Tulear, also known as Toliary and Toliara, is situated on the southwest coast of the island of Madagascar, a wild area of semi-desert, the capital of the Atsimo-Andrefana region and the Toliara province. Located in the Southern Dry Forest, Tulear reminds one of an "old west" town with its dry air and dusty streets. This vast and diverse area is home to the Antandroy "people of the thorns" on the coast, to the nomadic Vezo fishermen, the Mahafaly renowned for their funerary art and to the north, the mysterious bush-dwelling Mikea. The people of the dry south or androy differ from all other Malagasy in that they do not cultivate rice. Instead, they plant meagre crops of melons, maize, cassava and millet.
Tulear is the opening to the bush country of the vast and dense thorny forest where the main species are Didiera, Euphorbia and Baobabs a scenery with rare beauty. This huge area includes the Baobab country of Morondava and the Tsingy of Bemaraha in the north, the spiny bush of Andatabo in the centre and the spiny forest of Ifaty. The coral reef from Anakao to Ifaty beach is home to many marine species.
Lying at the Tropic of Capricorn, Tulear was known as one of the routes to the Western Indian colonies. In 1500, the Portuguese established a trading centre at the estuary of Onilahy River in St. Augustin. Both the Dutch and the British attempted colonization without success. King Radama I (1810-1861), a Merina king who, with help from the British unified most of the country, opening it to English missionaries who spread Christianity throughout the island and transcribed Malagasy into a written language. In 1889, French expedition troops attacked Tulear and declared their domination over the whole territory. Madagascar gained its independence in 1960.
The name of town was named by a Vezo pirog man and his explorer passenger. Upon arrival he declared "Toly Eroa", which means "Here we are". The passenger referred to it as "Tulear". Malagasy is the primary language and French is spoken in many localities.
The ship is scheduled to dock in the port of Toliary, located about 2 km (about 1 ¼ mile) from the centre of town. Taxi and pousse-pousse (rickshaws) pick up customers only at the port's main gate.
Visit the market for local and active colour with an amazing display of produce and spices. The main shops are along P-Tsiranana Blvd, Toliary's main street. The souvenir market at Lyautey Blvd is known for such items as wood carvings, gems, stones, Alo Alo totems, and masks. The local currency is the Ariary, but vendors accept US dollars or Euros.
Malagasy local dishes and seafood delights can be found at Etoile de Mer, Esterel, and le Recif restaurants. European cuisine is found at Capricorn and Chez Alain, Victory Hotel.
If you wish to explore the town on your own, you may wish to use Etoile de Mer restaurant as landmark, where you can hire pousse-pousse. Guests are cautioned to ensure you agree on a price before getting in.
There are some lovely beaches are around Toliary, such as Ifaty 28 km (18 miles) north of town. The local beach is Ankilibe, 5 km (3 miles) south on the way to Sarodrano. Many tourists however prefer the pool at the Victory or Melody Beach hotels.