Belo sur mer; the beginnings of Malagasy Schooners

If you think sailing ships are a thing of the past, a romantic chapter in our history when the likes of Portuguese explorers set off into the horizon on sailing ships in search of new lands, you missed a spot! In the remote village of Belo sur mer on the West coast of Madagascar, you will find a busy ship yard where schooners are still the big business.

Malagasy Schooner

Boat building

Schooners at low tide

150 years ago, the Joachim’s – a family of ship builders from La Reunion – arrived on the shores of Madagascar. They had been commissioned by King Radama II to build Schooner sailing ships and to teach the local people the invaluable carpentry skills of ship building. The Vezo Sakalava coastal people on the Western shores of Madagascar, wanted to build bigger boats for trading purposes, giving the remote villages with no road access the ability to trade and transport cargo.

It was then that Belo sur mer became the maritime home to ship builders, where to this day, the mastery of crafting Schooner sailing ships, is passed on from one generation to the next.

The boat builders of Belo sur mer


Fishing boat

Future boat builders

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” – Antoine de Saint Exupery

Belo sur mer

Belo sur mer (2)

7 replies »

  1. Beautiful pictures. Can you advise if the boat building craft can be seen also on the seaside where Hotel Entremer is located (let’s say the external part of the lagoon) or only on the part facing the village (let’s say the internal part of the lagoon).

    • Hi Barbara – when I was there, a boat was being built on the internal side of the lagoon next to the church. However there are unfinished boats on the seaside of the lagoon though dont think you actually see them from the seaside. The lagoon is about 100 meters behind hotel entremer.

  2. What a beautiful post. I love boats, ships and the sea. I think it is in my blood. My dad was in the navy and my great grandfather sailed Tea Clippers around the world in the 19th century. Your photos are wonderful and it is great to see that the boat building craft and skills are being passed on.

    • Thank you so much 🙂 The whole scene in Belo sur mer is really quite captivating and romantic, it’s not surprising that the lodge owner of Hotel Entremer is a writer too…so much visual inspiration there.