Canal des Pangalanes is a river of about 645 km length. The channel runs parallel to Madagascar’s east coast, sometimes only few hundred meters away from the Indian ocean.
Already at the times of the Merina kings and queens in 16th century, waterways were built to link regions isolated from each other. The overland route was weary during these times, and the waves of the Indian Oceans were too rough to offer alternatives. Under soldier Joseph Gallieni in French colonial times, workers had to link all existing channels and waterways to one, almost endless, big river. They began in 1896 and it took eight years to finish Canal des Pangalanes. In the 1950ies, the channel was extended to its up to date length.
Canal des Pangalanes still today serves as most important waterway between Mahavelona (fromer Foulpoint) as well as the largest seaport of the eastocast, Toamasina (Tamatave) and Farafangana in southeast Madagascar. The river is not only source of fishes and an attraction for travellers, but also transport media to supply villages and cities with groceries and essential goods. Boats transformed into some kind of swimming Taxibrousse run between larger cities, and they often lie very deep in the water. Charchoal, building material for houses, animals – everything is transported on Canal des Pangalanes. For centuries, things have not been changing a lot here.
Sadly, you cannot drive the whole river continously anymore today. Patchy carpets of water hyacinths hinder you to come through, other places are petered out, and many parts of the river are filled with crocodiles. But for example, you can travel the way from Manakara to Mananjary by pirogues quite well. If you drive several hours a day, it takes five to six days to arrive in Mananjary. Just take care to bring a pillow for you butt, it might be a good idea in the hard wooden boats… South of Toamasina, several hotels have settled directly along Canal des Pangalanes or nearby bordering lakes like Rasoabe and Ampitabe, they are only reachable by the river.