Along the Route Nationale 2 (RN2)
Toamasina is a province of Madagascar with a surface of 71,911km². It has a population of 2.8 million (2004). The capital of both the Toamasina province and the Atsinanana region is also called Toamasina (Tamatave in French). It is the most important seaport of the country. Toamasina can be reached from the capital Antananarivo (locally known as Tana) via the RN2.
Driving on the RN2 from Tana to Toamasina, you will see the scenery change. First the red earth and the typical brick houses will attract your attention, then you will pass through the mountains with breathtaking views, before arriving in the rainforests around Moramanga. This first town after leaving Tana has several banks, some of which accept Visa and MasterCard, also at the ATMs. Here you can take a taxi-brousse to Andasibe National Park or to Lac Alaotra.
25 kilometres from Moramanga, still on the RN2, you have to turn left if you want to visit Andasibe National Park and the Mitsinjo Reserve. You can ask the driver of the taxi-brousse you took in Tana to stop at the road to Andasibe. Hotel Feon’ny Ala is at walking distance from the RN2, is affordable and the staff speaks a little English. However, if you prefer to also visit the pretty village Andasibe, it is better to take the local taxi-brousse from Moramanga. The Orchidée Hotel or the Mikalo is a good choice to spend the night.
The next town along the RN2 is Brickaville. You have arrived in Madagascar’s fruit region. In Brickaville the people from surrounding villages sell their fruits, which will then be transported to the capital. Large plantations of lychees, bananas or mangos can be found here, as well as sugar cane and spices like cloves, cinnamon and the world’s best vanilla. Brickaville has a hotel and several hotelys (small restaurants). Tourists who want to visit Fetraomby will start their real adventure from here.
After passing Brickaville you are two thirds of the way down the road to Toamasina. After crossing the Rianila River the scenery will change again, you will be travelling north parallel to the coastline. The Ravinala (Travellers’ Palm – national symbol of Madagascar) grows in abundance. You will sense the nearby presence of the Indian Ocean. Every now and then you may catch a glimpse of the Canal des Pangalanes, a waterway of lakes connected by canals, totalling up to 600 kilometres. The Canal was constructed for transportation and is still being used for this purpose today. Once you have passed an impressive oil palm plantation, Toamasina town is only another 45 kilometres further down the road.
The provincial and regional capital Toamasina is mainly visited by tourists as a stopover on the way to the Canal des Pangalanes or Ile St-Marie. The town itself has all the facilities you will need: restaurants, hotels, markets, a post office, banks, supermarkets and internet cafés. On the beach, locals will try to sell you a trip on horse back and you can travel around the city in one of the numerous pousse-velos (tricycles) or even with a pousse-pousse (rickshaw).
Travelling further north after Toamasina you will arrive at the popular beach resort of Foulpointe and a little further north lies Soanierana Ivongo, from where you can take the boat to Ile Saint Marie, just 8 kilometres offshore and a popular holiday destination. Here you will find plenty of beach hotels. During the season (July – September) you can do some whale spotting, since thousands of whales are on their way back to the South Pole after mating or giving birth in the Antongil bay. Other pastimes you can enjoy here are hiking, cycling, diving and snorkelling.