Big Samy is the only passenger ship operating directly between Diego Suarez and Vohemar. The service began in 2020 and can carry up to 150 passengers with plenty of luggage, even those who wish to bring a motorcycle - not a problem! The service operates during the rainy season from the beginning of December until middle of June while the road between Ambilobe and Vohemar is often complicated and at times even impassable. During this time, the boat is always the faster option.
The complete 88 nautical miles boat trip can take between 12 and 15 hours depending on the direction of wind and waves. The departure times can vary depending on weather and in case the weather is too bad, departures will be delayed until the next day or as soon as the weather conditions improve. Ideally, it will be calm and sunny and the voyage will be a scenic cruise where dolphins and other marine life can be spotted.
The 19m fiberglass vessel was built in 2019 on Sainte Marie Island and has two engines with a cruise speed of seven knots. The boat cruises between Diego and Vohemar a few kilometres off the coastline. When coming from Diego Suarez to Vohemar, not long after Nosy Ankao (above), shortly before passing a rocky cape ahead of Bay of Adravina, passengers will be asked to remain silent and women to wear their hair down.
Some passengers will appear frightened during the approximately 20-minute eerie passage. The use of mobile phones and other electronics are prohibited, presumably to avoid disturbing the spirits of sailors who may have drowned at this spot. For some reason, the same fady does not apply when passing the cape in the opposite direction.
If the fady is broken, a maritime accident or other trouble is believed to follow. Every four years, members of the surrounding Sakalava-Anjoaty tribe meet up near the sacred cape to sacrifice zebus as part of the Famangiana tany manintsy ceremonies at Ambavan'Iharana.
Usually, departures from Vohemar and Diego are at 3am so that arrivals can be sure before the end of the day. Luggage can be loaded the evening before and passengers are welcome to stay onboard overnight. Alternatively, they are required to turn up at the harbour no later than 30 minutes before the announced departure time.
There is no catering service onboard and the kitchen is mainly intended for crew members but who may share some rice and fish with hungry passengers. Bring enough food and drink for the entire journey.
When arriving in Vohemar, passengers travelling further to Sambava and Antalaha can pre-book a taxi-brousse connecting directly with the boat. Otherwise, an overnight stay at Paradisia or another hotel in Vohemar is recommended.
The price for the transfer between Diego and Vohemar is 100,000 Ariary or 110,000 Ar including an onward taxi-brousse transport to Sambava which will wait directly at the harbour. Scheduled departures by Big Samy from Vohemar harbour to Diego are on Fridays and returning from Diego harbour on Tuesdays. Children up to five years of age travel for free.
Alternatively, Samy Express operates smaller boats between Ambolobozobe and Vohemar on Mondays returning from Vohemar on Tuesdays.
During July and August Big Samy operates between Mananara and Maroantsetra.
For further information and reservations, contact the ticket office in Sambava (Head Office), Vohemar or Diego Suarez.
Samy Express Diego Suarez
Opposite Galana petrol station on RN6 en route Arrachart Airport
Tel: +261 (0)32 52 429 17 / +261 (0)32 40 169 09
Samy Express Vohemar
Next to Hôtel Côcô Plage
Tel: +261 (0)32 27 889 57 / +261 (0)32 62 075 08
Samy Express Head Office
Tel: +261 (0)32 40 169 08