Madagascan Resort

WORDS Leana Clunies-Ross PHOTOS Dook

The small, private Madagascan island of Nosy Ankao is home to the tranquil escape of Miavana with 14 ocean-front villas that offer sea views, direct beach access, and an effortless flow between indoor and outdoor living.

Located on the largest of five islands in a remote archipelago off the north-eastern coast of Madagascar, Miavana’s villas look out over a picture-perfect white beach and shallow turquoise waters teeming with coral gardens and exotic tropical fish. To the east are views of the 10km2 island and a limitless ocean; to the west you can see the silhouette of the Madagascan mountains.

Madagascar and its islands remain a place of intrigue and mystery,with legends of undiscovered treasure, dense rainforests and mangrove forests, underground caves, and exotic wildlife – and it’s a feeling echoed in the design of Miavana by architects Silvio Rech and Lesley Carstens, who created playful, carefree, uncomplicated spaces that capture the imagination of childhood.

Miavana in Madagascar Is The Ultimate Tranquil Escape
Toulou’s Bar resembles a ruined fort, floating on its glowing moat. Above it, a rooftop viewing deck provides a spectacular spot to sit back and marvel at a sparkling canvas of stars.

Channelling fairy-tale stone fortresses, Miavana features an open-air central pavilion surrounded by a clear-blue moat. It floats like a mirage, linking to a bar that seems to be a part of a ruined fort with its thick, wonky walls and shelves made from hand-axed rosewood. The public spaces, surrounded by four-metre-high stone walls, pergolas and grand arches, include an outdoor pizza restaurant with an intricate palm-leaf woven roof, hammocks and a firepit, and another restaurant with four circular glass skylights, crowned by four domes to allow night skies into the space and celestial beams of light out. It’s an exhilarating mix of textures and styles, carefully curated to express the local, traditional and handmade as well as the urban, modern and minimalist.

Miavana in Madagascar Is The Ultimate Tranquil Escape
The modern, relaxed interior of Toulou’s Bar features thick stone walls and hand-hewn rosewood shelves.

Central to this little “village” is the “Cabinet des Curiosities”, a museum-library built to display the considerable haul of natural and man-made artefacts from the islands, collected by the two people responsible for Miavana: Time + Tide’s Thierry Dalais, and geologist, explorer and conservationist Jean-Christophe Peyre. They include extraordinary butterfly collections, the skeleton of a pygmy hippopotamus, a pair of 17th-century cannons and headgear once worn by Malagasy royalty. Guests stay in 14 steel-framed, modern beachfront villas, each with a private pool. Floor-length curtains in the suites are hand-dyed, graduating from deep aqua down through lighter shades of blue to white with a cuff of cream, and are inspired by the layers of the ocean’s depths when illuminated by a light shaft hitting the sandy floor.

Miavana in Madagascar Is The Ultimate Tranquil Escape
The outdoor pizza restaurant, shaded by a palm-leaf woven roof, combines gorgeous ocean vistas with laid-back holiday decor for the ultimate in barefoot luxury.

Continuing this colour palette in decor that reads like a blend of Le Corbusier-inspired Modernism and breezy Breton stripes are curved ’70s-style sofas in aquamarine,cubist cabinets in canary yellow, wavy Corian-topped tables and sunken baths. Tall, conical showers clad in hand-cut stone make you feel like you’re standing outdoors under a crisp waterfall with a touch of sky above. The pale-cream stone, used to clad all the buildings, comes from a family- owned quarry on Madagascar. As part of Miavana’s goal of supporting local communities, hundreds of Malagasy were employed in the hotel’s construction, and the stone was delivered to Nosy Ankao by boat, piece by heavy piece, then lugged by teams of workers onto the shore to be chiselled into rocks by hand.

Miavana in Madagascar Is The Ultimate Tranquil Escape
Each guest villa offers direct beach access and an ocean view, tuning its occupants into the ebb and flow of the tides.

Miavana’s grounds were created by South African landscaper Greg Wepener. Sensitive to the local flora, he had previously worked on the restoration of Nosy Ankao, first removing non- endemic trees from the beachfront, then planting about 70 000 palms, fig trees and Malagasy vanilla specimens. They soften the outline of the new buildings, and fill in the bald spots in the island’s natural forest that had been destroyed by logging. Greg’s nursery holds about 600 000 plants at any given time, assiduously grown from cuttings or seed; his efforts have seen the return of native island species such as the black parrots and sleepy chameleons.

Miavana in Madagascar Is The Ultimate Tranquil Escape
There is plenty of seating on the private pool decks, courtesy of aqua Lafuma Transabed loungers, among others.

“Throughout my life I have been in awe of nature’s beautiful places,” says Miavana founder Thierry. “Nature has a way of showing you the best of what the world has to offer. My dream is to create a frame for these masterpieces, and to share them with others.” And after spending time on Nosy Ankao and enjoying all the tranquil luxury Miavana has to offer, it’s safe to say that Thierry’s dream has been realised.

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