Toamasina (Tamatave)

Toamasina (formerly known as Tamatave) is Madagascar’s main port city. It’s situated on the east coast, on the northern edge of the island’s vast rainforests. The region around it is characterised by long beaches, split by rivers that empty into the sea. High concentrations of unique flora and fauna can be found, as well as exotic plantations of coffee, vanilla, clove, banana, coconut and lychee. The city itself is an enticing mix of bric-a-brac sophistication – boulevards lined with palm trees and upmarket hotels sit alongside old, crumbling colonial buildings and creole houses built on stilts.

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Highlights

Take a boat trip down the Pangalanes Canal:

Just south of Taomasina, at Port Fluvial, you’ll find a series of lakes linked by canals that were built during the French colonial occupation. Their quiet waters are perfect for idling the day away as you glide by on a dug-out pirogue, past the private nature reserves that line the shore.

Explore the port town:

You can do this officially, with a historic guided tour, or at your leisure with a map from the local tourist office. There are buildings that date back to the early colonial era and three fascinating museums, which highlight everything from the town’s beginnings as a pirate community to local modern art and Malagasy culture.

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Rent an ATV:

Exploring Madagascar’s east coast on a four-wheeler is something for the adventurous, with day tours down to the Pangalanes Canal and overnight trips into the surrounding forests and nature reserves. For added excitement some itineraries include river crossings.

Practical information

  • As Madagascar’s major port city, Toamasina is one of the few coastal destinations that are relatively easy to get to by land – a good network of roads links it to Antananarivo and the journey takes about seven hours. There are, however, also daily flights from Antananarivo for those who want to minimise travel time.
  • Toamasina has good facilities – ATMs, supermarkets and a shopping mall all serviced by rickshaws, tuk-tuks and taxis.
  • As a holiday destination, Toamasina is probably Madagascar’s most weather-dependant – visiting midyear is magical experience whereas during the wetter summer months (December to April) the rainfall can feel endless and there is always the risk of cyclones.

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