This part includes the two greenest regions of Madagascar : the SAVA region and the Antongil Bay.
In addition to the fact that it shelters more than 70% of the island’s primary forest, the SAVA holds the official « status » of the world’s vanilla capital city. The Antongil Bay is 2800 km² biodiversity-rich and a lot of its history has been written by pirates. It is also believed that it is one of the very first places of human settlements in Madagascar. Would this be the reason why in each Malagasy house the North Eastern corner is considered the ancestors’ corner?
ECOTOURISM AND TREKKING - AGROTOURISM
Arriving in the SAVA region is like arriving on an island The Vohémar – Ambilobe road access, its only link with « the other side » of Madagascar is difficult, especially in the rainy season. Therefore, Air Madagascar’s regular flights remain necessary to visit this beautiful region, rich in hotel infrastructure.
« S » FOR SAMBAVA
Nestling in the mouth of three rivers, Sambava also lies at the heart of the « Green Triangle », consisting of Vohémar in the North (150 kilometers away), Antalaha in the South(80 kilometers away) and Andapa inthe West (110 kilometers away). Its name is associated with vanilla, but also with wide coconut tree plantations stretching over 4761 hectares on each side of the town along 60 kilometers on the coast. The Soavoanio Company created hybrid varieties for which the production delay for the first fruit is reduced by half, from 7 to 10 years originally. Sambava’s beaches, among which that of Ampandrozonana, 3 kilometers South are beautiful; however, tourists come to the SAVA region mainly for ecotourism and agrotourism. Trekkers have the choice between the Bemarivo valleys, the Andohabe and Andamory, but most of all the Marojejy National Park.
« A » FOR ANTALAHA
Antalaha is a former fishermen’s village; everyday, before crossing the reefs, these fishermen would pray (mi-talaho). Antalaha became an attractive town and its main attractions are the dhow-building yards and its semi-precious stones cutting workshops. The weather station provides a panoramic view of Antalaha. Trekkers can devote as much as their tile to their favorite sport in the steep-sided valleys of the Ankavanana river. The Antalaha-Cap Est trip is 40 kilometers long and takes 3 hours by taxi-brousse. The road is dotted with small traditional hostels for trekkers’ convenience. The 3 to 5-day hike from Antalaha to Maroantsetra should be considered only by the fittest!
« V » FOR VOHEMAR
Established in the 10th or 11th century by Arab immigrants, Vohémar was originally an ancient Islamic city as confirmed by archeological searches. Its main wealth is the zebu, which until recently was exported from there. 7 kilometers to the South, the Andranotsara is sacred, for it is believed that its crocodiles were the former inhabitants of the site. In Vohémar liesthe whole region’s hope for the rehabilitation of the road leading to Ambilobe. Such a road would at long last allow easy access to the touristic Great North, namely the Nosy Be – Diégo Suarez – Sava triangle, which could easily compete with the Deep South.
« A » FOR ANDAPA
Andapa rests in a green basin bordered by Marojejy and Anjanaharibe. It constitutes the SAVA’s granary and produces more than 70% of the region’s rice. The hill of Anjiabe constitutes the best viewpoint over the rice plots’ set up and the scale.. A nice mountain road linking Andapa and Sambava stretches over 110 kilometers; it elegantly winds between the forests of Marojejy and the Lokoho River.
PARKS AND NATURE RESERVES
- Anjanaharibe, located 40 South West of Andapa, is the northern geographic limit of the biggest Malagasy lemur, the Indri ; it also shelters species specific to the area. This nature reserve became famous thanks to the discovery of the Tahhtajania Perrieri plant in 1994. This flower plant already existed 120 million years ago.
Between Andapa and Sambava, the « Good Old Mountain” of Marojejy was qualified by a distinguished Professor at the Paris Museum, as the most majestic in Madagascar. With its 60000 hectares of forests and moorland, its park is the guardian of a mountain ecosystem which has remained unchanged for several millennia. Its fauna is spread out according to the altitude. In this grandiose décor, trekking itineraries start at 50 meters in altitude, to culminate in the clouds…
The event in the SAVA is the end of the vanilla production process: 7 to 8 months for the pod to come to full maturity, then 6 to 9 additional months and 5 fundamental stages (scalding, sterilizing, drying, refining, grading) before the final packaging. Then starts the big celebrations in the SAVA (vanilla supports the livelihood of 80000 growers in Madagascar!), especially if the world prices are favorable.
ECOTOURISM – TREKKING – OBSERVATION -SAILING
The Bay of Antongil suffers from remoteness and challenging access to . To get to the Region’s Chef Lieu, Fénérive–Est some people took the habit of flying or dhow-sailing to Tamatave to come back up by road. Everybody is impatiently waiting for the rehabilitation of the 275 kilometers of national highway RN5 between Maroantsetra and Soanierana Ivongo via Mananara Nord. It has been started with art works. Air Madagascar flights remain necessary for the time being.
Nestled deep in the Antongil Bay, Maroantsetra and its 3500 millimeters of rain is one of the wettest towns in Madagascar. What first jumps to the visitor’s eyes is the green color of the rice fields, the scent of vanilla and clove and the omnipresence of water. A local saying describes the natives of the region as follows: « Antimaroa tsy mandeha tsy an-dàkana » Antimaroa do not get around without a pirogue. No matter how wealthy, Maroantsetra is not willing to depend entirely on cash crops. The linchpin role of ecotourism in this sanctuary region is yet to be developed extensively. Turning isolation into an asset is neither a utopia nor a senseless idea.
Described as a real cathedral of life, the Masoala National Park stretches from the Ocean up to 1300 meters in altitude, over 240000 hectares, making it the largest national park in Madagascar. The fauna and flora are as diverse as they are atypical. Examples include the Vari lemur with its bright fur, the tomato frog, the red owl. Masoala’s three marine parks, Tampolo, Ambodialitry and Ifaho are priviledged sites for kayaking and diving. Hikers will forever remember walking from East to West or all around the peninsula. As the park is deprived of accommodation infrastructure, bringing camping equipment is necessary.
Masoala has a distinguished ambassador in the « Ecosystem » section of the Zurich Zoo, as a natural replica of the Park has been established over 12000 square meters.
Nosy Mangabe island can be reached within 30 by boat, south of Maroantsetra. Thanks to its 520 hectares and its altitude varying between sea level and 332 meters, it constitutes a privileged place for nature trekking and fauna observation. To save it from extinction, the famous Aye aye was reintroduced on this island in 1967.
The Dutch used the island as a supply base in the 17th Century. Several writings engraved on the rocks of the “Dutch’s Beach” prove such transits, which took place between 1600 and 1657. One of the writings describes the arrival of the Middelburg ship, on April 10th, 1625 into the Antongil Bay, after loosing its mast. Other messages end with « Hier leyt een Brief », indicating that letters to the attention of other ship crews or families have been buried near the rocks…
Mananara Nord is unquestionably, the Malagasy capital city of clove, for it contributes to 40% of national production. Tourism wise, “Nature here is one of the most beautiful on earth! » as asserts one French tourism operator who has extensively travelled. Giant lagoons create real natural swimming pools such as that of the Ambitsika peek, covering 8 square kilometers. Tourists can also devote their time to fishing, boat cruising from one island to another, as well as diving around Antafana, an island inhabited by sea birds and fruit bats. Hikes on the island are equally diverse and examples include Ivontaka Sud, a low altitude forest located some thirty kilometers South of Mananara. All these sites are located within the periphery of the Biosphere Nature Reserve, created in 1989 and stretching over 140000 hectares.
THE SAILING BAY
Individuals with a passion for sailing can enjoy a nice loop in the Antongil Bay, departing from Sainte Marie.
- Sail for 4 hours a day; the loop starts at Cap Masoala and the eastern coast of the Bay, overhung by high forested mountains abruptly sloping down into the sea.
- Stop over on the golden or Antalaviana beach and at the Tampolo marine park. This is where the Research Mission Radeaux des Cimes established itself for two months in 2001.
- Head for Nosy Mangabe and anchorage in a cove in the South West. Supply in Maroantsetra
- Sail down the more deforested West coast, and stop over on the Rantabe beach, formerly used by pirates.
- Final anchorage in Mananara, close to Seagulls Island, (Ile aux Mouettes) before discovering the beauties of Nosy Antafana
Antongil Bayis one of the most important whales breeding sites in the western part of the Indian Ocean. From July to September, humpback whales from Antarctica are the stars. They break the usual silence in the bay with their heavy breathing sounds, their tale hits, their fins on the surface of the water, their spectacular breachings or the males’ calls. This is when the Whale Festival celebrates the event.
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Private organization acknowledged by State, the Madagascar National Tourism Board was created in 2003. It includes all professions, regions and tourist operators and a representative of…