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Fort Dauphin (Taolagnaro)/Madagascar

Introducing Fort Dauphin (Taolagnaro)

Fort Dauphin (its rarely used Malagasy name is Taolagnaro) was just starting to become a popular stop on the tourist trail; then a group of rich foreign companies decided to extract titanium from the soil outside town, and ruined­ it all. Sure, Fort Dauphin had always been remote and windy and often looked as if it had been hit by a grenade (or more likely a cyclone), with craters in the streets, decaying buildings and too much flying dust. But the city also was blessed with good surfing and a gorgeous location along a curved sandy bay dotted with half-sunk shipwrecks.

All that changed when a couple of South African and Canadian companies had the grand idea to mine titanium. Not only is the mining destroying the fragile bay, it’s also wreaking havoc on the tourist industry. The huge influx of foreign workers needing a place to sleep means nearly all of Fort Dauphin’s hotels are fully booked for an entire year straight. Don’t arrive without a reservation or you will be sleeping on the street.

If you can get out of town, however, and are looking for tough travel in beautiful surroundings, then it may be worth stopping off here. A number of excellent ecotourism projects make it relatively easy to get off the mining track and enjoy the lush, semi-tropical landscapes, stands of spiny forest and wild beaches of this corner of Madagascar.

Fort Dauphin was one of the original French territories in Madagascar. In 1643 the Société Française de l’Orient founded a settlement on a peninsula 35km to the south of the present-day town. The colonists constructed Fort Flacourt and named the surrounding settlement Fort Dauphin, after the six-year-old prince who was to become Louis XIV. The colony survived until 1674 when, facing war with the local inhabitants and constant attacks of disease, it was abandoned. Some years later, the French returned in the form of slave traders who used Fort Dauphin as a port. At the end of the 19th century it was incorporated into the united French colony of Madagascar.

Fort Dauphin enjoys one of the sunniest and least humid climates on the east coast, although winds can be strong at any time of year, particularly between September and December. June and July tend to be rainy, with the short dry season beginning around August or September.

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