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The East of Madagascar


General description  |  Climate   |  The highlights

General description
map East Madagascar Madagascar’s East was once a continuous lush green corridor of moist lowland forests extending along the eastern escarpment strip until an altitude of 800 m. Under this immense forested canopy a countless number of species had found an ideal habitat. Unfortunately, the fate of this natural balance reversed completely and these forests are now one of the most threatened habitats in the world. A significant portion of the forest cover has completely disappeared due to rapid clearance by the shifting cultivation practiced by local people and other deforestation factors like uncontrolled logging. Lowlands of the southern and eastern parts have been dramatically affected by heavy deforestation, as any boat trip on the Pangalanes channel would show. The coastal line at both sides of the channel is full of single-crop farming plantations: lychee, sunflower, coffee, cacao and of course vanilla are the main products. 
Pangalanes canal
Canoe on the Pangalanes Canal © Nicolas C

Significant remains of the old gigantic lowland rain forests are isolated in rather inaccessible landmarks as the Masoala Peninsula, Northeast of the country, which, with 6,000 mm rainfalls yearly, is also the most humid region of the country. Travellers would be better prevented to visit this remote region during the destructive cyclone season from November until March.
After so much wildlife, many visitors opt to head to the laid-back marine ecosystem of Sainte Marie (also called Nosy Boraha) and relax under the palm trees of the incredible beaches of this small paradise. During the austral winter, Sainte Marie is also a perfect place to watch the humpback whales.

Wherever your destination is: musicians playing traditional instruments such as the zither-like "valiha", the "akordogna" (accordion) or the rattle "kaiamba" will likely accompany you on your way. Music plays an essential role in Malagasy life and the local tribes of the Betsimisaraka and Antandroy in the area of Tamatave are certainly no exception. If you can, try to witness a traditional tromba possession ceremony, where communication between the living and ancestral spirits is established by a medium. Another thrilling ritual is the “Sambatra” circumcision festival, held between July and September.


Climate

The eastern part of Madagascar is the wettest region of the island. The tropical humid climate is responsible for the constant rainfalls. The amount of rains decreases while moving southwards. The “dry” season lasts from August to December, although a shower usually falls almost every day, so do not forget your rain gear when coming here! During the rest of the year, the months where it rains the most are February and March. The cyclone season lasts from the end of December till March. Please avoid a visit during these months. The hottest months, with an average temperature of 30°C are March, April and December. The rest of the year, temperatures are cooler, between 20° to 28°C on average. Only during August and September the thermometer is below 20°C, and it can get a little colder during the nights.


The highlights

- Tamatave (Toamasina): the second biggest city of Madagascar is a pleasant place with beautiful colonial buildings, a huge beach and a relaxing atmosphere, ideal to start a trip along the Pangalanes Canal.

-  Pangalanes Canal: This 645 km long artificial channel, recently discovered by tourists caught by its unspoilt beaches, was built by the French during colonial times and it represents since then the only mean of transport in the region.

-  Sainte Marie: this coral island of 50 km length was during the 18th century a beloved hideaway for buccaneers. The charms of this paradisiacal patch of earth were obviously so irresistible that some of them even decided to spend here the rest of their lives, as the pirates’ cemetery show. Paradise on earth!

-  Andasibe National Park: this is one of the most popular destinations for all travellers. Good accessible all year around, this forest is the home of the Indri and many other lemurs and other animals.

-   Masoala National Park: These fantastic and isolated moist forests are the most diverse of the country and contain exceptionally high levels of endemism, as its great diversity of birds show. It is therefore no wonder, that Masoala national park has become a Mecca for any serious naturalist.

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