The Toamasina Province, also known as the Tamatave Province in the east of Madagascar covers an area of 71,911 square kilometres. The province is divided into three regions - Alaotra-Mangoro, Analanjirofo, and Atsinanana. The Alaotra-Mangoro region is further sub-divided into Ambatondrazaka, Amparafaravola, Andilamena, Anosibe An'ala and Moramanga. The Analanjirofo region contains the districts of Fenerive Est, Mananara Nord, Maroantsetra, Nosy-Boraha, Soanierana Ivongo, and Vavatenina.
The Atsinanana region contains the capital of the province Toamasina, as well as Antanambao Manampotsy, Mahanoro, Marolambo, Vatomandry, and Vohibinany.
The East Coast has a sub-equatorial climate and as it is most directly exposed to the trade winds, has the heaviest rainfall, averaging as much as 3.5 metres annually. The region is notorious for its hot, humid climate and for the destructive cyclones that occur during the rainy season, from December to March. The climate has an effect on the economy of the region, with many rural communities living in poverty. However exportable crops are produced in the region and the bustling Toamasina Harbour is the largest in the country.
There are several visitor attractions in the region. Toamasina is the second largest city in Madagascar and features beautiful colonial buildings, a vast beach and a relaxing atmosphere. Toamasina is an ideal place to start a trip along the Pangalanes Canal. The Pangalanes Canal is a 645 kilometres long artificial channel, that was built by the French during colonial times and is one of the means of transport in the region. Ile Sainte Marie, the coral island of 50 kilometres in length was a popular pirate hideaway during the 18th century, and is now popular for diving and snorkelling with tourists looking for a tranquil getaway. The Andasibe National Park is one of the most popular destinations for visitors to Madagascar as it is accessible all year around and the forest is the home of endemic lemurs and many other exotic flora and fauna.
Toamasina, meaning "like salt" or "salty", also known as Tamatave, is the capital of the Atsinanana region on the East Coast of Madagascar. The city is the main seaport of the country, located 215 kilometres North-East of Antananarivo, near the centre of the eastern coast. The city is also served by Toamasina Airport.
The importance of Toamasina is largely due to the existence of a coral reef that forms a spacious and fairly commodious harbour that can be entered via two openings. The city centre is built upon a sandy peninsula which projects at right angles from the coastline. There are a considerable number of houses. shops and merchant offices crowded together here on the main thoroughfares.
The area is famous for its beautiful beaches, although sharks and pollution often prevent swimming and water sports. The colourful street market, Bazary Be, in the heart of the city is one of the most popular sites of Toamasina, specialising in exotic spices and locally made handicrafts. The city features wide palm tree-lined avenues perfect for an afternoon stroll and has a wide selection of hotels and restaurants to choose from.
Vatomandry is a coastal city and the administrative centre of the Vatomandry District. Its name means "Sleeping Rocks," coined for the two black rocks near the shore. It is also on the path of the Canal des Pangalanes and Route Nationale 11. Vatomandy is located at the southern end of the amazing series of man-made and natural canals that effectively extends half way down the East Coast of the country. In the pre-colonial 19th century era, Vatomandry was a centre of the Hova government with an active port.
Île aux Nattes
Île aux Nattes which is officially, but less commonly, called Nosy Nato is a small, stunning island south of Île Sainte-Marie, off the East Coast of Madagascar. The island is only 3 kilometres in diameter and the only way to reach it is by lakana, the traditional wooden canoes also known as pirogues, from Île Sainte-Marie. Several lakanas are always on standby at the beach and the trip across only takes about four minutes. During low tide a reasonably good swimmer can swim across the narrow 300 metre channel that separates the two islands.
Due to its small size, the island can be explored in under three hours, but it has a lot to offer from unspoiled tropical beaches with pristine white sand, to coconut and other palm trees scattered along the shore, and a turquoise lagoon protected by coral reefs that is home to a variety of exotic marine life. The biodiversity of the island is fascinating, with trees such as breadfruit, rare orchids and spices such as vanilla, cinnamon, clove and lemon. A small community of ruffed lemurs, known as Sifaka have also been re-introduced to the island.
On Ile Aux Nattes there are no cars or any other forms of modern transport to spoil the peace and tranquillity. There are various activities to enjoy here apart from the beautiful beaches. Scuba diving is popular, as well as fly-fishing in the canal or on the reefs or from a traditional lakana with a local fisherman. A well-known landmark to visit is the Fanilo Blevec lighthouse which is no longer utilised. Visitors to the island during July to September could try spotting some of the famous Humpback-whales which come to breed in the area.
Ile St Marie
Ile Sainte Marie is a tropical island, 8 kilometres off the East coast of northern Madagascar. It was once a haven for pirates but is now a treasure island for tourists seeking palm-lined beaches, coral reefs and relaxation. The island also known as Nosy Boraha, is about 57 kilometres long and 7 kilometres at its widest point, and can be reached by airplane, boat or ferry.
Legendary pirates frequented the island and the legacy of this once thriving pirate population are a number of historical buildings, a few shipwrecks along the shore, the pirate cemetery and some descendants among the local population. The largest and most developed settlement on the island is Ambodifotatra, where the hospital, banks, and a number of shops can be found.
The island offers some of the best scuba diving and snorkelling sites in the world, and is a prime spot for whale watching. Around August they can often be seen daily as they frolic and play in the channel between Sainte Marie and Madagascar. Other attractions include: the oldest Christian church in Madagascar at the Baie des Forbans, which was built in 1837; the pirate cemetery towards the village of St Joseph; the market held on Tuesdays and Thursdays in Ambodifotatra; snorkeling or paddling at the Ambodiatafana grottos; and the Endemika Zoo in the south of the island, home to lemurs, chameleons and other endemic animals. There is also a military fort dating back to 1753, to the east of Lalana Sylvain Roux, and although visitors are not allowed inside, photos can be taken after obtaining permission from the guards. You should also take the opportunity to explore the island's rich natural biodiversity by foot via the numerous hiking trails or by bicycle.
Andasibe is a small town in the east of Madagascar, approximately 150 kilometres east of the capital. It is surrounded by several parks and reserves whose unique wildlife and close proximity to Antananarivo have made this area extremely popular with visitors. The largest is the Andasibe Mantadia National Park, and the Parc Mitsinjo, Réserve de Torotorofotsy and Mahay Mitia Ala are also nearby. On Route Nationale 2, around 8 kilometres east of Andasibe, there are two further parks: the Vohimana Forest and the Maromizaha Reserve. In and around Andasibe, accommodation is more or less centralised along a single main road. When visiting in winter, warm clothing is essential. You should also ensure you have enough cash to hand as the nearest banks/ATMs are in Moramanga.
Andasibe-Mantadia National Park consists of a 155 square kilometre protected area of mainly primary growth forest in the Alaotra-Mangoro Region. The park is composed of two parts, the Mantadia National Park and the Analamazoatra Reserve The park has a humid climate with rainfall on around 210 days of the year. This rainforest provides a habitat to a vast species biodiversity, including many endemic rare and endangered species, including 11 types of lemur, as well as Madagascar's largest lemur, the indri.
The park is just a three hour drive east from the capital on the paved road, Route Nationale 2 (RN 2). Analamazaotra and the park headquarters are short walks from Antsapanana on the RN 2, but special transport must be arranged or hired from local hotels to reach Mantadia. It is possible to hike for 1–6 hours in both parts of the park but a local guide is required for visitors entering either part of the park.
Moramanga is a city partway between the capital and the East Coast in the Alaotra-Mangoro region. The name Mora-manga literally translates as “easy to beautify”. Route Nationale 2 connects the city with Antananarivo and Toamasina, and Route Nationale 44 to Ambatondrazaka, Imerimandroso and Amboavory. The city is also at the junction of the TCE (Tananarive-Côte Est) Railways and at the south end of the MLA (Moramanga-Lac Alaotra) Railways, the only railway junction in the country outside of the capital.
The city of Moramanga has historical significance as the site of the Malagasy Uprising against French colonial rule in March of 1947. Moramanga is also the capital city of the Bezanozano people which is one of the eighteen Ethnic groups of Madagascar. There are several protected areas are near to Moramanga that can be accessed from here, including: the Analamazoatra Reserve, 31 kilometres to the east; the Andasibe-Mantadia National Park, 43 kilometres north-east; and the Peyrieras Reptile Reserve, a butterfly farm and reptile centre, at Marozevo, 40 kilometres west of the city.
Anosibe An'ala is a city in the Alaotra-Mangoro Region, 72 kilometres from Moramanga which is linked by the unpaved road RIP 23 that is only suitable for 4x4 cars. Places of interest include the Sandrangato River that flows near the town where it also forms the Niagarakely falls.