The pirate graveyard of Madagascar is the final resting place for different buccaneers, corsairs, and sea marauders who accumulated an enormous fortune by stealing merchants throughout the oceans during the 17th and 18th centuries during the Golden Age of Piracy.

So, inspired by the “work hard, play hard” mantra, the pirates set out to build their vacation villas buried securely in some of the most remote islands on the planet, where they gave flashy parties, shared their plunder, planned future acts, and relaxed in the shade of coconut palms.

Among several natural hideaways, Île Sainte-Marie, or Saint Mary’s Island, was the perfect jewel. Located off the coast of Madagascar, the world’s fourth biggest island, it remained virtually unnoticed on maps until 1731, when it was labeled “Pirate Island” due to its recognizable notoriety.

For around 100 years, Ile Sainte-Marie was the off-season home of an estimated 1,000 pirates. Photo by Antony CC BY-SA 2.0
The area was also ideally adjacent to the commerce route of the British East India Company, giving it a perfect escape after a successful ransack. With local ladies interested in their stories and more than ample food supplies, this was the place to be for pirates operating in the Indian Ocean.

The calm waters surrounding the island allowed for a safe approach, while several inlets and bays provided good hideouts for whole ships to slip in and go undiscovered.

The cemetery of past pirates at Ile Ste-Marie (St. Mary’s Island), Madagascar. Photo by JialiangGao CC BY-SA 4.0
From the Bay of Bengal to the Cape of Good Hope, Île Sainte-Marie accumulated vast sums of seized money, therefore it’s no wonder that numerous lagoons and bays surrounding the island are said to contain valuables buried by some of the most prominent pirate leaders.

Pirates such as Adam Baldrige, one of the founders of the Île Sainte-Marie colony, and renowned William Kidd, whose exploits were included in numerous novels and myths, including one authored by Edgar Alan Poe himself, both claimed to have buried their retirement riches somewhere on the island.

Then there was Olivier Levasseur, who established his enterprise on Île Sainte-Marie in 1720, and Henry Every, both of whom attempted to plunder or seize ships belonging to India’s Great Moghuls.

Then there was Olivier Levasseur, who established his enterprise on Île Sainte-Marie in 1720, and Henry Every, both of whom attempted to plunder or seize ships belonging to India’s Great Moghuls.
The Moghuls’ claims of wealth drew pirates from all over the world to their fully packed, but well-armed ships sailing to Mecca. These ships were the holy grail of pirates.

All of the respected captains in the pirate community had plots of land on which huts were erected to shelter the crews. Each crew raised a distinct flag in front of or on top of their wooden huts.

Sainte-Marie, Madagascar pirate cemetery. Photo by Lemurbaby CC BY-SA 3.0
The captains, on the other hand, frequently lived separately, on the Île aux Forbans, an even smaller islet located in Ambodifotatra’s harbor, which is the island’s largest town to date.

The “Pirate Paradise” would be utilized on and off for the next 100 years, however, it was most active between 1691 and 1719.

The cemetery of past pirates at Ambodifototra (St. Mary’s Island), Madagascar. Photo by Michipanero CC BY 3.0
Because the island was so popular with pirates, becoming their home away from home, those who died during raids or for other reasons were frequently buried at the cemetery, which is the only evidence of their existence on the island.

The graveyard on Île Sainte-Marie still has a few tombstones with skulls and bones on them that repose quietly in the shade of palm palms.

William Kidd, privateer, 18th century portrait by Sir James Thornhill
His ship, on the other hand, is located near the island on the seafloor. It has become one of the most popular tourist sites on Île Sainte-Marie since it was rediscovered in 2000.

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