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Fort Dauphin, or Taolanaro in the Malagasy language, is Madagascar’s oldest town and a popular destination for excursions to the Berenty Reserve and the Spiny Forest. The province of the same name is located in the southeastern part of the enormous island. The French established their first colony here in the 17th century, giving it the name of the Dauphin, later crowned Louis XIV of France.

Built on a small peninsula, the town is bordered on three sides by beaches with a backdrop of high green mountains. It boasts a drier climate with much less rain than the rest of Madagascar, but suffers from fierce gales around the middle of the year. The town itself is small, with only about 32,000 inhabitants; its beaches and interesting trips into the surrounding area attract a good number of visitors annually, mostly from Europe. Plenty of local colours can be observed at Fort Dauphin's lively market, where everything is sold from fish and produce to French baguettes and live animals. A few good viewpoints around town offer fine panoramas of the bay and the mountains.

A drive into the hinterland offers a look at some of Madagascar's unusual species of flora, such as the rosy periwinkle, the carnivorous pitcher plant and the triangular rubber palm. The Spiny Forest, beginning several miles west of Fort Dauphin, is another unique and characteristic feature of this region. The cactus-like didierea plant and the unique baobab tree grow here.

Some 57 miles from Fort Dauphin is the Berenty Reserve which is the area's major attraction. An enormous, self-contained complex with bungalow accommodations, acres of sisal plantations and a tropical forest that is home to a colony of lemurs, it is the primary reason for most travellers to visit Fort Dauphin.

Pier Information

The ship is scheduled to anchor off Fort Dauphin. Guests will be taken ashore via the ship’s tenders. It is a short, uphill walk to town. Taxis and small trucks fitted with benches atop the open truck bed (called taxi-brousse) are generally available at the pier. We recommend establishing the fare with the driver before setting out. Be sure to check the condition of the vehicle if you plan an independent trip further inland.


Fort Dauphin has a lively, interesting market that may be worth a visit to observe local colour. There are a few shops in the town centre that offer a variety of souvenirs. Of particular interest are straw articles. The local currency is the Malagasy franc.


If you like lobster, this is the best place for the most reasonably priced lobster meal in all of Madagascar. Have lunch at one of the hotels in town or by the beach.

Other Sites

Guests must be aware that there is not much to see in Fort Dauphin itself; it is the beauty of the countryside and the unique vegetation that attract visitors to this part of Madagascar.

Pic St. Louis
Guests who enjoy hiking can take the sandy road north and along the beach, and then follow a marked path to the top of Pic St. Louis. The walk takes about an hour but you will be rewarded with great views over the town, the surrounding countryside and for miles up the coast.

On the south side of the peninsula is one of Madagascar’s most beautiful beaches, Libanona. The Miramar Hotel stands atop a hill jutting out to the sea. A short taxi ride takes you to the beach and hotel.

Private arrangements for independent sightseeing may be requested through the Tour Office on board.