The origins of the channel
The construction of the Pangalanes Channel dates back to the period of French colonization, initiated in 1896 by General Galliéni in order to facilitate administrative and military control of the region. To sail along the east coast, the French merchant and military navy had to face many dangers, including reefs, high and strong currents, shipwrecks and sharks. The colonial administration then had the idea of linking navigable lakes, lagoons and rivers inland to build a long waterway. It originally was about 700 km long, linking Foulpointe to Farafangana.
The present and future of the channel
Transport of goods
was facilitated by this channel until a short period after the end of colonization. Indeed, due to lack of maintenance, the excavated parts gradually collapsed and water lilies and hyacinths invaded the waterway. However, about 400 km of the channel were restored in the late 1980s, once again benefiting good transport and tourism. A rehabilitation project implemented by the Moroccan agency Marchica MED S.A., in partnership with the Malagasy government, is also in the incubation phase.
An off-road tourist tour
Stopovers in charming villages
The many villages on the banks of the channel were originally set up for the transport of goods. Even today, there is still a lot of transport, making it possible to discover at the same time some stopovers that are at the very least atypical, yet charming. The traditional stilt or mud-brick huts provide an enticing break and make it fun to get to know the friendly locals. The welcome is particularly warm for people who come to visit fishing villages and artisanal distilleries, and take a picnic at the beach.
A luxuriant nature
A cruise along the Pangalanes Channel is an opportunity to discover an exceptional nature, faithful to the uniqueness of Malagasy biodiversity. One of the two emblematic trees of Madagascar can be found here: the ravinala or ravenala in French (a kind of palm tree). “The traveler’s tree”, also known as “elephant ears”, lines up with mangroves and imposing tree ferns. The famous lemurs are never far away, especially the sifaka and the Hapalemurs.
An unusual journey
A cruise out of time
Boats transporting people, garden products, sugar cane, coffee, cloves, pepper and other foodstuffs are rather unusual. Dugout canoe, bamboo raft pushed with a beam, hollowed out tree trunk propelled by a paddle… the encounter is sometimes puzzling. Tourists travel by pirogue or motorboat and can discover the seaside resorts of Ambila Lemaitso and Mahanoro, the Sakaleona fall (200 m) on Nosy Varika, etc.
This very enriching trip will delight lovers of adventure, water and nature. The atmosphere is always festive thanks to the guides who never lack of conversations, laughter and songs. Fish and betsabetsa (local beverage) are always on the menu. While admiring the landscape and inhaling the vanilla and eucalyptus-scented air, always expect to be amazed. There is always something going on, if not a difficult passage through hyacinths and water lilies, or the surprising discovery of a 1,000 kg carved sandstone elephant statue in Ambohitsara on the Fanantara River.