forest will reveal remarkable endemic species, from chameleons and orchids to the local population of crowned lemurs. Prefer to get wet? The protected reefs are remarkable, and easily explored on snorkelling adventures. Hop on a quad-bike to discover more of the island, or take a boat trip to the nearby island of Manamphao to marvel at one of the Indian Ocean’s largest breeding sites for Sooty terns.
It’s remote, exclusive and oh-so-luxurious. And, it comes at a price. If you find yourself gasping at the starting rate of $3,400 a night — that’s per person, of course — perhaps you should first save up for that private jet. If not, you’ll struggle to find a more remarkable island escape on the planet.