Fort Dauphin is a sleepy beach town in southeast Madagascar, offering breathtaking white sand beaches, friendly locals, and a variety of cultural experiences and sights. It’s a must-see for anyone visiting the country.
Located on the southeast side of Madagascar, Fort Dauphin (also called Tolagnaro) offers both scenery and cultural experiences. The history-rich city is mainly known for its gorgeous crescent-shaped beaches nestled just south of the Saint Louis peak, a range of forest-clad mountains.
The deep blue color of the Indian Ocean wrap around the north, east, and south sides. A largely sleepy town, Fort Dauphin is rich in culture, cuisine, and history. Whether you’re shopping at a local market, hiking the nature reserves, or enjoying a lazy day on the beach, you’ll feel right at home.
Fort Dauphin History
In 1642, Jacques de Pronis led an expedition of the French East India Company to Madagascar. Initially settling in Sainte Luce, Pronis married the daughter of a local chief in an attempt to gain favor with the Malagasy. At the time, his marriage to a black woman was considered taboo.
As a result, his men began to turn against him. Couple this with the addition of men to the fort, and both moral and food began to run short. Lethal fevers overcame the men, who were forced to move to the drier Tholongar peninsula.
The new settlement was named Fort Dauphin, after Louis XIV. As another point of contention, the Catholic men refused to be governed by a Protestant. This resulted in Pronis being taken as a prisoner. He eventually escaped and deported the rebels to Bourbon Island.
Upon the arrival of Etienne de Flacourt in 1648, Pronis left to conquer other lands. Under Flacourt’s reign, order was restored to the island, but the natives kept him in a constant state of harassment throughout his entire term in office.
Eventually, Pronis returned to Fort Dauphin in an attempt to gain back his authority, but the colony was showing signs of weakness. One night, a drunken man set fire to a roof, and the town was nearly reduced to ashes.
But Pronis was determined to see the colony succeed, and successfully organized an effort to rebuild. Perhaps the stress was too much, however, as he died at the young age of 36. Meanwhile, Flacourt perished when his ship, the Holy Virgin, was attacked by the Turks.
In 1674, a ship was sent to evacuate all settlers to Reunion, but the crew found the settlement in ashes. As a result, King Louis XIV abandoned the colony. Fast forward a few hundred years, and the French eventually gained back control of Fort Dauphin.
Today, the city is part of the new Republic of Madagascar, with the residents of the island belonging to the Malagasy tribe. With such a rich history, Fort Dauphin offers many cultural and historical sights.
Things to See
From beautiful nature reserves and white sand beaches to old forts and churches, there’s something for everyone in Fort Dauphin. Below are some of our top picks for must-see sights.
Libanona beach is a crescent-shaped beach with white sand and happens to be the biggest in the city. It’s rarely crowded and offers excellent surfing.
While the city has seen its fair share of destruction, there are some historical buildings that have survived. One example is the Kaleta family house, near the hotel Dauphin. Take a walk through the town and you’ll see colonnades and ochre buildings.
Behing the mosque are the remains of a fort built sometime in the seventeenth century. While there’s not much there, peering through the square windows will certainly take you back in time.
An Indo-Pakastani mosque overlooks the Lobanona beach, and is worth a look for tourists seeking a more religious aspect to their trip.
The fort in the Anosy region features a unique perspective on the rich culture and history of the city, in much greater detail than we outlined above.
Fort Flacourt is named after the fearless leader who rebuilt the city and dates back to 1643. It’s an active military base, and there aren’t many ruins. A word of caution: if you do visit, the soldiers will try to get you to pay them for a tour.
Peak Saint Louis
If it’s a view you seek, then climbing Saint Louis Peak should be at the top of your list. The peak is situated on the north side of the city, so you’ll be able to see sweeping views of nature reserves, beaches, and the city.
From east to west, you can see Saint Luce, the Lokaro Islands, the tip of Evatra, Cove Dauphine, the tip of Libanona, cape Ranavolona, and Lake Andriambe. To reach the summit, you have one of two options.
The factory SIFOR is the shortest route, but you’ll need to be in shape; it’s also the steepest, and will take approximately 2 hours. The second option is at Marillac and is a 3 hour walk down the road. Either way, we suggest hiring a guide for safety purposes.
Saiadi Botanic Gardens
In the Saiadi Botanic Gardens, you’ll find a wide variety of Madagascar’s native flora, along with lemurs, birds, and other animals. If you choose to visit, plan to spend at least half a day walking the grounds.