Exploring Madagascar’s Pangalanes Canals: A weekend in Manambato

Enchanting Manambato, located on the white sand shores of lake Rasoabe, is a little slice of paradise nestled along the Pangalanes canals. Eleven kilometers North of Brickaville, and a further seven kilometers along a rough dirt track, it is one of the few destinations along the Pangalanes canals that you can access without a boat. The relative ease of getting there, and the savings made by avoiding costly boat transfers, make it a truly enticing getaway. Yet despite this clear attraction, Manambato has remained somewhat miraculously undisturbed compared to its popular northern counterpart, Akanin’Ny Nofy. We were curious to find out why so set-off on a weekend of discovery. It turned out be one of my favorite getaways yet!

Manambato is located approximately 90 kilometers down the canals from Tamatave and can be reached by either road or boat. We opted for the cheaper and faster option, leaving Tamatave by vehicle on a late Friday afternoon, with a cooler box full of refreshments and plenty of tunes! The drive to the Manambato junction is a straight jaunt down the RN2 and an exceptionally smooth drive, especially if you are used to taking he road north to Foulpointe. All-up, the trip takes just over two hours, although in our case an accident along the RN2 added some significant extra time. Good thing we had that cooler box!

When we finally arrived at the Manambato turn-off, the last of our daylight had all but disappeared, making for an interesting last stretch in the dark. The already rough road had been made worse by days of unrelenting rain and we were grateful to have the 4×4 as the dirt road turned to mud, and the mud turned to submerged pools of questionable depth. When we finally pulled into the Acacias, our destination for the weekend, it truly felt like we’d arrived at the ends of the earth. Stepping out of the car, we were immediately taken by the serene silence and the breathtaking blanket of stars overhead. Alain, Acacias’ gracious owner seemed very relieved to see us, and quickly set us up with a cozy bungalow and a hearty meal.

The next morning we awoke to sunlight dappled across our bungalow and the excitement of rising in a still unknown location. I couldn’t wait to get my first real glimpse of where we were, and wandering down to the beach I was consumed by the utter tranquility that Manambato exudes. Lake Rasoabe greeted us with glass-like stillness, reflecting a brilliant blue ski. The dazzling white sand and the thick tropical foliage conjured thoughts of paradise and for a moment I had to remind myself that we were on a lake and not on the seaside. In the early morning light, the scene seemed almost frozen in postcard-perfect stillness, undisturbed by life of any kind.

Settling into the Acacias’ lovely beach front restaurant, we enjoyed a simple but tasty breakfast with our toes in the sand and watched as the lakeside slowly came to life. A walk down the beach, revealed the best of local life as ladies busied themselves with washing, families set out with fishing nets and children played simple games in the sand. A moment of excitement was had by all when a very proud looking boatman pulled-up with a monstrous crocodile tied-down in his rickety, nearly submerged piroque, and for an instant villagers seemed to materialize out of nowhere to admire his catch.

Wandering further down the beach we also discovered that our hotel was actually just one of several accommodation options along the lake. Next door sat a sprawling concrete complex offering paddle-boats, jet-skis, quad bikes, beach-buggies and just about every other activity under the sun, and further down a few more rustic looking bungalows sat back from the shore. Nowhere seemed quite as charming or quite as comfortable as the lovely Acacias however, and most seemed to be void of life of any kind. In fact, except for one Tana family lodging next door, and a group passing through for lunch on their way down the canals, we didn’t meet another visitor all weekend.

We opted to spend the rest our weekend rather simply, lounging with our books and cooling off in the lake. Had we been looking for more activity, there were lots on offer, including boat trips to the Palmarium reserve, visits to local villages, quad adventures and crocodile tours. A few easy hiking trails were also there to be discovered, and a quick 30 minute climb rewarded us with stunning panoramic views across the lake system all the way to the ocean.

Before leaving, Allan took us to visit his pet-project, a 19th century heritage house that he is lovingly restoring into a museum, after transporting it piece-by-piece from his hometown, Tamatave. The house is a beautiful piece of history and although the museum not quite complete, Allan’s wealth of knowledge and love for this country were certainly on display.

We left with a promise to be back to see the final product, and begrudgingly packed our bags on late Sunday afternoon. Our drive out seemed much easier (and shorter) than our initial jaunt in the dark, and was rounded-off with warm smiles and heartfelt waves in each tiny village we passed.

Need to knows

Getting there and away by taxi-brousse: If you are travelling by taxi-brousse you’ll be able to get as far as the RN2 junction. From there you will need to arrange a pick-up with your hotel.

Getting there and away by boat: Boat transfers can be arranged with your hotel either north as fare as Tamatave or south as far as Vatomandry. Boat travel to the Akanin’Ny Nofy take about 1.5 hours. It is another three hours to Tamatave.

Electricity: Most of the hotels in Manambato have solar power with back-up generators. At the Acacias the generator runs only in the mornings and evenings, so plan your hot showers accordingly! the limited electricity unfortunately also means a lack of cold beer, but if you’re in need of an ice cold refreshment the Espaces Vacances Andranianinia Manambato next door will have you covered. They appear to have a 24-hour generator in operation.

Phone service: Service came and went. Orange seemed to be able to connect, but Manambato is well out of Airtel range.

Places to Stay

Les Acacias

By far the most charming  option with lots of attention to detail, comfy beds and decent showers. The restaurant serves up delicious food, at a reasonable price. Bungalows start at 90,000AR. www.acaciasbungalows.com

Espaces Vacances Adrianina Manambato

Popular with Tana families, this sprawling place offers over 30 rooms ranging from basic doubles to huge family villas. The rather crammed concrete buildings make it a little less charming, but it makes up for it with all its  amenities including volley ball, jet-skis, a games room and an outdoor gym. Power appears to be kept on 24-7. Bungalows start at 50,000AR. www.manambato.com

Chez Luigi

Cute bungalows with a really nice looking restaurant on the beach. Unfortunately it appeared closed for the weekend when we were visiting. None the less, the friendly groundskeeper didn’t mind us settling-in to the welcoming veranda for a game of cards at sunset! (chezluigi.irma@yahoo.fr)


35 thoughts on “Exploring Madagascar’s Pangalanes Canals: A weekend in Manambato

  1. Carron Alain

    Hi Christine !
    All my gratefull thanks for your article on our place in Manambato.
    My warmest regards to you both
    Alain .

  2. Madagascar has always been on my list. It definitely is a must now, you’re photos make it look beautiful. I’ve got to get out there soon.

  3. Manambato seems like paradise.
    I don’t know if i will ever get there but for sure reading your article and looking at the pic pleased me so much!
    Hopefully one day i’ll get the chance to visit it!

  4. Manambato seems to be a lovely weekend getaway destination. The beach is perfect for a calm and relaxing stayover. Would love to make a visit there someday! Wonderful post! <3

  5. I swear I have been sitting for the past week trying to figure out where I want to travel to and Madagascar has been on list forever. Thanks for sharing your experience i will add Manambato to my trip x

  6. Never heard about the Manambato before but it looks great! Awesome beaches and I love your recommendations for the places to stay 🙂 If I’ll ever go there I’ll definitely check them out! 🙂

  7. Sarah Wilson

    This looks amazing. Madagascar has been on my wishlist for so long. Is it expensive when you’re there? Or just getting to there?

    • Thanks Sarah, It really is amazing country! Depending how you do it, Madagascar can be really cheap or really expensive. It all depends on the level of comfort you want! In general Madagascar is much cheaper than the neighboring islands of Mauritius and Reunion, but also a lot less developed. Things here are always a bit of an adventure!

  8. alison

    I’ve never heard of this place, but I have to say I love canals. We discovered some in Costa Rica. Your article brought me back to my adventure. Thank you for sharing and hopefully I will one day get to explore Manambato.

  9. Madagascar is somewhere we’ve always wanted to go but flights from the US are always so expensive (and long). It looks like paradise. And Les Acacias looks like an amazing place to stay!

    • Thanks! It definitely is a long way, although recently we’ve found some fairly decent deals! I think it is slowly making its way onto the tourist map. Hopefully that will bring the prices down a little further 🙂

  10. Heaven right there! It looks like a place to actually escape from the day to day hustle of everyday life and escape from it all.

    Great blog, nice recommendations and I love how the generators aren’t always running!

  11. Honesty, this is for the first time I heard about canal exploration. Madagascar is really a gem and finding such offbeat treasures is what I love the most. Really a great and informative post !

  12. Manambato looks like a paradise for sure as you define it. Honestly, had not heard about this place until we stumbled upon your post. Thanks for sharing your weekend trip itinerary and all the necessary information to explore Madagascar’s Pangalanes Canals. We always look out to experience the not-so-touristy places and a new one just got added to our list! Love… Backpacking Series.

  13. Lingue e Viaggi

    Always thought about doing a trip to Madagascar but never heard about Manambato. Your experience seems really beautiful.

  14. This looks like a nice, quiet and relaxing space to be in! I’ve always wanted to visit Madagascar and this place is somewhere I will need to keep in mind 🙂

  15. A major island along with Mauritius I’d love to visit one day. It’s serenity personified and the women washing, the fishermen and the kids remind me of towns and villages back home where people run to for tranquility. I’m West African and feel so nostalgic. Gorgeous pics!

    • Thanks Kemi! The people here are so beautiful! I think you would really love it! Its very different from Mauritius, much more underdeveloped, but really worth the trip!

  16. Your writing makes it even more beautiful. Waking up to something as beautiful as manambato must have been a great experience. Loved reading it.

  17. Oh wow – this looks like an amazing place! I love being near the beach and this looks so peaceful and laid back. Breakfast on the beach sounds like a great option. 🙂

  18. Shaily

    Manambato looks like a piece of paradise. Your amazing pictures perfectly justify its hypnotic beauty and tranquil vibes. Sounds like a great place to unwind forgetting all worldly cares.

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