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Introducing Tamatave (Toamasina)

Mada’s second city, Toamasina (often still known by its French name Tamatave) was developed as a resort during colonial times. Photographs from a hundred years ago show French holidaymakers posing in long bathing costumes in front of wooden beach huts. These days, the town is a popular holiday destination among the more affluent Malagasy. Every Sunday, come rain or shine, the town’s fashionable youth gather on the seafront to promenade, flirt and ride around in high-wheeled pousses-pousses (rickshaws).

Despite its reputation as a pleasure resort, first impressions of the town are not edifying, especially if you arrive during one of the frequent downpours. Once-grand colonial buildings, now covered in mould, line the streets.

But despite this atmosphere of decay, Toamasina is a vibrant and important town, a centre of commerce for the east and one of the country’s major ports. It’s also a convenient spot to break the journey between Antanana­rivo and Île Sainte Marie, or to organise a trip down the Canal des Pangalanes.