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Tamatave (Toamasina)

What to see  | Guided tours |  Where to sleep  |  Where to eat  |  Nightclubs  Shopping  |  Transportation  |  Practical guide  Surrounding area

Toamasina (commonly known as Tamatave) is Madagascar second city and with the presence of the main regional seaport has a growing potential for economical activities. It is the country’s largest port, and therefore the country’s commercial hub, handling much of the island's foreign trade.

Three stories explain the origin of its name. One theory states that it was derived form the Portuguese name São Tornás (St Thomas), while another attributes it to King Radama I's first visit to the seaside in 1817; it is said that the king knelt to taste the water and said, 'Toa masina' ('It is salty') own, eastern Madagascar. The town was destroyed by a hurricane in 1927 and rebuilt after that with the modern sector centring on the tree-lined avenue Poincaré.

The city covers comfortably between the Bay Ivondro and the immense beach along the bay and the Indian Ocean. Its colonial past resurfaces through wide boulevards with ancient colonnaded buildings straight stand side by side. For travellers, it’s a pleasant place, with long, wide avenues lined with flamboyants and palm trees, a seaside promenade and a good selection of hotels and restaurants. Toamasina is a popular holiday destination among the Malagasy too and is to Antanarivo what Brighton is to London, or Nice is to Paris. Unlike the waters off Brighton or Nice, however, the sea is not friendly - it’s unwise to swim because the water is polluted and sharks are attracted the abattoir around the corner.
It’s a convenient spot to break the journey between Antananarivo and Ile Sainte Marie, or to organize a trip down the Canal des Pangalanes.

What to see

  • Walking around

Whilst Toamasina is certainly much safer than Tana during daylight, because of increasing 
insecurity on the streets it is definitely recommendable to avoid walking on foot and taking pousse-pousses at night.

Main thoroughfare in Toamasina city is Boulevard Joffre. All commercial activities are here: banks, change services, car rentals, restaurants, tea rooms, pharmacies, souvenir boutiques. All you want indeed! During the day, seafront is interesting, packed of street vendors.

Nice beach along Bd Ratsimilaho especially between Pointe Asti and Pointe Tanio, where you have a great view of the district. But remember "bathing is strictly forbidden in the city! (because of the sharks’ danger). For swimming, you will need to go further north, where sharks cannot enter the beautiful lagoon surrounded by coral reefs.

Tamatave ligthouse
Tamatave's lighthouse on a old French postcard

The visit of the local markets is compulsory for any visitor. You can head with your pousse-pousse either to Bazar-Bé ("Big market") or Bazar kely ("Tiny market", behind the train station). You can buy vanilla in all forms: syrup, powder, in sticks, but also other spices, tons of tropical fruits: litchis, mangoes, guayavas, jackfruit, souvenirs shells or local artcraft like the one made with Ravinala leaves.

Wander in the small streets between Rue du commerce and boulevard Ratsimilaho and let yourself being inspired by the vanilla, spices and clove fragrances of the warehouses. If you come in the months of November and December you can probably witness the manufacturing process of litchis: taxi-brousses are loaded and unloaded, litchis are treated, sorted, packaged, put in refrigerating cameras and shipped into the big cargos departing for Europe’s supermarkets. At night, the same streets are packed with kebab stalls. But beware not to walk at night! Rather hire a pousse- pousse or a taxi.

The Avenue of Independence is the widest street of the city. It is where all major administrative buildings are located. Near the town hall, outdoor dances and political meetings are frequently held. Traditional Betsimisaraka dances and kwassa-kwassa shows often continue throughout the night.

Following boulevard Ratsimilaho we cannot miss to appreciate the beautiful Toamasina bay. Old colonial-style buildings succeed on the waterfront lined with palm trees  Several buidings of this style are in really bad shape. Continuing the walk, we go to the Grand Mosque and reach the of the port, full with cranes, freight trains and containers.

pousse-pousse Toamasina
Don't hesitate to use pousse-pousse since this is the only way for pousse-pousse men to earn their living.
© Madagascar Travel Guide

If you are interested in basketry we recommend a sailors club called "Stella Maris" at the backside of Joffre hotel. The wives of fishermen have associated to produce and sell basketry items whose sale contributed to their household (ask for Suzanne). Manager Felix can arrange a visit to the port of Toamasina. In the evening hours, sailors from all over the world come to relax during their stopover.

  • Place de la colonne

It is said that in the seventeenth century, prophetess Timasy Vavitiana lived in this place and making miracles. She was buried in this place and her descendants perpetuated the tradition by being successively buried here to, which turned the spot into a worship place, a practice which did not count on the support of the religious missionaries, the colonial administration decided to exhume the sacred relics and bury them in the municipal cemetery.

  • Belasety tomb

Here rest the mortal remains of prophetess Séraphine Frantsay, who lived in the seventeenth century and was famous for her miracles. Visitors come here to ask her for love, fortune, health or good luck.

  • Musée de l'Université

Open from 8 am to 11:30 am and from 2:30 pm to 5:30 pm.

This museum offers a selection of regional handcrafts, gemstones, archeological funds and some pictures of Toamasina dating from the beginning of last century.

  • Musée du Port

Opens daily except on Monday. This new exhibition shows the history of Toamasina with pictures from the early 20th century including those of the cyclone that destroyed the town in 1927.

  • Palais des enfants

Near the taxi-brousse station.
Here visitors can admire traditional Betsimisaraka shows, as well as singing ortheater shows.

 What to see in the surrounding area of Tamatave

  • Ivoloina zoological park
crowned lemur
The endangered crowned lemur lives mainly in the Ankarana Special Reserve   © Madagascar Travel Guide
In Toamasina city suburbs there is the zoological park of Ivoloina (11 km north of the centre). Created in 1898, it was originally an experimental garden, and offers now a good insight view of thirteen lemur species, as well as a selection of Madagascar’s flora. The park is a project of the primate department of the Duke University and makes a sensational effort in lemur breeding and conservation. Lemur will come to eat bananas in your hands.

The park opens on weekdays from 12 am to 5 pm and weekends from 9 am to 5 pm 
Admission: Ar 12,000.
Website: www.seemadagascar.com

  • Ivondro Falls

Drive on the RN2 south for 25 kilometres. Just before crossing the Ivondro river, there is a track to the right (4X4) that goes up the valley until Volobe, where there is a hydroelectric plant. You will have to leave your vehicle here and continue to the falls on foot.

  • Farafaty

Farafaty (7 km from Toamasina) is the largest Merina fort of the region. The cannons defended the garrison attacks against maritime French and British marines.

  • Prune Island

This beautiful little island covered with dense forest (approximately 1 hour and 30 min by boat) provides an excellent opportunity for a day excursion escaping from the city hastle. Underwater life here is superb, a mask and a tuba will help you to approach closely the wonderful ocean wildlife. Bathing is also safe, since the coral barrier keeps the sharks away. You can also walk through the islands` forests, stroll in the woods or walk to the lighthouse. There is no accommodation, so if you decide to stay overnight, be prepared for sleeping under the starred sky and do not forget a mosquito net.

  • Nosy Ilaintsambo
Thomas Tew
"Thomas Tew relates his exploits to Gov. Fletcher of New York". Painting by Howard Pyle
This small island was once a port, after being a haven for pirates. It is a sacred place for the descendants of the Zanamalata people and has one of their most important cemeteries, which hosts the graves of the Zafindrabe royal family. According to the tradition, a pirate called Thomas Tew disembarked here in 1693. The local queen Antavaratra Rahena received him with so much honours that a child was born from their meeting. This mulatto child (half-caste), a son called Ratsimilaho, was later sent in England to receive an education. At his return, Ratsimilaho succeeded to his mother and united the tribes of the East Coast in only one population that he called the "Betsimisaraka": "The numerous who don't separate". The descendants of Ratsimilaho were called the Zana-Malatas, the "children of the mulattos".
Betsimisaraka people still come today by boat to worship the memory of their ancestors.

Guided tours

Mad Aventure
Lot 2K Parcelle 11-52 Ankirihiry, Tamatave
Phone: +261 (0)34 15 886 36 (Simon)
Web: www.madaventure.com
Professional company specialised in car rental (Buggy Volkswagen). They offer and organize several circuits along the East Coast: Tamatave to Maroantsetra, to Mananjary, Sainte Marie.

Association des Guides Tsimisaraka
Ambolomadinika, Tamatave
Phone: 032 02 456 75
They offer city tours and visits to surrounding places of interest, like Ivoloina Park.

Eastern Tours
Phone: +261 20 53 315 79
Mail: fortin.chan@moov.mg
Web: http://www.mananara.net/
French “expats” organize tours in Tamatave city and some other places next to town.

Cite Jardin 11
032 0200545 / 034 0687768

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

You can choose between a hotel in the city centre (rather practical than charming) or on the way to the airport, which are normally on the sea side, surrounded by a nicer and greener view; prices are generally more expensive than in the city.


Budget accommodations

Phone: 032 40 122 74 / 53 33 979
Located in the city entrance coming from Tana (quite far from the city and the beach). Pleasant, clean and comfortable bungalows, nice garden; hot water, private parking, fan. Very good quality report. Price for two people 10 €, four people for 14 €
Hôtel Nado

14, cite Immobilière
Phone: + 261 20 53 333 11
Mail: sedo@moov.mg
Small hotel next to the bus station, some rooms with AC and TV, rooms from 16,000 to 20,000 Ar depending on the facilities

Hôtel National
Phone: 53 322 90
Next to the market, just renovated. Rooms with hot water and AC.

Hôtel Plage
Boulevard de la Liberation
Phone: 53 320 90
Central located, not far from the beach. Rooms are a little shabby, it can be loud at night (next to a night club)

Marotia Hôtel
Phone: 53 949 22 / 032 04 325 44
Mail: marotia@moov.mg
Quiet location on the seaside and not far from the city centre, bungalows are simple but comfortable. Double bungalow with cold water  10 €, triple with hot water 17 €

Middle class 

Central Hôtel
Boulevard Jofree 16
Phone: + 261 20 53 340 86
Web: www.central-hotel-tamatave.com
15  nice and comfortable rooms with AC, private bathroom, TV, safe. Central located, excellent restaurant (La Véranda)
Double room 28 €, triple room for 30 €, familiar room for four people 35 €

Hôtel Capricorne
Rue de la Batterie
Phone: 53 347 40
Excellent location, next to the city centre and to the sea; just renovated, big and comfortable rooms with AC, TV, hot water. Different prices depending on facilities.

Hôtel Flamboyants
Boulevard de la Libération
Phone: + 261 20 53 323 50
The hotel is pretty old but the rooms are quite big and bright, with TV, hot water. Meals served.
Rooms from 20 € with fan, from 22 € with AC

Hôtel Génération
Boulevard Joffre 129
Phone:+ 261 20 53 321 05
Web: www.hotel-generation.com
Mail: generationhotel@moov.mg
The hotel is nice, the 35 rooms are big and well equipped. The restaurant offers a varied menu with delicious Chinese especialities.
Double room between 23 and 30 € (fan /AC), familiar room for 35 €

Hôtel Joffre
Boulevard Joffre 18
Phone: + 261 20 53 323 90
Web: www.hoteljoffre-tamatave.com
Mail: hotel.joffre@moov.mg
Charming colonial hotel, very well located; all 21 rooms are comfortable, bright and large, with AC, telephone, private bathroom, hot water. Very nice restaurant with a terrace.
Prices between 20 and 45 € for a double room depending on the facilities offered, famliar room for four people 54 €

Hôtel Kenzo
35 Boulevard Augagneur
Phone: 53 349 10
Next to bus station; large and clean rooms equipped with TV, AC, hot water, private bathroom. The restaurant offers a variety of European and Asian food.

Hôtel Toamasina
13, Rue de la Colonne
Phone: 53 335 49
Mail: letoamasinahotel@moov.mg
Comfortable rooms equipped with TV, telephone, safe, AC, private bathroom and hot water. Tasty meals.
Rooms price between 37,000 and 60000 Ar.

Lambahoany Centre
Boulevard de la Liberté, Tanamakoa
Phone: (+) 261- 20-53 01124 / (+) 261-32-4662955
Mail: info@lambahoany.org
Website: www.lambahoany.org/ecotourism-centre/our-tourist-bungalows
Lambahoany is a Ecotourism Centre which offer six charming bungalows made of wood and bamboo and very nice decorated for four people with private facilities not far from the city centre. A day costs 40,000 Ar and breakfast is included. They organise different activities and cultural events, and your mone goes directly to the local community. What else do you need to stay here?
You fin more information about Lambahoany on their website and on this guide here: Community tourism

Longo Hotel
Rue Amiral Pierre
Phone: + 261 20 53 339 54
Mail: longohotel@yahoo.fr
Really comfortable hotel with 28 spacious and stylish decorated rooms. There is also a good restaurant. Good choice!
Double room with fan 22 €, with AC 26 €; familiar room with fan 35 €, with AC 38 €

Maeva Bungalows
Phone: 032 02 278 69
Web: www.maevabungalows.net
Mail: maevabungalows@yahoo.fr
Traditional bungalows made of local materials and equipped with kitchen, satellite TV, private bathroom; central located and near the sea. Several activities and airport transfer are offered. Good value!
Price for a bungalow for three people 28 €

High end accommodations

Hôtel Neptune
Boulevard Ratsimilaho 35
Phone:+ 261 20 53 322 26
Mail: Neptune@moov.mg  
Charming colonial style building by the seaside, with club, pool, casino, conference room. All 47 rooms have all comforts and are really comfortable. The restaurant is very popular and it serves delicious meals. Better book in advance!
Double rooms from 68 €, triple from 78 € 

Sharon Hôtel
Boulevard de la Libération
Phone: 53 304 20
Mail: sharonhotel@moov.mg
It is maybe the most comfortable hotel in the village, offering all international standards: pool, sauna, beauty salon, conference room, business centre, gym. All 35 rooms and 2 suites equipped with AC, mini-bar, satellite TV, safe. Newly refurbished and redecorated.
The restaurant serves excellent Italian food.
Price for one double room 67 €, a suite (with Jacuzzi) 109 €


Bouffe Rapide
Lot 137, Hôpitaly Be, Analakininina
Phone: + 261 20 53 314 56
Basic but comfortable rooms with private toilet, TV and hot water for 20,000 Ar
There are also bungalows with shared toilet and cold water for 11,000 Ar; basic but clean.

Phone:+ 261 20 53 317 42
Very close the airport, ideal for people on their way in or out the city; 15 comfortable bungalows with hot water, fan, TV. Far from the seaside but on a beautiful location. It has a popular restaurant with European and Chinese dishes. Excellent quality report.
Price for two people between 20,000 and 24,000 Ar.

Phone: 53 326 18
20 comfortable bungalows on the seaside with fan and hot water. Very good restaurant.

Le Ravinala
Boulevard Ratsimilaho
Phone: 53 308 83
Mail: vdbdtruong@belgacom.net
Nice and quiet setting on the beach; 8 rooms with private bathroom, hot water, fan. Good and inexpensive restaurant. Good value!

Le Miramar
Boulevard Ratsimilaho
Phone:+ 261 20 53 332 15 /+261 (0)32 65 993 74
Web: www.miramar-hotel-tamatave.com
Mail: Miramar-hotel-tmv@netcourrier.com
20 comfortable and pleasant bungalows with a sea view in a beautiful and green surroundings. All rooms with AC or fan, TV, hot water and private bathroom. The hotel has a huge swimming-pool.
Double bungalow from 34 to 39 €, familiar bungalow for 57 € 

Mamatsara Lodge
Phone: +261 (0)32 42 111 25 / +261 (0)32 02 137 76
Mail: philippephoto@hotmail.com
Web: http://www.mamatsara.com/tamatave
6 welcoming bungalows by the sea with private facilities. Quiet location, good meals and a great pool.
Double bungalow for 26 € with breakfast

Royal Hôtel
Route d’Ivoloina
Phone: + 261 20 53 311 15
15 comfortable, clean and large rooms divided into several categories depending on the facilities (all rooms with fan or AC, TV, private bathroom). The restaurant is average.
Price for two people between 18 to 22 €

Villa Vohitsoa
Phone: 53 349 00   
Small guesthouse close to the airport and next to the beach. Quiet and familiar.

Where to eat

Good and cheap

Bruno Salon de Thé
Boulevard de la Liberation
Maybe the best Patisserie in town. They also have snacks and drinks. It is a good place to meet local people.

Next to Alliance francaise
Small and basic hotely where you can have really tasty and cheap Chinese soup and other oriental dishes.

Tutti Frutti Glacier
Nice and comfortable place where you can order breakfast, ice cream and snacks.

Saify Fils Salon de Thé
30, Boulevard Joffre
Good address for enjoying breakfast, pastries and fresh fruit juices while meeting locals.

Adam & Eve Snack Bar
Crowded local, they serve delicious breakfast, light food and drinks. Recommended!

Le Vesuvio
Boulevard de l’Oua (opposite from Hôtel Espadon)
It is considered the best pizzeria in town. Good prices, excellent pizzas and traditional food.
Just beside it there is a “piano bar” belonging to the same owners with a karaoke. Good choice for a funny evening!

Le perroquet bleu
Rue de l’Aviateur Goulette, 11
Nice decorated restaurant serving very good Italian food in a friendly atmosphere. It is usually full of locals. Good value.

Good cuisine

Le Pacifique
Rue Clemenceau
Excellent Asian dishes, specially Vietnamese traditional food. Closed on Mondays.

La Veranda
Boulevard Joffre
Phone: 53 334 35
Next to the Hôtel Joffre; popular, welcoming and nice decorated old establishment. They offer a wide variety of European, Chinese and local dishes. The food is very good and the portions are large. Good choice.

La Recréa
Boulevard Ratsimilaho
Beautiful location right by the sea, very good food and cocktail bar with live music  some days.

Le Bateau Ivre
Boulevard Ratsimilaho
Phone : 53 302 94
Mail: batoivre@moov.mg
Next to La Recréa, bar and restaurant with seafront in the same complex as the old town swimming-pool, so you can eat and have a free bath! (if you just want to have a bath you must pay entrance) The food is excellent, specially fresh fish and seafood. Live music almost everyday.

Piment Banane
Mail: pimentbanane@moov.mg

New trendy restaurant with different rooms, decoration and atmosphere. Apart from the excellents meals, there are exibitions from local artists and live music.


Queen´s Club Disco
Boulevard Joffre (next to Hôtel Plage)
It is maybe the most lively and popular club in town, so it can be really full at weekends.

 Pandora Station
 Route de l´Aeroport (near the Hôtel Miramar)
 It is snack bar during the day, and a funny dance-floor when the sun goes down.

 Some big hotels, such as Le Neptune or Jupiter have their own clubs and casinos


You cannot miss the town-market (bazary be). Like usually, you find here almost everything: fresh fruits and juices, vegetables, clothes, music, baskets, second hand items, and many many people.

 Librairie G.M.Fakra
 Boulevard Joffre 29
 Phone : 53 321 30
 Good choice of French books, postcards, magazines and local music.

 Avenue de l`Independance
 It is the largest supermarket in Toamasina, where you can find many European brands.

 La Chocolatiere
 Boulevard Joffre
 Maybe the best sweets and candies in town are sold here.

 Nulle Part Ailleurs
 Boulevard Joffre 69
 Wide range of all kind of souvenirs. Good quality, the accept credit card.

 Fleur du Monde
 Boulevard de l`OUA
 Next to Notre Dame church. The sell high-quality  souvenirs and handcrafts. You will nor  find some of them in other shops, so if you want to buy something special, this is the right  place.

Epicerie Le Comptoir
Boulevard de l'Ivondro
This excellent Epicerie offers a wide range of high-qualitiy local products. They also have a shop in Tana


  There was a train connection from Tana to Tamatave in the past, but nowadays it is only a         freight train and passengers are not allowed.

Probably the cheapest way to reach Tamatave from Tana is by road. The RN2 is in good condition and there are many vehicles running this journey everyday. You only have to decide which kind of vehicle you will use: minibus, van, bus. Think how long you want to be on the road (it can take 8 to 14 hours) and how much money you want to spend (between 15000 and 25000 Ar)

Air Madagascar has a daily flight between Tana and Tamatave and once a week from Tamatave to Antsiranana, Mananara, Antalaha, Maroanrsetra, Sambava and Sainte Marie with Air Madagascar and to Mauritius and Reunion with Air Mauritius and Air Austral.

A taxi between the city centre and the airport will charge you about 10,000 Ar.

   Air Madagascar

Araben´ny Fahaleovatena (not far from Hôtel de Ville)
Phone: 53 323 56 / 53 325 43
Web: www.airmadagascar.com

Air Mauritius - Air Austral
Boulevard Joffre 81
Phone : 53 312 43
Web : www.airmauritius.com

There is another way of reaching Tamatave if you are coming from the North : by ship.
There are cargo ships sailing along the East coast from Antsiranana, Mananara, Maroantsetra or Antalaha to Tamatave. It is not a comfortable journey (it takes two or three days from Antsiranana), but if you feel like having an unforgettable experience, just talk with the captain from a cargo ship to arrange everything. You will not regret it!
There are also big and much more comfortable cruises sailing the East Coast, even from Mauritius and Reunion to Tamatave.

   Tropical Service
   23, Boulevard Joffre - 501 Tamatave
   Tél: (261 20) 53 336 79 - Fax: (261 20) 53 334 80
   Web: www.croisiere-madagascar.com
   Email: tropicalservice@moov.mg

Tamatave is also an ideal place to start a trip along the Pangalanes Channel  

Practical guide

Tourist Office
Rue Victor Hugo
Phone: 53 310 92 /  53 912 14
Web: www.tamatave-tourisme.com
Mail: officetouristmv@yahoo.fr

Alliance Francaise
Boulevard Paul Doumer
Phone: 53 334 94
Web : 
Mail :
aftamve@moov.mg     da-aftamve@alliancefr.mg
There are quite a few cultural events: French films, art exhibitions and live music.

French Consulate
Boulevard La Bourdonnais
Phone: 53 327 21

Police Station
Phone : 53 337 78

They are currently opening many Cybers in town, around Boulevard Joffre.


BFV-Société Générale
Corner to Avenue de l´Indépendance and Boulevard Joffre
Phone: 53 325 75
Visa Cards, Western Union transfer, ATM

On the corner to Boulevard Joffre and Avenue de Lattre de Tassingy
Phone: 53 327 97 / 53 334 76

Boulevard Augagneur
Phone : 53 323 85