The Highlands | The North | The East | The South | The West
Antananarivo to Mahajanga
© University of Texas
Maevatanana is located in the central-north part of the island 150 km north of Tana, at the Ikopa River, and is connected by the national road RN 4 to Majunga. Due to its low altitude it is said to have recorded the highest temperatures in the country.
But it is not the hot temperatures which have made this small town of about 20,000 inhabitants famous throughout the country, but its former gold mines, which date already the 19th century. Official gold exploitation began with Queen Ranavalona I and it was so successful that government even planned to build a railway to link the town with the capital. The Tsaratanana mineral field extends on a 250 km area showing still significant mineral concentrations of gold, chrome and platinum. The nearby Betsiboka River has witnessed moderate levels alluvial mining activity for over one hundred years. Those visitors who do not get gold fever can opt for the less lucrative but surely not less thrilling activity of watching crocodiles from the river bank instead.
What to see
The monument to the dead French
At the entrance to the city next to the service station visitors first see an old colonial-style building dating back to 1895. This is the resting place for more than 300 French soldiers of the colonial expeditionary force who died here as a result of a heavy fight with Malagasy combatants.
Gold seekers tend to come together on Suday at this market on the south of the city, where purchasers coming from Tana, but also the United States and Thailand negotiate on the sale of this precious metal.
Kandreho (9 km)
This small village is renowned for the manufacture of raffia
using special printing techniques that recall those of the Sunda
The Betsiboka Rapids (22 Km)
In the West of Maevatanana a bridge on the RN 4 crosses the red waters masses of the Betsiboka River at a place where some tumultuous rapids form. During the wet season foam usually reaches the bridge.
|Air view of the Betsiboka river © Oledoe|
Crossing point of the national highways RN 4 and RN6, this
unappealing village is a usual lunch stop place for travellers making
the trip from Tana and Majunga. The number of
(food stalls) selling mostly seasonal fruits is high. Apart from buying
some snacks there is really nothing to do here.
The former capital of the Boeny kingdom, Marovoay enjoys an exceptional location on the banks of the estuary of the Betsiboka river just ideally connected with the Mozambique Channel. It is also the second largest rice producing region of Madagascar. Never ending plains are irrigated by the abundant waters of the estuary. Despite the optimal conditions, techniques are very rudimentary and therefore, rice production is still insufficient to feed the entire population of the country. Marovoay means: "where there are many crocodiles”. Indeed: many Nile crocodiles abound in the rivers and can be easily seen. Hunting crocodiles was in the early twentieth century an important activity in the region, but fortunately for these big reptiles this practise is no longer in use. Crocs are best watched during a dugout trip from Marovoay to Majunga: a beautiful journey through the aquatic world of Northwest Madagascar.
See under Ankarafantsika National Park
Mahajanga, with a population of over 250,000, is the capital of the Mahajanga Province. Located on Bombetoka Bay, an inlet of the Mozambique Channel at the mouth of the Betsiboka River it is the regional road terminus and the export centre of all major Malagasy products being its port the third largest of the country. Traditionally this city, founded by the Arabs in 1700s, traded with weapons, slaves, precious gems, spices, fabrics. Nowadays, it trades with mostly Africa, Middle-east, Asia and Europe. Apart from Malagasy peoples (Sakalava, Tsimihety, Merina), the city counts important Arab, Comorian, Chinese, Indian-Pakistanese natives' communities, that makes it the most cosmopolitan region in Madagascar. As in all port cities, watch your pockets! Thieves are very common.
Its surroundings are not less attractive: Mahajanga’s baobabs, scattered islands, forest reserves, lakes and caves have turned it into a major escape away for capital’s inhabitants. Despite the many and obvious advantages this region, international tourists are still reluctant to visit it and tend to move further north to Nosy Be or Antsiranana (Diego Suarez). However, the amazing natural and cultural heritages of Mahajanga make this city and its environments an extraordinary worthy destination.
The old city, which is
boulevard Poincaré, Avenue de France, Quai Orsini and rue du
Marechal Joffre, is best sight seen on foot. The photographic motifs
are extraordinarily plentiful: trading posts, sculpted wooden doors,
all remnants of the Arabic origins of the city, old colonial houses
with ochre facades show some relics of a gone glory, narrow streets
with small gardens planted with bugambilia plants… At the
seaside, wooden boats are up and downloaded goods,
cotton, cement at dawn. At night, you cannot miss walking on the sea
promenade, mixing with locals seating seafront, who entertain
themselves with guitar serenades and eating kebabs. From here the view
on the ships’ cemetery with its old wrecks is fascinating.
When walking around just take following precaution: avoid the midday hours! It is well known that siesta time is sacred and with outside temperatures of 40 °C and your health will definitely acknowledge your wisdom, if you retire to an air-conditioned room.
- Port quartier
Following the Avenue Mahabibo we get into the lively old port district with its colourful markets and mosques. The minarets of the total eight mosques, along with the Arab ornaments at the houses’ facades, the exquisite carved doors at the old houses of Indian traders, that were imported them from their origin country in the late 19th century and the Muslim outfits of the inhabitants testify the impregnating Comorian-Arabian influence of the city. Late in the day, men dressed in blue and white djelabas follow the muezzins call to prayer that will probably lead them to one of the two major mosques of the city: the old Indian mosque or the Comorian mosque. The port district also preserves some elegant buildings dating from the colonial period as the Androva Hospital, the old post office, the court and the huge cathedral.
On top of the hill overlooking the city, a finely decorated stone gate with gracefully carved flowers is the last vestige of the rova built by Radama I that once dominated the city.
© David Darricau
- The Port aux Boutres
It is advisable to visit the port in the morning hours, when it is more animated. Watching ships loading and unloading huge piles of coconut and wood piled in bundles, while dhows and schooners, which are widely used throughout the west coast of Madagascar, move in the background pushed by the wind is an unforgettable experience.
- Sea promenade
Along the boulevard Poincaré the cornice promenade is the place to walk in the evening hours Loving couples often sit at the "Jardin d'amour" (love garden) on Ponte du Caiman, which looks rather a Greek building with its white balustrades. The walk continues along the boulevard Marcoz, a classical meeting point for family, which was refurbished before the visit Jacques Chirac in July 2005. Do not miss the magnificent colonial-style building which is now the cit town hall. Por Schneider, at the end of the boulevard Marcoz, near the tourist village offers the astonishing spectacle of a pier along coupled with a pipeline that extends into the bay. Offshore, the lights shine tankers in the intense tropical night. The seafront is a favorite place for walking holiday Malagasy, who come to take a breather until advances hours of the night. This walk extends generally to the city centre, the main avenue, and then in the direction of City Hall. The walk may continue to Port Schneider (the pier is the remnant left of a port project). Just enjoy the pleasant evening hours in a unique atmosphere that seems to escape the current time. From here you can continue your walk to the tourist village.
promenade after its complete restoration
- The Royal relics of Tsaramandroso
The royal shrine of Tstaramandroso preserves some relics as teeth, nails and pieces of clothing belonging to the Sakalava kings Andriamandrosoarivo, Andrimisara, Andrinamisara, Andrianamboniarivo and Andrimihanina. Once a year, an annual procession celebrated in July marks the climax of the new year festival, during which the four male ancestors whose relics reside at this shrine are paraded around their shrine immediately after been soaked in water (a ritual called “Fanompoa Be” or “Great service”). All amid a big display of popular festivities.
Foreigners can visit this shrine, which is of course full of fady! (visits are only possible on some week days, no glasses are allowed, the traditional Lamba dress is compulsory). You should be better come in the company of a guide, confident with the local customs, to instruct you. It really is advisable to bring rum and candles. A donation of app. Ar 2,000-4.000 is expected. The place can be reached by turning off right on the road leading to the regional academic centre.
- The beach
Mahajanga has also a sandy beach far away enough from the port, though bathing here is not allowed. A thick stone row prevents people from accessing the beach. In Mahajanga urban area, the sea seems too strong, it's not a blue water, rather a red, muddy one, also because a huge river, Betsiboka crashes down in this sea, trailing sediment from land erosions.
- Akiba Museum Mozeal
At the entrance to the Ambodrona university campus
Tel: (+ 261 0) 32 07755 44
Tu-Fr from 9 am to 11 am and from 3 pm to 5 pm, Sa-Su from 3 pm to 5 pm
If you are in the mood of learning something about the history
the Boeni kingdom this small museum with little resources shows some
old photographs, an introduction to the wildlife of the region, as well
as a selection of crafts and some impressive fossils and dinosaur bones
discovered in the valley of the Mahajamba, which are in fact the true
highlight of the exhibition.
Rue Jules Ferry
Tel: (+ 261 20) 62 023 34, Mobile: (+ 261 20) 32 04 877 66
Maderi Tour is a tour operator specialised in Mahajanga. It offers nautical expeditions to the north coast of Mahajanga aboard a catamaran for eight people, sunset trips with a dugout, sport fishing tours, as well as 4x4 circuits to all parts of the region Ankarafantsika national park, the caves of Anjohibe etc.
Aventure & Decouverte Madagascar
BP 56, Ampasika
Tel: (+ 261 20) 62 934 75, Mobile: + 261 (0)34 08 521 96
This tour company proposes 4x4 tours to all parts of Madagascar, as well as motorbike raids and bivouacs. Vehicles are specially prepared and equipped with GPS and satellite phone, which will enable the guests to travel comfortably and safely as well. Trips go to more unexplored regions allowing the traveller the discovery of authentic areas, still preserved from mass tourism.
Budget accommodations 5 € to 20
Angle rue Maréchal Joffre Avenue and Gillon
Tel: (+ 261 20) 6222255 / 34
Functional hotel, but rooms are maybe too pricey for their size.
Tel: (+ 261 20) 62 233 27
The hotel is simple but close to all city highlights (near the city hall, not far from the mosque). Double room from 13,000 Ar to 30,000 Ar with AC.
Boulevard Marcoz 58
Mobile: (+ 261 0) 32 04 682 20
10 charming and comfortable rooms (the larger rooms are indeed very pleasant and a good value for money) and seven bungalows. A definitely lovely accommodation. It has a pool too! The restaurant seems to prepare tasteful dishes.
Double room from 19 €, bungalows for 22 €
9 rue George V
Tel: (+ 261 20) 62237 98
This hotel offers 44 large and very comfortable rooms with TV, AC, safe and fridge.
Doubles from 24 to 26 €, suites for 30 €.
Marcoz Boulevard, Tel: (+ 261 20) 62235 00
25 standard but comfortable rooms overlooking the Mozambique Channel. Rooms from 18 to 23 € depending on the views.
Rue Albert,Tel: (+ 261 20) 62227 40
Basic accommodation, Room prices between Ar 20,000 and 30,000
15 avenue de la République, Tel: (+ 261 20) 62220 35
Very comfortable, close to the centre and functional. It is however forbidden to eat pork or drink alcohol. Double room from 17 to 20 €.
Rue George V, Tel: (+ 261 20) 62231 90
Only for the hardcore travellers. Ar 15,000 a double.
New Continental Hotel
5 Avenue of the Republic, Tel: (+ 261 20) 62225 70
All 23 rooms are air-contitioned with en-suite baths and TV. Ar 42.000.
Avenue de l'Eglise, Tel: (+ 261 20) 62233 57
Average hotel with adequate facilities
22 rue Flacourt, Tel: (+ 261 20) 62230 10
Very simple roomd for 22,000 Ar for two
Avenue Philibert Tsiranana
Tel: (+ 261 20) 62243 41, Mobile: (261 0) 3207067 49
5 comfortable and spacious rooms with private bath, TV, AC and safe for 18 € There is a restaurant and and cybercafe too. Very good value for money.
Phone: +261 20 62 294 65
8 welcoming bungalows with different facilities amid a green garden and a pool. The restaurant serves good and inexpensive food. Very good quality-price relationship.
Double bungalow from 16 to 20 €, family bungalow from 22 to 30 €, depending on the facilities.
Middle-class accommodations 25 € - 80 €
Avenue de France 49
Phone: +261 20 62 230 23
17 high standard rooms and one suite with all comforts. All rooms are welcoming, nicely decorated and very comfortable. The hotel has a pool, Wi-Fi, a restaurant with nice views and a popular casino. A very good choice!
Double room 54 €, suite 75 €
La Piscine Hotel
Tel: (+ 261 20) 62 241 72
29 functional, comfortable and nice rooms with satellite TV, AC and phone and 2 suites.
Prefer rooms that overlook the pool or the sea (more luminous). The big hotel complex is named after the municipal pool. It can be sometimes noisy because of a nearby disco. Rooms between 44 and 68 €, suites for 82 €
Avenue de la Republique
Phone: +261 20 62 240 65 / (0)32 57 435 75
30 impeccable and comfortable rooms with all comforts: private bath, TV, AC, safe, minibar. There is a good snack bar called le Ti Bazar with Wi-Fi. Doubles between 28 and 34 €, suites for 45 €
Boulevard Marcoz 58, La Corniche
Phone +261 20 62 020 01
14 functional and comfortable standard rooms, 5 vip rooms and 2 suites All rooms are impeccable, nicely decorated and with all comforts. The hotel has a fantastic pool, an excellent restaurant and a large comference room.
Standard rooms 43 €, vip rooms 63 €, suites from 105 to 160 €
Résidence Jules Ferry Lot 0101 P 0020, rue Jules Ferry B.P.1087 - Majunga Be
Tel: (+ 261 20) 62 913 63
Antsanitia seaside Hotel Resort is located 15 km north of Majunga’s airport. It offers several bungalows, rooms, suites and villas overlooking a small estuary and a beautiful sand barrier that separates it from the Mozambique Channel. A wide range of different activities (eco-tourism, water sports etc) is being offered. An ideal place for relaxation in truly a magical setting. Full or half board optional.
Double room from 44 to 58 €, bungalow from 56 to 68 €, suites for four people from 88 to 195 €, all prices depending on the season
Tel: (+ 261 20) 62 934 75, Mobile: (+ 261 0) 33 02 069 79
Nice bungalow complex set amid a big park with more than hundred different tree species and numerous animals, 10 minutes from downtown. All three villas are high standing and they all have 3 rooms, veranda and a private garden, kitchen, AC. A tennis court, a pool and several amenities like 4x4, quads and motorcycle rental will ensure a pleasant stay.
Price for a villa from 87 € a day, guest rooms with a private bathroom at 32 € per night
Tel: (+ 261 20) 62 243 33
Five bungalows available for 2-5 guests (between Ar Ar 62,000 and 86,000). Warm and Set in a tropical ravenala-tree forest, this is an absolutely charming accommodation ideally located to visit the Red Cirque.
Route d'Amborovy 401
Tel: (261) 20 62 248 15 / (261) 032 04 115 82
Air-conditioned bungalows with en-suite facilities amid a green garden. A beautiful dining room and the large pool will guarantee your relaxation. Quads and motorbikes to rent.
Double bungalow from 28 €, family bungalow 30 €
Tel: (+ 261 20) 22 263 04
A standard hotel that fits well in the classic western standards. Very comfortable, with a large pool of 25 m. Credit cards accepted.
Tel: (+ 261 20) 62 226 94
Chez Caron is located in Village Touristique, where, in the contrary to the beach around the baobab tree and along Corniches, one can have access to sea. The restaurant serves French and Chinese food. Prawn doughs are good.
In front of the hotel Le Vieux Baobab. Very reasonable prices.
Avenue de la République
This coffee shop offers besides tea, coffee and beverages, some good snacks for the small hunger.
Rue Henri Paulu
Tel: (+ 261 62 223 24)
Same specialities than the place mentioned above, but with a nicer decoration.
La Petite Cour
In front of the Hotel la Piscine
Tel: (+ 261 20) 62 021 94
This is the restaurant with more style of Mahajanga. The decoration is so exquisite as are the nicely presented dishes. Prices are –accordingly- higher.
21 avenue de Mahahibo
A nice open-air restaurant with small tables set under shady palms. The quality of the cuisine is variable.
Rue Jules Ferry
Tel: (+ 261 20) 62 231 34
This small restaurant with daily menu, cheap snacks and delicious house-made ice is located in front of the Hotel Akbar and two steps of the Hotel de France. Perfect for also for an abundant breakfast (fresh fruit juices).
Le sampan d'Or
1 rue Rigault, à cote de l'hôtel Anjary
Tel: (+ 261 20) 62 223 79
Cheap oriental dishes
Avenue de la République
Tel: (+ 261 20) 62 226 14
Cheap Indian specialities dishes. Excellent fish, very good cury.
Tel: (+ 261 20) 62 229 61
Popular Vietnamese restaurant.
Mahajanga is well known for its lively nightlife. However, any visitor will get to know here a different type of nightlife than going into a club. Holidaymakers use to sit until a very late time at night at seafront and eat kebabs while they listen to the music played spontaneously by some youngsters nearby. A really exciting seafront nightlife that will help you to immerse in the picturesque local customs!
For drinking a beer we recommend the patio of the Alliance Française, or the Boulé, right next door.
The Ravinala club, located near the port in the old city and San Antonio, on the coastal road, are the most lively nightclubs.
Concerts of many of the local groups are frequent in Mahajanga. For information: enquire at the provincial office (in front of the Philibert Tsiranana high school). The atmosphere is great and great fun will be guaranteed.
There are several flight connexions that connect Mahajunga with Tana. But also Nosy Be and Antsiranana (Diego Suarez) can be reached from here several times a week. For more info check at the website of Air Madagascar or ask at the Air Madagascar office in Mahajanga (Avenue du Colonel Gillon, Tel: (+ 261 20) 62 224 21/235 65).
There are international flights to with Air Austral to Mayotte and Reunion (Immeuble Sanifer, Ampasika, Tel: (+ 261 20) 20 62 22 391, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).
The taxi fare from the airport to the city centre costs approximately Ar 10,000.
The 560 km RN4 between Tana and Mahajanga are in pretty good condition so that the frequent taxi-brousses take approximately ten hours to cover it. Fare is about Ar 20,000. To enjoy the beautiful landscape of the Imerina region take better one of the early buses and reserve your seat in advance! The taxi-brousse station in Mahajunga is at the Svenue Philibert Tsiranana.
The old ship connection of the Sambo Line is not working at the moment.
Neverthess the number of private vessel owners offering private cruises is high. Just ask at the port! You can go on board of a cruising yacht heading to Nosy Be or the Radama archipel or go fishing to Ambariaka.
The best is taking a pousse-pousse (about Ar 1,000). A taxi ride costs during the day Ar 2,000 (Ar 2,500 at night).
Avenue de France
Tel: (+ 261 20) 62 232 32
Visa cards accepted. ATM. Western Union.
Enceite Cotona, Antanimalandy
Tel: (+ 261 20) 62 294 25
9 rue du Maréchal Joffre
Tel: (+ 261 20) 62 228 70
Mo-Fr from 8 am to 11:15 am and from 2:30 pm to 4:15 pm
Rue George V
Tel: (+ 261 20) 62 220 36
The best place is probably Alliance Française. There is also a Wanadoo internet point next to the restaurant Flibuste.
For all referring tourism in Majahanga check at the official website of the Mahajunga government at: www.majunga.org
14 Avenue Philibert Tsiranana
Tel: (+ 261 20) 62 226 56
- Amborovy beach (10 km)
Great beach which a wide selection of accommodations in
fishermen houses and holiday bungalows. Unlike the East Coast, where
sharks can sometimes show up, are these fishes here rather rare. Fish
specialities like lobster and pulp are served in almost all seafront
restaurants. To get there take the road to the airport and then turn
left on a track (signpost) heading to the sea.
First sun´s rays on the Cirque Rouge© David Darricau
Cirque Rouge (near the Amborovy beach)
For getting a feeling of a real tropical sunset this is the place to be. The Cirque Rouge (Red circus) is a multicoloured circular rock formation that recalls somehow red American canyons. Right after leaving the beach side, you will be suddenly surrounded by hillocks where large gullies have been carved. Erosion has made the sandstone surface display a wide range of colours, from white, pink, orange to ochre shades. Women from the nearby Amboroy village come usually here to carry out some of the colourful sand for filling bottles, which are sold to tourists. It is possible to have a picnic at the river down the valley. As already mentioned, the setting is absolutely fabulous when the sun rays at the twilight time hit the cirque bringing out the natural colours of the sand.
- Lake Mangatsa (30 km)
This sacred lake 30 m from Mahajanga with transparent waters is the habitant of some of the biggest goldfish you will ever see. But be cautious! Fishing here is strictly forbidden. As soon as you arrive you will understand why… Several bottles and jars are placed at the base of the surrounding trees as prayers. Lake Mangatsa is a sacred place and even politicians come usually here to seek the advice of the ancestors. Better enjoy the nice food at the lake’s restaurant in this quiet and peaceful scenery.
- The Andranoboka and Anjohibe caves (83 km)
Located 83 km from Mahajanga this unique site with amazing rock formations which can be only reached through a dirty track during the dry season attracts more visitors each year, who usually come here as part of an organized trip from Mahajanga. The caves were firstly reported by a French explorer in 1934, though locals of course knew their existence for centuries. Despite the many caves’ entrances it seems that there are two different cave systems which extend under two limestone hills about two kilometres from each other.
Anjohibe cave © Madras Hotel Mahajanga
Further south along the coast we find a beautiful fisher village nestled between sandy beaches that invites guests to a complete idleness called Katsepy. Apart from walking to the lighthouse (where you can enjoy a panoramic view of the Bombetoka Bay) or visiting the nearby Bay Boeny (accessible by road) for a different landscape, there is nothing more to do here than laying on a hammock, swimming and enjoying the excellent meals prepared by Ms Chabaud, who is supposed to be one of the best cook in the region. Ms Chabaud also offers rustic cabins for those wanting to stay overnight (for information enquire at the hotel with the same name at Mahajunga city centre). To get to Katsepy take one of the ferries leaving from Mahajanga port either at 7:30 am or at 3:30 pm (fare about Ar 1,000). The trip takes one hour.