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Tamatave to Maroantsetra


map Tamatave to Maroantsetra
   © University of Texas

Mahavelona  |  Mahambo  |  Fénérive-Est   |  Soanierana Ivongo   |   Manompana   |  Antanambe  |  Mananara   |   Maroantsetra  |   Masoala national park


Mahavelona (Foulpointe)

What to see  |  Where to sleep  

Foulpointe is a seaside town, 59 km north of Toamasina, which was one very popular among Frech colonial settlers. This sort of beach resort has become very popular for urban dwellers from Toamasina, but also from Tana, since it is the closest beach from the capital where you can swim (still a 7-10 hours’ drive, depending on the type of vehicle). The beach is usually full of families having a swim (even in week days), enjoying sun bathing or picnicking. So if you are searching for a quiet place to be, head northern to Mahambo! A coral barrier acts as a kind of dam keeping sharks away and the seabed very clean. There is some developed tourist infrastructure and eating on the beach is certainly cheap. But please constrain your baths where also locals get into water! Do not get tempted by the beautiful but unprotected beaches that could be full of sharks. Right behind the town a dense tropical forest with ravenala trees and orchids spreads all around. But to reach Foulpointe, there is a bridge! It is called “pont flottant” (floating bridge), but it is only partially floating and also partially broken. If you have a 4WD, you can cross it without any problem if it hasn’t been raining too much. Otherwise, a couple of guys will have to push the car in the water.

Foulpointe
There is always something going on on Foulpointe Beach
© Madagascar Travel Guide

What to see

  • The Hova fort

Dating from the early nineteenth century, this fort located 5 km from the town centre and completely surrounded by ravenalas and coconut trees was built by the Merina during the conquest of the east coast by Radama I in 1822. It served as a defending fortress which should preserve the Eastern coast of Madagascar from foreigners’ intrusions, but also housed the garrison of the royal army and served as the residence of the Merina Governor during most part of the most part of the 19th century.  The building, which has a circular shape, is surrounded by a six meter tall wall made of stones and smashed coral bound by egg white acting as cement. At the centre of the circle (which is the symbol of harmony), were once the officers dwellings, the arsenal and the soldiers’s barracks (who were 25 000). French invasion at the end of the 19th century ended with the plunder of the fort. The sacked materials were partly used in 1950 for the construction of the RN5 road. The tangle of galleries, stairways, corridors and secret passages turn the citadel into a real labyrinth. A magnificent view on the ocean will reward those who step on top of the wall. Admission fee.

  • The old cemetery

This old cemetery now hidden in the forest contains the graves of pirates, sailors, and slave traders. Doctor Couillaudeau de la Touche, doctor of the French king, who died in 1766 is also buried here.

Where to sleep (prices from 2013)

Budget accommodation

Au gentil Pêcheur
Phone:  + 261 20 57 220 16
email: augentilpecheur@yahoo.fr
25 comfortable bungalows by the sea side and next to Manda Beach on a beautiful location The restaurant is quite popular, the food is really good and inexpensive.
Double bungalow 14 €, familiar one for 22 €

Pension Colargol
Basic but nice bungalows with shared toilets and cold water for 20,000 Ar

Middle class hotels

Generation Hôtel
Phone: 57 220 22
Web: www.generation-hotel-foulpointe.com
Mail: generationhotel@moov.mg
Pleasant bungalows and rooms surrounded by a magnificent garden a little bit far from the sea. Double bungalow/room from 12 to  17 €, familiar for 22 €

Manda Beach Hôtel
Phone: 57 220 00
Web: www.mandabeach-hotel.com
Mail: mandabeach@moov.mg
Probably the best hotel in town. 25 rooms and 18 bungalows, all with safe, private bathroom and hot water. Swimming pool, tennis and golf. Beautiful location in front of the sea. Transfers to Tamatave airport. Restaurant serves delicious food.
Double room 20 €, double bungalow 22 €; familiar room 27 €, familiar bungalow 32 €


Mahambo

Mahambo©  Madagascar Travel Guide The bay of Mahambo, 15 km before reaching Fenerive, is by far more solitary, wilder and more paradisiacal than Foulpointe. Here bathing is safe and fishing and diving are possible activities. If you get bored of merely laying on the sandy beach, you can go on walk excursions into the thick forest, where it should be easy to spot lemurs. To get here you can get onto a taxi-brousse from Toamasina (Ar 3000) or Foulpointe (Ar 1500). For travelling further north there is also a taxi-brousse service to Fenerive (Ar 2000).

Where to sleep and eat (prices from 2013)

Hôtel Restaurant Ylang Ylang
Phone: 57 331 00 / 57 300 08
Mail: mamitiana@moov.mg
10 basic but comfortable bungalows that can accommodate up to 6 people with shared toilet but private shower (hot water) from 14 €. Small restaurant, cheap and good. Camping permitted. Good value!

Hôtel Le Récif
Phone: 57 300 50
Small and really peaceful complex; comfortable bungalows and rooms. Excellent restaurant which serves delicious European meals.
Price for a double bungalow between 25000 and 33000 Ar

La Pirogue
Phone: + 261 20 57 301 71
Web: www.pirogue-hotel.com
Mail: la.pirogue@gmail.com
The best hotel in the city. Magnificent location by the sea side, charming and pleasant bungalows and rooms nicely decorated, all with private bath and hot water. Variety of activities offered (whale watching, surf, quads). Very good food. Recommended.
Double rooms between 24 and 30 €, double bungalow for 36 €, familiar bungalow for 52 €

Le Zanatany
Basic bungalows in the city centre with shared toilet for 12,000 Ar. Good restaurant.


Fénérive-East

Fénérive is a small typical town of the Eastern coast, with an exuberant nature, a main street lined with palm trees and a special fondness on spices (cloves, cinnamon, letchis, vanilla). You can go for an hour-walk to the Fort of Vohimasina, whose walls have been invaded by the luxuriant tropical vegetation. You can climb onto the lookout with a ladder and enjoy the wonderful view on the town, the ocean and the hills. Or you can simply attend the return of the fishermen that occurs every day in the late morning hours. The spectacle of an armada of boats returning from the sea is frankly colourful.

Where to sleep and eat

Hôtel Belle Rose
Phone: 57 300 38
Cheap rooms next to the hospital, meals served.

Paradisa Kelly
Modest bungalows by the sea, also cheap.

Ruschia Hotel
Phone: 033 02 011 63
Nice bungalows by the sea 5 Km from city centre

Soanierana Ivongo

Soanierana Ivongo is the starting point of coasters that carry across to the island of Sainte-Marie. This is the end of the paved road. Soanierana has little to offer, but it is easy to feel well while waiting to cross the canal or take a taxi-brousse to the south. During the day you can navigate on a dugout on the Mahariboha river dugout and visit some distilleries.

Ar 8000 for Tamatave, which is located 160 km on the south.

boat transfer Soanierana-Ivongo
Boat transfer to Sainte Marie   ©  Madagascar Travel Guide

If you made the effort to come here there is no doubt that your intention is taking a shuttle boat to Sainte Marie island. You can opt for taking a doubtless more shaking, exciting and much cheaper option of hiring one of the many small rowboats on the port, that are ready to leave early in the morning. But please –and for your safety sake- ensure the boat’s condition before jumping in! The boat called Saphira is supposed to be more reliable one according to the local people (mobile: + 261 (0) 32 04 621 86).

A second –safer and more expensive- option is certainly booking your sit at one of the two major travel companies that currently operate scheduled boat transfers between Toamasina and Sainte Marie. 
Although these ships are in a better condition, shipwrecks happen: on July 2008 a boat belonging to Macle sank during a fishing trip and most of the passengers died. 

Macle (Tropicana)
Port
Barachois, Sainte-Marie
Mobile: + 261 (0) 32 40 084 57 / (0) 32 02 331 48
Vessel with a capacity for 62 people, equipped with GPS, radar and radio. The crossing takes only about 40 minutes, making it the fastest boat. The company also offers all kinds of excursions around Sainte Marie (whale-watching tours cost 26 € per person). Departure is at 5:30 am at Chez Nono in Tamatave (in front of Sharon hotel) aboard a taxi-brousse. It returns at same time. A return ticket costs EUR 27 (from Tamatave to Tamatave).

Cap Sainte Marie
Tel: (+ 261 20) 57 404 06
Mobile: + 261 (0) 32 04 887 09
Web: http://www.cap-sainte-marie.com  
This company also operates a shuttle service to Sainte Marie. Departure is every day from at 6:30 am from Tamatave (meeting point is on the back side of Sharon hotel). A minibus takes you to Soanierana in 3 hours. The crossing time from Soanierana to Sainte Marie aboard the ship with a capacity for 30 passengers takes about one hour. It returns at 6 am from Sainte Marie. Note that you can also embark directly at Soanierana without the transfer from Tamatave. Fare: 62 EUR for a roundtrip Tamatave-Sainte-Marie and back or 42 EUR from Soanierana-Sainte Marie and return. Children beyond 3 years go for free. Children under 12 years old pay only the half.

Where to sleep and eat

Hôtel Zanatany
Good located, basic bungalows  and meals, but nice stay.
Price 8000 Ar

L’Escale
Basic bungalows by the harbour. No running-water.
Price 10000 Ar

Hôtel Espece
Modest bungalows near the boat departure point. Good food.
Price 10000 Ar

Manompana

The road between Soanierana and Maroantsetra has two characteristics: it is superb, but literally bombed with pot holes. The 40 km journey between Soanierana and Manompana is a miserable track that presents the major inconvenience that a piece of bridge was washed away in early 2007. Be prepared to drive between 3 to 6 hours –of course in a 4x4 vehicle. However, if you manage to get to Manompana, you will be definitely rewarded by one of the most solitary and off the beaten track places of the whole country. Manompana (200 km north of Tamatave) is a piece of heaven, wonderfully nestled in the Tintigue Bay. The village has kilometrical beaches lined with coconut trees, and faces the island of Sainte Marie. A coral reef situated 2 km on the sea gives the necessary safety to bath in the lagoon. Windsurfing, fishing, snorkeling, boat excursions to the islet of Sorciers and oyster eating can be some of the activities of this stunningly paradisiacal place.

But also hiking-lovers won’t get bored. You can walk for instance to the Tintingue tip. At the northern exit of the village, a trail on your right will lead you to this magical site covered with virgin forest and beautiful beaches. Visiting the protected forest of Ambodiriana is also an extraordinarily rewarding activity. An excursion of several kilometres (because of the various water streams do not forget to wear sandals!) leads to this intact forest with a magnificent waterfall where swimming is possible.

Boats sometimes leave from the Tintinque Bay for Sainte-Marie. Inform you.

You can stay at the hotel Au Bon Anchorage, which offers simple but well maintained bungalows for Ar 10 000 as well as a restaurant. The shower consists of a bucket, but do not complain too loud! (Remember the complete isolation of the place). Besides to this the hotel is set amid nice tropical gardens facing the sea.

Other basic hotels in town are:

Chez Wen-Ki´s
5 modest but very nice bungalows by the beach with cold water. Very good food.

Chez Lou Lou
6 bungalows central located and by the sea. Clean and comfortable. Good restaurant.

Mahle Hotel
1 km from the village. Simple but comfortable bungalows by the beach near a forest. Excellent meals.

Antanambe

Venturing further north of Soanierana is not a trivial matter. However, the portion between Manompana and Antanambe is in relatively good condition, count 2 hour drive to achieve the 45 km. 
In Antanambe you can stay overnight at Chez Grondin, a well-known establishment in town
Phone:+ 261 (0)33 011 00 59, Mail: info@tanymarina.com, Web:www.tanymarina.com 
All seven bungalows are simple but well kept, set in a tropical garden. Camping possible. A recommended place. Double bungalows for 12 €, familiar for 24 € 


Mananara

The portion between Antanambe and Mananara  is the most terrible of all. Plan at least 4 hours to complete the miserable 40 kilometres. It is possible to cross to Sainte Marie from Mananara. Irregular cargos take passengers for at least Ar 10 000 on board. The boat departs around 9 o'clock in the evening and arrives around 9 am in the morning. bad road Mananara
©  Madagascar Travel Guide

The journey between Mananara and Maroantsetra is in a generally better condition (a few slices of good track, others are more delicate, wooden bridges look very risky). The more adventurous can also go on foot (3 days).

What to see

  • The Daravangy Falls

Beautiful falls upstream the Fahambany river.

  • The Aye Aye island

This small private-owned island is maybe the best place to observe this incredible creatures. Ask at Chez Roger or Hôtel Aye-Aye for visiting the island (10€ per person)

  • Mananara North national park

See under Mananara National Park

Where to sleep

Chez Roger
[mobile: (0) 33 14 265 33]. Bungalows on the backside cost at Ar 20,000. Bungalows without toilets but with shower cost Ar 12,000. Rooms in the main building are impeccable and offer a surprising comfort. An excellent address, though it is advisable to book in advance. 
Roger is the owner of Aye-Aye Island, so if you are here because of the aye-ayes, this is possibly the best place to stay. Roger offers excursions to the island and to other interesting places around, like Nosy Antafana, Ivontaka etc.

Hôtel Aye-Aye
Pleasant bungalows next to the beach and not far from the airport. The location is very nice and peaceful, the food is excellent and the service superb. Trips to Aye-Aye island also offered.


Maroantsetra

What to see  |  Where to sleep  |  Where to eat  |  Guided tours  | Transportation  |  Useful addresses

Maroantsetra is a Mecca for nature lovers, as well as the gateway to the Masoala peninsula, Madagascar's largest national park, and is a showcase for Madagascar's unique animal and plant life not found anywhere else in the world. It is located at the bottom of bay of Antongil between the sea and the humid and luxuriant tropical forest, 100 km north from Mananara at the end of the “road” from Tamatave. From here only forest trails through the thick jungle or the coastal line lead northern to Antalaha. The city life is measured by the cycle of vanilla and other spices or aromatic plants; a cycle which is summarized by the plantation, the gathering, the processing and especially the trade. The road which crosses the city is decorated by many shops or displays arranged along the two sides and which expose a whole cluster of very mixed objects and goods. Under the murmur of coconuts tree leaves agitated by a constant sea breeze which strokes your face and the rustling of the large waves of the Indian Ocean, serenity is absolute there. The rain is always present there and it can come and go from any moment throughout the day you equipped accordingly!

Antongil bay
The Bay of Antongil is wet, green and often cloudy ©  Madagascar Travel Guide

What to see

Maroantsetra, nestled in the middle of the Bay of Antongil, is the starting point for many trips on foot, by boat and even sea kayaking. Because of its favourable climatic conditions, the surroundings of Maroantsetra develop the most diversified forests, the densest and can be the richest of the Great Island. It is here that you will have the occasion to experience an untouched Madagascar. Immaculate and endless beaches of fine sand, fantastic sceneries, an intact traditional culture wait the tourists daring to come to the extreme north part of Madagascar.  The high costs of the air tickets, the low number of seats in each aircraft, and the overall difficulty of access, and not less the persistent rain restrain the flow of visitors, which definitely contributes to preserve the authenticity of this unique region!

  • Nosy Mangabe

See under Nosy Mangabe Special Reserve

  • Navana

This rocky beach evoking the image of the Seychelles is ideal for a relaxing day. You will need about one hour to access here on boat. You can also visit a small village, where inhabitants grow coffee, vanilla and cloves.

  • Manambia Beach (15 Km)

Ideal for fishing

  • Varaka (25 Km)

Ideal site for scuba diving 

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

Budget accommodations

Hotel Antongil
8 modest rooms central located with shared toilet and no mosquito net.

Hotel du Centre
Phone: 57 721 31
12 simple but confortable bungalows centrally located near the market from 12,000 Ar

La Pagode
7 basic and large bungalows with cold water and private bathroom for 18,000 Ar. Very good and inexpensive food. Popular amongst backpackers.

Maroa Hôtel
6 simple bungalows on a nice setting. Good food.
Price for two people 20000 Ar

Middle class hotels

Coco Beach
Phone: 57 720 06
Nice setting by the river. The bungalows vary in price depending on the facilities (from cold water and shared toilet to hot water and private bathroom). The restaurant is average.

Price for two people between 20,000 and 50,000 Ar

High end hotels

Le Relais du Masoala
Phone: +(261) 20 22 632 53 /22 219 74

Web: www.madagascar-lodge.com
Mail:
relaisdumasoala@cortezexpeditions.mg
Probably the best address in the are. Charming, large and comfortable bungalows on a beautiful location 2 km from city centre, all equipped with private bath and hot water.  There is a pool, satellite TV, and a lot of excursion are offered, such as birdwatching, pirogue trips,trekking or whalewatching. Airport transfers arranged.The restaurant serves delicious meal (12 € a meal).

Price for two people 52 € during the low season and 78 € during the high season.

Masoala Resort
Phone: 33 11 051 52
Mail: masoala.resort@yahoo.fr
Brand new complex located by sea side opposite to Nosy Mangabe. The bungalows are modern, good equipped and very comfortable. Pool in a beautiful garden. All kind of activities offered. Excellent restaurant. Good quality report.

Price for two people between 42,000 and 64,000 Ar

Where to eat

Baguette d´Or
Very good Chinese restaurant near Hôtel Maroa. Big portions and good prices!

Restaurant au Bon Goût
Nice place for having breakfast or snacks. They bake their own pastries, cakes and bread.

Rive Droite
Bar and restaurant by the river. Beautiful location and tasty food.

Guided tours

3M Loisirs (next to Coco Beach Hotel)
Rental of all kind of high-quality equipment: tents and sleeping bags, quads bikes, snorkelling gear, motorbikes, canoes, etc. They organize trips to Masoala, Nosy Mangabe and surrounding places with English speaking guides. Professional and reliable operator (that is why it is more expensive than others).

Explorer Madagascar
Phone: 57 721 49
Reasonable priced operator offering adventure and nature trips to Masoala and Nosy Mangabe. Good option for budget travellers.

Maroa Tours
Phone: + 261 (0)33 12 057 19
Mail: 
maroatours@gmail.com
Web: http://maroatours.com

Run from Coco Beach by the exceptional English speaking guide Rakoto. He will arrange everything (transport, accommodation, local guides) for any kind of trip you are willing to do according to your budget: pirogue excursion, trekking through Masoala, Nosy Mangabe, and also visits to vanilla farms and weaving workshops.

Relais de Masoala
The hotel organises several tours to different places as well. Excellent service and guides, high-quality equipment but not that cheap (www.madagascar-lodge.com)

Transportation

The easiest and by far most comfortable way of reaching Maroantsetra is by plane. Air Madagascar flies several times a week from Tana, Tamatave, Sambava and Antalaha. If you are thinking about this option, you should book in advance: most people choose flying and the aircrafts are usually pretty small (15-20 seats).

There are also cargo boats between Tamatave, Sainte Marie and Maroantsetra. The journey takes about 10 hours to Sainte Marie and 20 to Toamasina.

For the toughest travellers there is a third option: hiking from/to Antalaha or Mananara.

Practical guide

There is currently only one bank in town, which do not accept Visa card, only Mastercard and traveller cheques. Just be sure you have enough cash just in case!

BTM-BOA
Rue Clemenceau
Phone: 57 721 44

Mobile phones work most of times, and there will be Internet connection soon.

There is a big supermarket (Dounia) where you can find all you need for a multi-day trip, and a rural dispensary.


Masoala national park 

See under Masoala National Park

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