From Toamasina to Mananjary, lakes, lagoons, streams connected by canals dug out at the end of the 19th Century, totalling up to 600 kilometres of waterway, known as the Pangalanes Canal.


Pangalanes Canal

The Canal runs parallel to the Indian Ocean. The strip of land between the salt and the sweet water measures just a few dozen metres.

The purpose of the canal was transport between Toamasina and the many villages and towns along the canal. Until this day the canal serves as such.


It is easy to navigate a boat on these waters, and it is very worthwhile.  The canal and its banks are a rare combination of an ecological system dominated by the Indian Ocean and that of the tropical forests more inland.


On the inland-shores there are areas where the plants are abundant, especially in the remaining pockets of tropical forest. There are little villages to visit and several tourist destinations, like a lemur park, a nature reserve, an agro touristic site, a distillery of essential oils, an orchid garden, …. too much to mention.


Only on Mondays the train leaves Moramanga for Toamasina. Centre Lambahoany’s clients use it for their journey from Andasibe to Andranokoditra. In Andasibe they visit the Mitsinjo Park to spot the Indri-indri, the black and white lemur locally knowns as Babakoto.

Andranokoditra is situated on the strip of land between the Indian Ocean and the Pangalanes Canal. Apart from the train once a week, this fishing-village-cum-seaside-resort can only be reached by boat. It is also the operating base for several outings.

Taking the train is an experience in itself, not reaching the destination is the goal but the journey itself. Relax and enjoy the company of the other rail passengers, the changing landscape, the bustle at the railway station where local women have all kind of mouth-watering snacks on offer.

It takes some planning, but it is an experience not to be missed.



The true Darwin island

A month of diversity spent in just a small part of a majestic country leaves me thinking how many wondrous things are left to see in this part of the world. An impression of our holiday can be read in the following excerpts.

Primary rainforests with lemurs, spiders, centipedes, millipedes, frogs, gekko’s and chameleons in all sorts and sizes. Not to mention medicinal plants, pandanuce, palmtrees, rose wood and palissander.

The Canal des Pangalanes with its awe-inspiring lakes, white sandy beaches and fishing villages and all this is just a stone’s throw away from the relentless crashing and beating of the Indian ocean. Watching the fishermen braving the waves in small pirogues at first dawn is something I’ll never forget.

The humpback whales, just of the Isle Sainte Marie, did justice to their reputation by jumping from the water, splashing their fins and tales and performing an occasional spy hop.

Exceptional ‘off the beaten track’ days with the people from Fetraomby and the surrounding villages of Andranaotra, Lanonana and Razanaka. Trekking through primary rainforest whilst seeing various kinds of truly wild lemurs, wading through rivers and rice paddies whilst eating bananas and anon fruit straight from the tree. Meeting people living a simple but happy life surrounded by nature and the ones they love.

Many thanks to George and Marcia, from Centre Lambahoany in Tamatave, for putting us in to contact with the lovely and kind people of Madagascar. I hope they will continue this important work for many years to come so the Malagasy people can profit from tourism without losing their culture and biodiversity.


Photo: Canal des Pangalanes, Wikipedia