Canal des Pangalanes, a true “expedition” discovery of a generous nature
Canal des Pangalanes is one of the quiet wonders of Madagascar, a collection of natural and artificial waterways that stretches over 645km along the east coast from Foulpointe to Farafangana and forms a network of man-made channels connecting fresh water lakes and lagoons. It was constructed under the governance of General Joseph Gallieni between 1896 and 1904, during the French colonial period, in an effort to create a safe passage for cargo boats to Tamatave; one look at the waves on the nearby Indian Ocean explains why. The Pangalanes is the longest canal in the world.
The canal still dominates daily life in this region as it provides the main source of trade, transport and travel. Cruising by boat on the calm waters of Pangalanes is a fascinating journey through time and history. This is wonderful spot. It's so quiet there. Very different from towns and cities, in the Pangalanes Canal you can find people who still continue to live with simplicity and joy. These people continue to live in an environment where you can feel that men and nature are created to live together in harmony.
This area is the stronghold of the Betsimisaraka people and their villages can be seen along the banks, as well as pirogues (traditional dugout canoes). On the waterways themselves you see pirogues, local fishermen, rafts carrying timber and over-crowded ferries and rafts with straw huts with names such as 'Great Hopes' and 'Malagasy Fish'. Villagers wave and shout at the passing boats and fishermen yell from the other bank asking you if you spent a good night!
The Pangalanes Canal both South and North are an ideal place to observe wild landscapes and to admire the nature and lemurs in peaceful areas. Nothing has changed here since a long time ago; always quiet and always wonderful. The soft sound of water lapping against the lake shore. It's wonderful to hear the sound of the nature. Also you will see birds in large numbers - kingfishers, guépiers, fody, egrets and herons, and all the seabirds who come there to make an incursion.
The Pangalanes Canal is a fresh waterway that connects lakes and rivers on the east coast, just a short distance from the far too dangerous ocean. The Canal runs parallel to the Indian Ocean. The strip of land between the salt and the sweet water measures just a few dozen metres. The landscapes are beautiful, and you need 3 nights/4 days at least to do the all the trip. But you just need one night and 2 days to do it from Toamasina to Akanin’ny nofy (Palmarium) (Rasoabe Lake - Rasoabe Beach) or from Akanin’ny nofy (Palmarium) to Toamasina.
This itinerary is ideal for those who appreciate navigating peaceful water canals, through lagoons, rivers and lakes. On the inland-shores there are areas where the plants are abundant, especially in the remaining pockets of tropical forest. There are little villages to visit and several tourist destinations, like a lemur park, a nature reserve, an agro touristic site, a distillery of essential oils, an orchid garden, too much to mention. Nature lovers will be happy to find many species of lemurs in a green forest area.
There are several ways to organize a trip on the Pangalanes. The most adventurous travelers can choose the more difficult route between Manakara and Toamasina, which usually takes three days at slow pace. We recommend this trip. Locals are little accustomed to vazahas, the scenery is frankly fabulous and the extraordinary pleasant atmosphere make this trip a really worthwhile enterprise. The villagers are more curious to observe us than we are. Each visit stop of the village provokes a gathering of curious people and the ambience is guaranteed!
This all together makes this unique boat on the Pangalanes Canal truly a true "expedition" discovery of a generous nature.
Watch more photos about Canal des Pangalanes here.