Mahajanga, West Life

It is a key destination during the months of August and September. During this season, the beaches of Amborovy, Grand Pavois, Ampazony and Ampasindava are popular with Malagasy tourists, notably from Antananarivo, and also with visitors from abroad. One of the original characteristics of the town, also a major port, is that it has a beach close to the town centre while the tourist village at the end of the coast road offers very pleasant walks, but swimming is risky. Majunga is well-known for its beaches, its night-life, the lively atmosphere along the sea-front, and its stands selling grilled fish and meat. In short, the friendly atmosphere of the town has made it one of Madagascar’s most popular destinations. Its inhabitants are said to be of mixed Indian and Malagasy origin with the name Mahajanga simply meaning, ‘which is good for the health’. According to legend, after travelling all over the island, a king found a remedy to cure his son of a disease in Mijangaïa (the town’s former name which means ‘city of flowers’). He then declared ‘Maha janga ity tanàna ity !’ (This city heals). The capital of the region of Boeny, the town of Majunga is Madagascar’s second most important port, offering a wealth of activities. In addition to relaxing on the beach, tourists can also discover the region’s many historical and ecological sites.
Doany Andriamisara
A visit to the Doany (place of worship) of Andriamisara will give you the opportunity to learn about the history and culture of the Sakalava people. This Doany is not only a place of prayer, but also one where various ceremonies are held: offerings, thanksgiving and requests for blessings. In July a practice specific to the Sakalava kingdom, dating back several centuries, is held in this sacred place: the Fanompoambe. This is a traditional bathing ceremony of the royal relics of the region’s four great kings. The festivities linked to this ritual, lasting one week, are marked with dancing, singing, Antsa (specific Sakalava chanting), animated vigils, as well as Tromba sessions (calling up the spirits). A vigil is held prior to the royal bath itself and the end of the festival is characterised by a day of celebrations during which the great kings can be seen to dance, like they did during their splendour, called the Rebika.
Le Cirque rouge: The red cirque
Legend has it that, seeing the shape of the excavations, the spot used to shelter dinosaurs. A half-hour drive from the town centre, the Cirque rouge was formed by the erosion of layers of multi- coloured clays. In the past called Anahidava, Ankadibe or Andranomamy, the site is a former river mouth. The local craftsmen who make pictures in bottles of sand see it as a source of raw material, particularly extracting red clay. It is located in a former British military camp, on an old shooting range. Listed as a National Heritage site since 2010, it offers fantastic landscapes, especially at sunset. The Cirque rouge is a true wonder of nature. Its name comes from the harmony between its colours: red, pink, yellow, ochre and beige, all present in the landscape. The spot is also home to rare species of fauna and endemic flora, even though it appears to be desert.
National Park of Ankarafantsika
The unspoilt nature of the National Park of Ankarafantsika is waiting to welcome you. The park has a variety of landscapes, from different types of forests, water courses, savannah grassland and the site of Lavaka, resulting from erosion. Ankarafantsika comes from the word ‘Garafantsy’, meaning ‘spiny mountain’, but also a cunning and frightening man. The site is a paradise of ornithology, if only for the Vanga de Van Dam (Van Dams’ vanga) or the mésite varié, (white-breasted mesite), both endemic to Madagascar. You can sail across the beautiful and sacred Lake Ravelobe, where you will spot the water birds living in the park and learn about the related legend, which has several versions. Here is one of them: a Malagasy patriot named Ravelobe committed suicide by throwing himself into the lake with the members of his family to prevent being caught by the French colonial army. Since then, the crocodiles in the lake have been considered as the descendants of Ravelobe. Boeny is also synonymous with baobabs: the park is the only place in the world where you can see Adansonia boeniensis, a species of baobab. Ankarafantsika also has eight species of lemurs, reptiles and a stunning canyon.
This article was featured in Prime Magazine October 2019



Useful Information

When to go

Majunga, like the whole of the Boeny region, enjoys plentiful sunshine all year round, with a hot and dry tropical climate and an annual temperature of around 26°C. The best time to visit the ‘town of flowers’ is between May and October.

How to get there

The airline Air Madagascar/ Tsaradia runs regular flights between Antananarivo and Mahajanga. You can also go by road, along the RN4, a seven-hour drive. The Cirque rouge is located 12km to the north of the airport of Amborovy. It is advisable to visit in mid-afternoon. The park of Ankarafantsika lies 115km to the south of Majunga.

Where to stay

At Ankarafantsika, you can stay at the hostels in the park or check into one of the hotels in Majunga. The Hotel Anjajavy Lodge, Baobab Tree Hotel or the Coco Lodge are recommended. The Hotel Zahamotel, and the Saara Hotel are along the road to Amborovy. The Roches Rouges, Sunny Hotel, Antsanitia Resort and the Red Rocks also offer quality accommodation.

Where to eat

In Majunga, we recommend you taste the food served at Chez Papi Râleur and Chez Karon, or experience the relaxed atmosphere of La Petite Cour. At Ankarafantsika, you can order food in the park itself or bring a picnic.

What to see

Above all, remember to visit the jardin d’Amour, the municipal gardens that have become the destination of lovers. Not far from there, the French general Gallieni erected a war memorial to commemorate French soldiers. Since 2012, the great African baobab (Adansonia digitata) that grows on the sea front in the town has become a heritage site and has been baptised ‘Bouyé be’ With a circumference of 20 or so metres and a height of 10 metres, the specimen often figures on visitors’ souvenir photographs. For more adventure, you can take a trip to Katsepy, to the north-west of Majunga, where you can visit the famous lighthouse built in 1901 by the workshop of Eiffel. From there, after climbing up the 174 steps, you can have a superb view over the bay of Bombetoka, dotted with boats, as well as the surrounding multi-coloured landscape. Katsepy is in a small forest which harbours several species of lemurs. It lies at the mouth of the Mozambique channel and the river Betsiboka.