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Antananarivo to Lake Alaotra

map alaotra
 © University of Texas

Angavokely  |  Mantasoa  |   Marozevo  |  Moramanga  |  Ambatondrazaka and Lake Alaotra

The massive Angavokely

The massive of Angavokely is situated 22 kilometres east of the capital city of Antananarivo. It is one of the last remaining relicts of high-altitude rainforest in all of Madagascar, and is home to over 120 species of rare and endangered orchids. The forest is an important watershed for three local communities covering over 20,000 inhabitants. The organization Seacology is working with the Malagasy environmental organization ARCVERT, faculty from the University of Antananarivo and Uppsala University, and the Service des Stations Forestières to establish a 695 hectare (1,717 acres) national park that helps preserving one of the last remaining tracts of high-altitude forest left in Madagascar. If you are a fan of walking through a mixed landscape of wild woods and rocky peaks this might be your place. Natural history enthusiasts will find, thanks to a former arboretum, an excellent opportunity to study the primitive flora less than an hour's drive from the capital.

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Mantasoa, which in Malagasy language means “is pleasant even raw” is located 70 kilometers in the North-East of Antananarivo. It is easily accessible by highway N°2 which leads to the largest city port of Tamatave or Toamasina on the east coast. The place has constituted itself as an ideal holiday destination for many Tananariviens. This picturesque place has three major attractions: the artificial Lac Mantasoa, the industrial town built by Jean Laborde and his tomb: Soamandrakizay.

  © MMagali_giaume
Lake Mantasoa                                           
This artificial lake is the result of a dam dating back to 1937, and stores presently 110 million m³ water. Tightly integrated in a hilly, the place has a unique charm. From December to April, the twilight in this place is softened by the melodious songs of cicadas which are very numerous in the pine forest surrounding the lake.

  • The industrial city of John Laborde                                         

Jean Laborde’s industrial complex was set up near the lake obeying the orders of the Malagasy queen Ranavalona I, who let her summer residence built in the centre of this circular shaped city. Indeed, Mantasoa was a favourable place because of the abundance of iron, wood and water. The industrial area is composed of many factories dedicated above all to the production of  weapons, since it should supply the monarchy with arms and ammunition. Laborde also built a high number of smaller factories, carpentries and blacksmith-shops. Unfortunately, this whole industry did not resisted long the political upheavals of the time and after falling in disgrace, Laborde fled to Reunion abandoning his work. After his departure, the workers partially destroyed his accomplishments, and time did the rest. What left is under water now. At the present time some parts of the vast ensemble are still visible. The relics which currently remain visible are the blast furnace, the furnace of cement, and the ruins of the pottery furnaces, the lime kiln and the foundry workshop. From the royal residence, there is nothing left. The house of John Laborde has been rebuilt on its original location and can be visited.

  • The tomb of John Laborde

The tomb of Mantasoa´s author which he had set up himself and which he baptized “Soamandrakizay” or “Eternal Happiness” as a Malagasy can be visited. Laborde died on 27th December 1878 at the age of 73. His funeral was the one of a king: a large procession accompanied the body to the tomb under the repeated blows of a cannon, while the Royal Orchestra played funeral music.

Where to sleep and eat (Hotels in alphabetical order, prices from 2013) 

Le Chalet
Tel: + 261 20 42 660 45
Web: www.chalet-ch.com
Establishment of middle class with 6 bungalows, including two family bungalows, equipped each with a fireplace. The restaurant is famous for its fondue and raclette. 
Double bungalow between 22 and 25 €, familiar for 43 €.

Le Domaine de l' Hermitage

Tel: +261 20 42 660 54
e-mail: batoivre@moov.mg
32 double air-conditioned rooms located at an old-styled Swiss chalet. The atmosphere and service are stylish. The dining room is huge, with a view of the lake and gardens. At the restaurant, a gourmet buffet is offered on Sundays. An activity centre offers riding, windsurfing and tennis. Double room 35 €, familiar 39 €, studio 64 € 

Riverside Hotel
Besoherina Mantasoa                                                
Tel/Fax: + 261 20 42 660 85                                              
Mobile: + 261 32 04 931 26                                                        
e-mail: riversidehotel@moov.mg                                     
This is the best and most expensive place to stay around. The hotel comprises 12 traditional stone bungalows with private garden and has also a restaurant which offers dishes from 7000 Ar. The hotel offers its guests motorboats for rent and organizes water-ski activities in the lake. 
Double bungalow for 35 €, familiar one for 49 €


The lake and the hotels are around 3 km southeast of the village. Direct taxi brousse depart from Tana´s eastern station. For a daytrip start early and leave the lake at around 2 pm.


  • Madagascar exotic (Butterfly farm)

From Ambatolaona the road begins its long descent towards the coast along the Mandraka river. The less altitude (900 – 1000 m above sea level) plus the more rains create a hot and humid ecosystem with dense tropical forests. At the bottom of the Mandraka river we find the butterfly farm “Madagascar exotic”, a valuable hot-spot for nature lovers. This place was founded by Mr Peyrieras (that is why the farm is also called Réserve Peyrieras), who is a true expert in Madagascar fauna. The vast area includes a small river and a natural pool amid lush vegetation and is dedicated to insect breeding.

The reserve is located in a beautiful valley in the middle of mango and lychees plantations. From a hill, where a historic building dating from the beginning of the 20th century is built, visitors can admire the nice landscape with its ravines covered by lush forest. The butterfly farm offers a pretty good introduction to a part of the Malagasy fauna, which can be really difficult to see in its habitat. It is an interesting one-day trip from Tana, though it can also be visited during a stopover on your way to Toamasina.

Almost all species of Madagascars’ insects and butterflies are represented here. Visitors can observe them at all stages of their development at the large aviaries adapted to their natural environment. Mr. Peyrieras also has a large collection of Chameleons. Also amphibians, snakes, lizards  and crocodiles live here. madagascar cricket
  Even a cricket can be so colorful  © MMagali_giaume

Tel: + 261 20 22 271 30 / Mobile: + 261 (0) 32 04 61 37
Opens daily from 7 am to 6 pm
Admission: Ar 10,000
Guided visits are available at further Ar 2,000 (children can go for free) and take about 2 hours. The guides are very friendly and well informed.

There are at the moment no accommodation facilities. Camping at the main entrance is possible. Meals can be prepared if ordered in advance.

It is possible to get from Tana with a taxi-brousse and get off in the vicinity of the reserve. Get off at a place called Anrijo, where you can walk (7 km) in the Tamatave direction to the park entrance or wait for another taxi-brousse heading to Moramanga.


Located between the cliff of Angavo and the eastern Andasibe forest, Moramanga has traditionally been an enclave of secular importance on the path connecting the East Coast with the Imerina region. The town played too an important role in the recent country history, as 1947 the uprising for national independence, that would spread throughout the country, started here.

As its name suggests (cheap mango), mangos grow plentifully here during November and December and any fruit lovers visiting the town during these two months will have the chance to pig out on them.

As the only attraction in town we can mention the “Museum of the gendarmerie” (open Mo – Sa from 8 am to 12 am and from 2:30 pm to 5 pm), which offers a permanent exhibition of numerous weapons and cars from the beginning of 20th century.

  • Anosibe An'Ala

During the dry season a forest trail (only passable with a tractor) leads us after 80 km to a village called Anosi An’Ala in the heart of untouched rain forest.  But be aware: this is only for the hardcore adventure passionate. Transportation is rare and very slow, and lodging is only possible at a villager’s house. Between Moramanga and Anosible the Niagarakely Falls offer bathers an excellent refreshment.

Where to sleep and eat

Au Coq d´Or
Opposite the Emerald hotel. Very popular restaurant with excellent pastries. The specialties of the house are: chicken with Coca-Cola, and the famous “nymphs’ tighs with garlic and parsley”. 

Bezanozano Hotel
Phone: +261 (0)32 28 761 66
Web: http://www.bezanozano-hotel.com
Mail: bezanozanohotel@yahoo.fr
New high-stadard hotel with 11 welcoming rooms and 3 suites with all comforts.
Double room for 35 €, suite fo 44 €

Emerald Hotel
In front of the Grand hotel. Rooms from Ar 20,000 (double bed, hot water, private shower and shared WC

Grand Hotel
In the town centre. It has more character than the address above, its rooms are more spacious, too, though pretty old. The restaurant is pleasant.
Only six rooms at Ar 19,000 (with private shower and WC)

Hotel Nadia
Tel: 56 822 43
At the crossroad to Anosibe An'Ala and Ambatondrazaka.. With private baths (hot water). Not very engaging indeed, but ok. The restaurant can be recommended to tight budgets
Double rooms from Ar 20,000


It takes three hours to get from Tana to Moramanga (Ar 3500). Taxi-brousses stop opposite the Grand Hotel at the main road. Taxi-brousses for Andasibe cost around Ar 2000.

  • Ambatondrazaka and Lake Alaotra

Town of  76,000 inhabitants north of Moramanga, at the heart of a region commonly referred to as the rice granary of Tana. According to the tradition, the place was founded by Randriambolona and her three children in the late eighteenth century. One of them, Razaka, won the war against the Vazimba and held a stone in the air to celebrate the victory. This stone was the origin of city’s name, which literally means "under Razaka’s rock." The market, which is held in the morning, is popular and therefore very animated.

Lac Alaotra
Lac Alaotra overflowed rice fields after Cyclone Ivan  
©  G. Pourtier / RFI
Lac Alaotra can be visited after 2 or 3 hours drive through a very bad track. This lake, the largest of the country, is a rich habitat for wildlife, including some rare and endangered water bird species, as well as an important fishing ground. The fertile plain surrounding the lake is Madagascar's most important rice-producing region. 

The hills surrounding the lake were formerly forested, but have mostly been cleared for farmland in past decades with terrible environmental consequences, as demonstrated by the lake’s level, which has gone back twenty kilometres after the city foundation. Erosion and over fishing are the most serious threatens for water bird species endemic to Madagascar, the Madagascar Pochard is critically endangered and the Alaotra Grebe has been declared extinct in 2010. Small numbers of the former exist elsewhere, while the latter may be already completely extinct. At the “station agricole” (agricultural station, 18 km to the north) visitors can learn all about crops. A collection of hundreds of varieties of rice and several varieties of sugar cane and tobacco is represented here. The station is open to visitors. It takes a half-hour trip by taxi-brousse from Ambatondrazaka (taxi-be in the direction of Andilamena). It is better to go there in the morning.

Where to sleep and eat

Small hotel with a patio with flowers, which offers a few rooms for about Ar 30,000.

Voahirana hotel is also a valuable place with rooms at the same rates famous for its family atmosphere.

At the restaurant Suzanne et Richard you can enjoy fabulous meals and learn all you need to know about “the smugglers route” (see under Imerimandroso)


Some taxi-brousses make the trip from Moramanga via a relatively good road. More adventurous travellers can choose the train, which leaves Tana on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, and returns on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. It's slow and tedious, but surely an unforgettable experience. Be sure that the train is working at the time of your visit.

Places around Lac Alaotra

  • Imerimandroso

Imerimandroso is an old village with typical Merina architecture, perched on a rocky promontory. A panoramic view offers a whole view of the lake even of the sacred islet at the northern part of the lake where Sihanaka resisted a Merina attack. One can also see the “Vohitrandriana” stone, a traditional place of worship, where foreigner visitors are tolerated if the oracles permit it.

  • The Maningory Falls

The Manningory river plunges 90 m to the depth. This strenuous hike requires at least two days in the company of a local guide confident with the twists and turns of the river. For good walkers only.

  • The smugglers route

A certainly remarkable trek that reaches the East coast after four or five days.

  • Andilamena

A dirty road leads from the north end of the lake after 25 kilometres to this remote town. Some 15 kilometres away, on the boundary to the Eastern rainforest, there are the Sandratsio waterfalls. A panoramic point called  “Le Belvédère du Marotsipy (300 m high) offers a nice view to the Anosimboangy region, known for its precious stones sought.