Pirate graveyard

Pirate graveyard located on Santa Maria Island, (also called Nosy Boraha by locals), Madagascar. It is considered the only place in the world where the remains of the most famous pirates rest.

The Île de Sainte-Marie pirate cemetery is a small space where several western-looking graves are concentrated among tropical palm trees. It has about thirty tombs although the locals claim to have seen hundreds of them but the climatic changes typical of the jungle eroded the stones. Although most of them have inscriptions, it seems that none contain the remains. But while the names on the tombstones are no longer legible, the appearance of skulls, crossbones and swords carved into the rock leaves no doubt about it.

Among these tombs there is one that stands out. It is a larger tomb placed in the center of the cemetery. Although it is not known who it would belong to, the locals do not hesitate to affirm that it would be where the remains of Captain Kidd rest, who would have been buried in an upright position to punish him for his crimes.

There is no trace of characters from the last decade of the 17th century , the most active and cruel, of the likes of William Kidd , Robert Culliford, Henry Every, Abraham Samuel or Thomas Tew, nor of another of the cruel characters who mortified the routes of trade that passed through the area: the Frenchman Olivier Levasseur.

It is estimated that this island was home to at least 1,000 pirates from 1688 to 1721. Around 1670, attracted by the merchants’ anecdotes of traffickers, numerous pirates headed to Madagascar to seek abundant fresh water, wood to repair their ships, beautiful women and the possibility of controlling the traffic between Europe and the Far East with the shipments that the Muslim princes of India sent to Mecca. This corner of the world became a nest for the worst pirates at the end of the 17th century. They sailed mainly from England, Portugal, France and the United States to start living on Ile Sainte-Marie and thus enjoy a strategic place to develop their operations and share the spoils of their raids.

As always, we must investigate the economic reasons to understand why: the European nations that had factories in the East and the Indian Ocean, especially Portugal , Holland , Great Britain , France and Spain made the route from Manila , in the Philippines , to Acapulco , in Mexico – had to cross the Mozambique Channel–between Madagascar and Mozambique– and double Africa through the Cape of Good Hope to make the trip back to Europe, and vice versa, loaded with merchandise and wealth. In this way, the island of Santa María became a great base of operations to attack any ship. And not only this: the island not only provided an interesting strategic advantage for the fast ships of the pirates, but also bays and inlets well protected against storms, a large number of fruits and a benevolent climate.


Today, this place has become one of the most visited tourist attractions on the island. Sainte Marie has a good hotel infrastructure and small bungalows at the foot of the beach that allow you to enjoy this great place. There are even pirate ships that are a few meters under the waters of the bay.

This is not surprising because, with everything, the place itself, due to its remote and hidden location, and due to that undoubted attraction that the image of pirates arouses today, really make it a curious place to see.

Despite all this, it must be recognized that the place retains a unique charm and that the atmosphere of mystery that surrounds it is unmistakably attractive. Anyone who has visited it always recommends going there. On the island you can also enjoy its paradisiacal beaches, humpback whale watching and scuba diving around its rich corals .


by Abdullah Sam
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