The island’s population is cosmopolitanand multicultural.
In the Malagasy language Nosy Be means Big Island and it is also known by such names as Nosy Manitra, Perfumed Island and Antsiranbazaha.
The population became multicultural and colorful when Indian foreigners and Europeans, which are called “vazaha”, came to the island.
Nosy Be’s first inhabitants are believed to have been 15th-century Swahili and Indian traders. Later, the island served as a magnet for refugees, merchants and settlers of all descriptions.
In 1839 the Sakalava queen Tsiomeko fled to Nosy Be and turned to the French for help in resisting her Merina enemies. In 1841 the Sakalava ceded both Nosy Be and neighbouring Nosy Komba to France.
In recent years, with increasing tourism development and local environmental pressures, deforestation has become a problem on the island, as has destruction and damage of offshore coral reefs.
The “Sakalava” were the first ethnic group to form in Madagascar and descended from the African Bantu.
Their name means “those who live in the long gorge”. The home of the Sakalava extends from southwest Madagascar to the north to the island of Nosy Be.
Historically the Sakalava were for a long time a ruling ethnic group of Madagascar, who sold people as slaves to Europe in exchange for weapons and other valuables. Even today they are still the second largest ethnic group of the country, but of course the slave trade dates back several centuries.
Every seven years, families with male children celebrate a big festival in which the boys are circumcised. It is a tradition that the boy’s grandfather eats the cut off foreskin afterwards.
Without the forest, there will be no more water, without water, there will be no more rice.
— Madagascar Proverb