Spotlight on Constance Tsarabanjina: Madagascar

It may only be a small, remote island off the northwest shore of Madagascar but Constance Tsarabanjina has become a by-word for barefoot chic among those seeking authentic Crusoe seclusion with a dash of luxury.

The castaway island of Constance Tsarabanjina, Madagascar

The castaway island of Constance Tsarabanjina, Madagascar

With perfect white sand beaches encircled by vibrant coral reefs, an interior of richly bio-diverse hills and forests, and just 25 palm-thatched villas spread over two beaches, Constance Tsarabanjina has all the ingredients for an idyllic holiday hideaway.

What the papers say

This perfect mixture of authentic castaway charm blended with discreet modern luxury has proved a popular combination.

Accolades in recent months have included awards from Tatler for Best Barefoot Adventure 2014, Harper’s Bazaar – who declared it best for a secluded honeymoon – and Condé Nast Traveller whose reviewer Jenny Zarins, described it:

‘This is a no-shoes, no-news, hang-loose place. The air-conditioned thatched bandas, newly revamped by the island’s owners, Constance Hotels and Resorts, have all the basics – hot showers, capacious wardrobes, fridges with cold drinks – as well as outdoor banquettes and hammocks for afternoon snoozes, and fragrant coconut oil to drench sunburnt skin.’

From desert island to exclusive resort

Before 1990 Tsarabanjina was completely uninhabited. The island was then only known to neighbouring islanders as the location of the tombs of their Sakalava kings (the tombs still exist today, a protected spot on the east of the island where Mitsio islanders come to bring offerings).

But in 1990 things began to change for Tsarabanjina when South African adventurer Richard Walker came to the island and fell in love with the place.

In a bid to protect the stunning unspoilt beauty of the island, Walker bought it and built a small resort of 8 bungalows so others could share the unique experience of Tsarabanjina.

A multi-million pound renovation

In 2006 he passed the mantel of protector of his beloved island on to us at Constance and in 2013 we undertook the delicate process of renovating the resort while carefully retaining its authentic castaway appeal and environmental considerations.

Beach Villas draped in Malagasy charm

Beach Villas draped in Malagasy charm

The first decision we made as part of the multi-million pound makeover was to ensure that in rebuilding the 25 beach villas to include modern luxuries such as air conditioning and spacious bathrooms, they still retained their rustic Malagasy charm.

We worked with architects who understood local Malagasy design and the importance of using sustainable local materials from the mainland.

We then employed local tradespeople with a tradition of Malagasy construction techniques and local craftsmen specialising in traditional weaving, art and sculpture to create items to decorate the villas.

In supporting the local Malagasy trades we are upholding traditions in building and crafts that have been handed down from generation to generation.

A boutique hotel with laidback Malagasy charm

The result – simple, stylish rosewood villas with traditional palm-thatching, large comfortable terraces, decorated with Madagascan art and sculptures inspired by the island itself.

In keeping with the laidback vibe of the island, each villa has its own private hammock slung by the trees surrounding the villa and its own sandy path leading down to the beach.

While the idyllic setting of crystal waters and lush, verdant interior have always been an important part of Tsarabanjina’s appeal, we believe that the special charm of the place comes from its people too.

At Tsarabanjina there is no dress code, shoes can be kicked off on arrival and put away for the duration of your holiday and the service is friendly and relaxed.

Time for a digital detox

Guests tired of the hustle and bustle of modern life can seize the opportunity on Tsarabanjina to undergo a digital detox.

With WiFi only available in the main building you can leave your phones and modern technology in your suitcase and begin to move at the slower pace of island life.

Creating unique, fresh dishes for all our guests

Creating unique, fresh dishes for all our guests

Traditional Malagasy cuisine

Even dining is a laidback island affair with seafood caught by local fishermen and delivered by fishing boat to the shore in front of Tsarabanjina’s only restaurant.

The fishermen of Mitsio, the only other inhabited island in the Mitsio Archipelago, still fish the same way their ancestors have for many generations.

Using hollowed out wooden boats called pirogues, they cast their nets over the water and only when they’re satisfied with their catch do they travel the 3 or 4 hours to Tsarabanjina to hand over their catch to our chefs.

Our local chefs create a unique menu based around what the fishermen have caught together with the fresh fruit and vegetables they were able to find that day in the market at Nosy Be.

Using local herbs and spices to create dishes of warm curries, grilled fish and other delicious treats, our chefs understand the delicate blend of Southeast Asian, African, European and Chinese flavours which go into creating sumptuous Madagascan cuisine.

Explore the underwater ocean life

Guests are even encouraged to try their hand at fishing the local waters themselves from a traditional pirogue. In true island style, whatever you catch can then be handed over to the chefs to prepare Malagasy-style for your dinner that night.

Those searching for a little more high-octane excitement can pit their wits against the giant sports fish that call the waters around Tsarabanjina home.

Marlins, giant trevally, yellowfin and dogtooth tuna, wahoos and sailfish can all be caught in our waters making the area a Mecca for sports fishermen.

The other ocean pastime which continues to bring visitors to our shores is the opportunity to dive in waters still largely unexplored by scuba divers. One of the last accessible places where you can discover virgin reefs rarely dived before, sponge gardens few but you have ever seen.

The waters around Tsarabanjina offer a rich variety of dive sites for scuba divers of all levels from beginners exploring the house reef to more experienced divers swimming through the tunnels at the Tétons.

The unique bird life of Madagascar

The unique bird life of Madagascar

The rich biodiversity of Madagascar

Of course nature lovers have always been drawn to the appeal of Madagascar with its famously unique biodiversity, a trait Tsarabanjina shares with the mainland.

Walk around the island and you’ll discover Madagascar’s famous Traveller’s Palm, the Pachypodium and a wide variety of birds including the dazzling fody bird, the beautiful long-tailed Madagscan flycatcher (the emblem of the island) and fish eagles. Biologists even claim to have found the world’s smallest chameleon species on Tsarabanjina.

Our staff share our passion for the island and are happy to give guided nature walks with an explanation of the local flora and fauna to interested guests.

Bird enthusiasts can take a boat ride to the neighbouring Quatre Frère, a series of rocks in the ocean which are home to a rich colony of seabirds including northern gannets, frigate birds and white-tailed tropic birds.

Don’t forget to take your snorkel and discover the plethora of marine life living in the reefs below the waves.

A dash of luxury Crusoe wouldn’t have had

Of course we wouldn’t be a favourite exclusive retreat without a little hint of luxury but on Tsarabanjina luxury is delivered in unique laidback style. So our massage room is a rustic beach villa with a stunning outdoor shower hewn into the rock of the island itself.

Or if you prefer you can have a massage on the beach as you watch the sun set over the Indian Ocean.

The question of how the tiny island of Tsarabanjina became one of the world’s most desirable hotels is difficult to answer. It has a lot to do with the beauty of the island itself, a little to do with the luxury we were able to add, but most of all, it’s down to the spirit of the island itself, a spirit of laidback charm, slow island living and warm welcomes.

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Growing a kitchen garden

The food scandals of recent years have meant that we have all become increasingly conscious of where our food comes from and how it is produced.

Constance Lémuria's kitchen garden

Constance Lémuria’s kitchen garden

More and more of us at home are choosing to grow our own vegetables rather than rely on produce imported from growers thousands of miles away.

A delightful side effect of this trend has been the re-discovery of how delicious familiar produce can be when it’s eaten freshly picked.

This is something quality-conscious chefs and hoteliers have always known – choosing to cultivate their own kitchen gardens in order to guarantee their guests the very best flavours.

At Constance Lémuria we offer guests dishes created from the very freshest ingredients, taking advantage of the fertile tropical soil and climate of the Seychelles to grow a range of delicious produce.

In our garden you will find chillies, tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, corn and parsley (when we can keep the peacocks from eating them all). We are also in the process of creating our own herb garden.

But while we enjoy tending to our expanding kitchen garden we are also blessed with a wide variety of plants offering a feast of delicious fresh ingredients such as bananas, passion fruit, bread fruit and mangoes all growing naturally in the hotel grounds.

Constance Lémuria's chefs collect the day's ingredients

Constance Lémuria’s chefs collect the day’s ingredients

The bread fruit trees around the resort offer fruit which is used in purees, soups and a desert called Bread Fruit Daube. At Sea Horse guests can enjoy bread fruit puree with truffle oil, grilled leek hearts and wild mushroom sauce.

During the mango season the chefs include mangoes picked from our own trees in the breakfast buffet as well as in desserts, while at Takamaka guests can enjoy a lunch of chicken with mango, fresh tomato with a Creole dressing and papaya salad.

One of our most prized ingredients is the wild spinach that grows around the hotel’s golf course.

Our chef at Sea Horse has used it to create a delicious dish of poached local spinach, ricotta, parmesan and candied tomatoes in a light saffron sauce and a poached Job Fish which he serves with roasted potatoes, poached egg and the local spinach. At the Beach Bar & Grill you can enjoy a light lunch of local spinach and chicken spaghetti with a spicy tomato sauce.

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The perfect burger recipe

With the days becoming warmer and Bank Holidays approaching it’s time to brush off the barbecue and indulge in a little al fresco dining.

The perfect burger recipe - coming to a barbecue near you?

The perfect burger recipe – coming to a barbecue near you?

For some inspiration to get you started here is our recipe for the ultimate home-made burger as served in Indigo Restaurant at Constance Belle Mare Plage.

Belle Mare Plage’s Indigo Burger recipe:

  • 1kg Australian beef topside (15% fat)
  • 350g Special Wagyu beef trimmings (65% fat)
  • 50g onions (chopped and fried)

Chef’s tip

The secret for any grilled meat is to allow the meat to rest before serving it.

It is always better to slightly under cook the meat and allow it to rest (some chefs let it rest almost the same amount of time it has been cooked).

The result is that the meat is more tender and juicier in mouth.

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Delicious BBQ marinade recipes

Here is a selection of delicious marinade recipes to inspire al fresco BBQ parties from our executive chef at Constance Halaveli, Jordi Vila.

The perfect place to enjoy Constance Halaveli's BBQ marinade recipes

The perfect place to enjoy Constance Halaveli’s BBQ marinade recipes

Recipe 1: Balinese spicy mix for barbecued red snapper

Ingredients (serves 5)

5 fillets of red snapper (150g each)

  • 20g lemongrass
  • 10g garlic
  • 10g galangal
  • 5g kaffir lime leaves
  • 5g sugar
  • 5g salt
  • 10g sweet chili sauce
  • 10g chilli sauce
  • 10g plum sauce
  • 20g oyster sauce
  • 10g onion
  • 10g turmeric paste
  • 10g long red chilli

Cut all the vegetables into small cubes (brunoise), combine all ingredients in a bowl, marinade the fish. Keep in the fridge for 12 hours.

Ready for the BBQ!

Recipe 2: Barbecued baby back pork ribs

Ingredients

  • 5 baby pork ribs
  • 500ml hoisin sauce
  • 400ml plum sauce
  • 250ml soy sauce
  • 300ml red wine vinegar
  • 125ml rice vinegar
  • 125ml honey
  • 100ml sweet chilli sauce
  • 4 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 1 bunch coriander
  • 12 garlic cloves
  • 4tbsp grated ginger

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Marinade the baby pork ribs ready to cook on the barbecue.

Recipe 3: Barbecue marinated mature Cheddar cheese by Jordi Vila

Ingredients

  • 600g mature cheddar
  • 266g olive oil
  • 266g balsamic vinegar
  • 35g chopped fresh parsley
  • 35g chopped spring onions
  • 18g sugar
  • 3g dried oregano
  • 15g salt
  • 12g freshly ground pepper
  • 9 cloves of garlic minced

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl except the cheese. Put the cheeses in a kilned jar and add the marinade. Keep in the fridge for 12 hours.

Grill on the barbecue for 5 minutes each side, till they have grill marks.

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Experience the thrill of Sabrage at Le Prince Maurice

Add an extra thrill to a special occasion at Constance Le Prince Maurice with a bottle of chilled champagne dramatically opened by saber.

Experience sabrage at Constance Le Prince Maurice

Experience sabrage at Constance Le Prince Maurice

This historic tradition of opening a bottle of champagne by slicing off the top with a sharpened saber can be performed by our head sommelier Jerome, or one of his qualified team.

At Le Prince Maurice, you can select the champagne you prefer from our main wine list.

The Sabrage ceremony includes:

  • The sabrage champagne opening
  • A selection of canapés as an appetiser to accompany your champagne
  • A photo souvenir of the ceremony.

Visit our website for more about Constance Le Prince Maurice or to make a booking.

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A romantic meal in the Maldives

Sharing a romantic meal for two, freshly prepared by world-class chefs, in an idyllic, secluded spot with views out across the Indian Ocean is the stuff that dreams are made of.

A romantic meal at Constance Halaveli, Maldives

A romantic meal at Constance Halaveli, Maldives

At Constance Halaveli you can choose whether you want to enjoy your food in laidback exotic luxury as you lounge on soft floor cushions on the beach or prefer the elegance of a candlelit table laid with fresh white linen.

Select your favourite idyllic location from a secluded jetty to a remote section of beach for just the two of you and your table or floor cushions will be prepared and dinner served there.

For those dreaming of perfect isolation you can even dine on your very own torch-lit sandbank or travel by boat to our private island Alikoihrah, yours alone for the entire evening.

You can book a special dining option before you arrive or once you are with us. It can even be arranged as a special gift by family and friends via our online concierge service.

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