The port of TAMATAVE, sometimes referred to by its Malagasy name Toamasina, is Madagascar’s second city, with a population of around 200,000, including one of the country’s largest Chinese communities. Sprawling across a sandy peninsula, it has one of the few large harbours – protected by a reef – on the notoriously cyclone-prone east coast. The French, who wanted a good link with their island of Réunion, chose it as a port for Antananarivo: they built the rail link from here up the escarpment to the capital in 1913.

Although it may appear a relaxed town, the people of Tamatave have a historically uneasy relationship with Tana and the Merina.

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