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Pangalanes Canal (Pangalanes Channel)

map pangalanes canal
  © University of Texas

 |  Pangalanes Canal  |  Manambato  |  Akanin'Ny Nofy (Lac Ampitabe)  |  Ambila  |  Vatomandry  |  Mahanoro  |  Nosy Varika  |  Sakaleona Falls  |  Mananjary 

Pangalanes Canal

Pangalanes canal
View of the Panganales Channel from the air
© Bushhouse
Behind its coral beaches there is an almost continuous line of lagoons from Foulpointe to Farafrandana. These are linked by man-made channels to form an inland waterway called the Pangalanes Canal. The Canal des Pangalanes, a 600-kilometerlong lagoon formed naturally by the washing of sand up on the island by the Indian Ocean currents and by the silting of rivers, has been used both as a means of transportation up and down the coast and as a fishing area. 
The canal was constructed under the governance of General Joseph Gallieni during the early French colonial years of 1896-1904. It was designed to facilitate transportation of goods to the main trading port of Tamatave, because shipping on the Indian Ocean was too dangerous. The canal still dominates daily life in this region as it provides the main source of trade, transport and travel. Cruising by boat on the calm waters of Pangalanes is a fascinating journey through time and history. Many traditional Betsimisaraka villages can be seen along the banks, as well as pirogues (traditional dugout canoes), local fishermen, over-crowded ferries and rafts with straw huts carrying timber en-route to Tamatave. Villagers wave and shout at the passing boats and fishermen yell from the other bank asking you if you spent a good night!

There are several ways to organize a trip on the Pangalanes. First of all, you have to choose your route. The most popular one is the circuit of three days and two nights from Mananjary to Mahanoro, and then a transfer between Manambato and Tamatave, via Palmarium (highly recommended!). This exploration of the channel might be a little superficial but it does offer a good insight view of the canal’s life. The journey from Manambato to Tamatave passes through some large lakes and the last 10 kilometres are probably the most interesting.

Another possible circuit is a day trip from Brickaville to Manambato, which offers a relatively complete picture of the channel and is an ideal excursion if you come from Tana and Andasibe. (You can stay a couple of days in Manambato,- the area is really enchanting- before continuing to Toamasina through Palmarium). We recommend this trip, especially those who are unable to explore the Pangalanes further south. Locals are little accustomed to vazahas, the scenery is frankly fabulous and the extraordinary pleasant atmosphere make this trip a really worthwhile enterprise.
The most adventurous travellers can choose the more difficult route between Mananjary and Tamatave, which usually takes three days at slow pace. After getting to the village of Mahanoro (with good accommodation possibilities), you can continue with a taxi-bush further to Vatomandry (where it is possible to return on boat either to Manambato or continue Tamatave), to Brickaville or directly to Tamatave.
There is also a boat service connecting Mananjary to Mahanoro and Vatomandry to Tamatave. Boats are generally safe, but very much overloaded. The best is to go to the fluvial port of Tamatave and wait there for a departing ship or rent a boat bush if you're in a bigger group. This is certainly much less expensive than an organized trip.

red bellied lemur
Lemurs, like this red bellied one,  are a common sight in the Pangalanes Channel © Gail Johnson

Recommendable  tour operators are:

Europe Voyages
Mail: irma@moov.mg  madatravel@arcor.de
Web: http://www.europe-voyages.de

La Route des Epices
Mail: laroutedesepices@moov.mg
Web: http://www.pangalanes.eu

Holidays Madagascar
Tel: (+ 261 20) 24 105 21
e-mail: europe@holidays-mada.com  
Web: www.holidays-mada.com  

Soft Line
BP 532 Tamatave
Tel / Fax 53 329 75 
Soft Line offers cruises departing from Tamatave to Ambila and Andevoranto aboard a fully equipped ship, with a crew of 10 people. 6 luxury cabins (one family). Entertainment on board.

The towns along the Pangalanes Channel


The village of Manambato, at the banks of the Rasoabe lake, forms an integral part of the Pangalanes canal. Manambato is a truly enchanting place, one of the most attractive spots of the East Region. Visitors can relax at the lake, hike in the hinterland, discover the historic site of Andevaranto, stroll by boat on the canal and talk to the many fishermen. To get there, follow a sign on the right onto a dirty track about 11 km after passing the Ampasimanolotra bridge. The track is 7 km long and is an bad condition but normally also ok for for any type of vehicle. To get there by your own means, should get off the taxi-brousse at the junction road and walk the last kilometres on foot or hitchhike. To leave, the best is getting to Ampitabe lake by boat, (about 1,30 m of Manambato), and then continue (also by boat) to Toamasina after visiting the reserve of Akanin'ny Nofy.

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

You can find basic but really cheap accommodation for 10000 Ar, with shared toilet, cold water and no electricity in Hôtel Hibiscus, Au Bon Coin Zanatany and L’Epibar.

Chez Luigi
Phone: + 261 20 56 720 20
Nice setting next to the beach, very comfortable place with 4 rooms and 3 bungalows. The restaurant is very popular and serves delicious meals. Book in advance! Recommended.
Prices between 20 and 28 €

Hôtel Rasoa Beach
Phone: 56 720 18
Bungalows for 2 or 4 people not far from the channel. Clean and practical. There is a good restaurant as well.
Price between 32,000 and 47,000 Ar

Les Acacias Bungalows
Phone: + 261 20 22 404 29  / (0)32 12 338 35
Web: www.acaciasbungalows.com
Mail: info@acaciasbungalows.com
Pleasant, bright and comfortable double and familiar bungalows located on a very beautiful setting. Excursions by ship and transfers to Tamatave offered.Good choice! 
Double bungalow for 18 €, famiiar up to five people for 22 €

Akanin'Ny Nofy (Lake Ampitabe)

Known as the ‘nest of dreams’, this peaceful and relaxing haven is home to white sand beaches, forests, scattered orchids, strings of lakes and mangroves, all factors that have made the reserve to one of the most popular visits in the Pangalanes canal. Located on a peninsula of about 35 ha. on the shores of Lake Ampitabe (which is separated from the Indian Ocean by a mere line of very thin coastal dunes, that sometimes are a few meters width only), this protected area is home to nearly 100 000 palm trees specific to Madagascar. Ten species of lemurs live in freedom in the reserve, as well as reptiles, amphibians and crocodiles. Visitors can watch Indri Indri, sifakas, mouse and crowned lemurs and even the shy and extraordinary endangered Aye Aye. To visit this reserve you will need a local guide that will accompany you during two hours walk. Akanin’ny Nofy has few hotels comprising bungalows built with traditional materials which gives an authentic appearance and which inside give some luxury and comfort.

Admission is Ar 10.000. Transfers by boat are provided by all hotels (Ar 400 000 to T
amatave, Ar 190 000 to Manambato)

Paradise on earth! © Madagascar Travel Guide

Where to sleep (prices from 2013)

Bush House
Phone: 22 530 70
Web: www.bushhouse-madagascar.net
Mail: bushhouse@boogiepilgrim-madagascar.com
11 comfortable bungalows with private bathroom and 2 cheaper rooms. Very beautiful location, with an excellent view of the lake from the terrace. Excursions, different activities and transfers offered. Good food (half board compulsory)
Bungalow with half board 42 € for one person, 52 € double (47 € and 70 € with full board)
Room with half board 36 € for one person, 48 € for two (40 € and 60 € with full board)

Hôtel Palmarium
Phone: 033 14 847 34
Web: www.palamarium.biz
Mail: hotelpalmarium@yahoo.fr
Large and very comfortable bungalows with private bathroom and hot water by the lake shore; there are also cheaper but less attractive rooms.  The location is ideal, specially the terrace with hammocks. Inexpensive and good restaurant. Good quality report. Recommended!
Double bungalow from 25 to 36 €, triple bungalow for 42 €

Hôtel Pangalanes
Phone: 53 334 03
12 double and familiar bungalows in the middle of the Vohibola Forest on an incredible setting by the lake. The bungalows are not so comfortable like the previous ones, but cheaper anyhow!

Ony Hotel
Phone: +261 (0)33 11 587 25
Mail: onyhotellaoka@moov.mg
Web: http://onyhotel.free.fr
Nice set of big, comfortable and traditionally built bungalows between the Indian Ocean and the Lake Ampitabe. The location is heavenly, ideal to relax, bath and have wonderful walks.
Double bungalow for 19 €


Ambila was a spa centre after the colonial time, when hunters came here on train to shot crocodiles to death. Devastating hurricanes along with the abandonment of the train station and the decline of the Pangalanes canal let the charm of this flourishing village vanish long time ago, even though the place is certainly gaining on visitors again thanks to its superb location on a land fringe between the swell of the ocean and the peaceful waters of the canal.

Where to sleep

Hôtel Relais Malaky
Phone: 56 260 13
Nice and comfortable hotel with rooms and bungalows; not far from the sea and the bus station. Problems with the water supply. Good restaurant.

Ambila Beach
Pleasant bungalows by the channel, garden with pool.

Le Nirvana
Phone: 033 14 763 55
Charming location! Comfortable bungalows in the middle of a wonderful setting. The restaurant serves very good food. Recommended.
Price for two people 20000 Ar


This village on the eastern bank of the Sandramanongy river was probably built in the early eighteenth century and reached its major splendour in the 19th century, as it became a prosperous port for goods being transported to the Tananarivo through the forest. Now it is the town’s beaches which attract mainly capital’s residents, as they are the closest beaches to Tana. There is not much to do here, but the place does offer some pretty good stays for visitors ending their journey along the Pangalanes.

Where to sleep (prices from 2013)

Phone: + 261 20 53 822 63
Basic bungalows with private toilet and hot water in a charming location. Good restaurant.
Price for two people 14 €, triple bungalow for 18 €

Espace Zazah Robert
Phone: + 261 20 53 821 03
15 basic and traditional bungalows with pool on the outskirts by the river and 30 rooms in town with AC, TV and hot water.
Double bungalow from 20,000 Ar, double room  from 28,000 Ar

Haiti Beach
Phone: + 261 20 53 821 26
This hotel consist of big basic rooms with shared toilet in the centre of Vatomandry.
Room for four people 17 €, bigger room up to 8 people for 34 €

Le Reseda
Phone:+261 20 53 822 05
Modest but comfortable bungalows from 23,000 Ar

Canoes are sometimes literally full loaded © Nicolas C


The town’s name means “that who makes you happy” because the word “noro”, contained in the town’s name, is often spoken during the circumcision ritual, which is a happy event in the country’s tradition. A Merina fort was built here after the capitulation of local chiefs who ruled this region. You can swim in the beach and visit the enjoyable Sahatsio falls (located 18 north). Mahanoro is also the ending point for Pangalanes excursions from Mananjary. It is not possible to continue to Vatomandry from here. A very beautiful paved road  leads to Tamatave (Ar 12000). Mahanoro has also a BOA bank where you can change money.

Where to sleep

Hôtel Tropicana
Phone: 53 901 33
Basic but comfortable bungalows on the beach with hot water and private bathroom.
Price for two people 16000 Ar
Price for four people 24000 Ar

Nosy Varika (the Island of Lemurs)

Nosy Varika was once covered with a thick primeval forest and inhabited by lemurs. Then one day, fishermen from a small nearby village (Ambodisana, 5 Km South) came to settle on the island. 

Sakaleona Falls

These are the highest and most spectacular falls of Madagascar (with a height of 200 m). They do deserve a real expedition of a few days.
From Nosy Varika, go should go to the village of Ampasinambo in all-terrain vehicle. From here there is 18 km walk to the falls (a local guide and porters must in recruited in Ampasinambo). Bivouac near the falls is possible.


The city is a major commercial centre thanks to its port and its outlet on the Pangalanes Canal. The place was once known as the pearl of the Indian Ocean because of the precious stones and revenues earned from its plantations. During colonial days foreign concessionaries made a fortune exploiting the richness of the coffee and clove plantations in the area. The town remains an attractive destination. The beach is still accessible to the public and the town is wondrous calm. Today colonial architecture exists side by side with local homes.

pangalanes canal
Traditional fisher canoes are everywhere to find along the Pangalanes © Nicolas C

What to see

  • Sambatra or the Circumcision feast

The "Sambatra" (which means joy, cheerfulness, happiness),  is a collective circumcision ritual held in Mananjary every seven years during the dry season by the Antambahoaka tribe, where over a thousand young boys are circumcised as a symbolic rite of their maturity. This collective circumcision can be spread over a period of three months. Not a tear will be shed in order not to offend the gods. A traditional agricultural calendar sets date of celebration, which has necessarily to take place on Friday.

  • Mahela lake

5h by pirogue. This large lake which opens onto the sea is protected by a coral reef. A fishers’s village is perched between the lake and ocean on a sand dune shaded by coconut trees.

  • Vato Sarilambo

At Ambohitsara you will find a stunning sculpture called "Vatolambo" (the stone boar), cut in a white stone by Indians from Mangalore in the early twelfth century. Others defend that statue dates back to the time of Arab and Persian immigrations around the year 900. The statue is enclosed in a wooden gate which is locked. The village head requires an entrance fee for the open and tell his story.

You can access the small village of Ambohitsara directly by boat through the astonishing and luxuriant vegetation of the Pangalanes canal. The return journey takes about 7 hours by pirogue or “just” 4 by motorboat.

Where to sleep (prices from 2013)

Budget accommodations

Chez Ivonna
Simple but nice bungalows for 22,000 Ar with a very beautiful garden. Good and inexpensive food. Good choice.

Chez Stenny
Phone: + 261 20 72 942 66
3 rooms and 4 bungalows, all with commune bathroom and cold water. Good restaurant.
A room costs 17,000 Ar, one bungalow for four people 20,000 Ar

Middle class hotels

Le Jardin de Mer
Phone: + 261 20 72 090 70
Web: http://jardindelamer.free.fr
7 comfortable bungalows with hot water and private bathroom on the beach surrounded by a beautiful garden. Camping is possible. There is a swimming- pool.
Price for two people 43,000 Ar

Le Patio
Phone: +261 20 79 900 53
Mail: vitllala@gmail.com 
This "latino" hotel is located on the city centre of Manajary and has 9 rooms with private facilities and hot water. The atmosphere is exotic and friendly, the restaurant serves good tapas. Single room for 32,000 Ar, double for 35,000 Ar

Sorafa Hôtel
Boulevard Maritime
Phone: + 261 20 72 092 01
Mail: sorafahotel@moov.mg
5 bungalows and 10 rooms just renewed with fan and hot water, all comfortable and clean. Excellent location on the beach. Trips to the channel are offered. There is a swimming-pool too. Delicious restaurant. Good quality report. Recommended.
Double room for 48,000 Ar, bungalow for 53,000 Ar

High end accommodations

Vahiny Lodge (La Plantation)
Phone: 72 090 01 / 032 024 68 22
Mail: laplantation@moov.mg
10 luxurious bungalows on the Canal near the airport. Spa and pool. Wonderful location in the middle of a huge fruits plantation. Many excursions organised. Half and full board possible.
Price for one bungalow 93 €