Madagascar > Taolanaro


Tôlanaro or Tolagnaro is a city on the southeast coast of Madagascar. It is the capital of the Anosy Region and of the Tôlanaro District. It has been a port of local importance since the early 1500s, and a new port, the Port d'Ehola, has been built by QMM and the World Bank. Formerly Fort-Dauphin, it was the first French settlement in Madagascar.


Tôlañaro was initially situated on a short, narrow peninsula on the extreme southeastern coast of Madagascar. It has since grown to cover a much greater area along the ocean, almost to Mount Bezavona.


Tôlanaro has a tropical rainforest climate, though it is less rainy than areas further north on the eastern Malagasy coast. Being closer to the centre of the subtropical anticyclones than other parts of Madagascar, most rainfall is orographic, and tropical cyclones are not as common as in more northerly parts of the island.


The bay of Tolanaro was found by a Portuguese Captain in 1500. Fort Dauphin was founded on an Antanosy village, Taolankarana, in 1643 by the French East India Company who built a fort there named in honor of the crown prince, the future Louis XIV of France. It was settled by around a hundred colonists, who found themselves involved in the local politics. The poor trade results (some ebony and little more was obtained) hardly justified the difficulties of the settlers, who suffered from tropical illnesses and other problems. After a conflict with the Antanosy people, the survivors were evacuated in 1674.

One Governor of this colony, Étienne de Flacourt, published the History of the Great Isle of Madagascar and Relations, which was the main source of information on the island for Europeans until the late 19th century.

After World War II and until Didier Ratsiraka took the presidency in 1975, Fort Dauphin had a thriving community of Malagasy, French, Chinese and Pakistani merchants with adequate roads connecting the city to Toliara to the west and Fianarantsoa to the west and then north. The port provided a means of exporting cattle to Mauritius and importing various goods from France and elsewhere. During the time Philibert Tsiranana was President of Madagascar, he enjoyed flying down to Fort Dauphin to stay in a villa above Libanona beach.

In 1975, the French businesses were nationalized, French citizen's assets were frozen and several were briefly imprisoned.

Fort Dauphin was the headquarters of American Lutheran missionaries American Lutheran Church who worked in southern Madagascar (see Malagasy Lutheran Church) starting in 1888 for almost 100 years. They were engaged in community development, education, evangelism and medical work and also operated what was known as the "American School" and the "Missionary Children's Home" (MCH). The school is now a Maternelle and the MCH is the Mahavoky Hotel. In 1959 about 25 American Lutheran missionary families and quite a few single missionaries were living in over 20 towns in an area that ran roughly from Fort Dauphin northeast to Manantenina, west to Ranomafana, northwest to Tsivory, north to Betroka southwest to Betioky and southwest to St. Augustine. When the number of students seeking a US education in Madagascar on the island declined rapidly in the late 1970s, the school briefly moved to operate alongside an NMS school in Antsirabe in the mid-1980s until finally the very few remaining students began attending the American School in Antananarivo in the 1990s. American missionary families and other English-speaking families in Madagascar (including kids from other missionary organizations, NASA, and US Embassy employees living in Antananarivo) and for a time, even East Africa, sent their children to this boarding school. While most of the students were from the US, there were also Malagasy, Canadian and Norwegian students who went to this school, which from the 1960s to the end of the 1970s averaged 50 to 60 students per year in grades 1–12. Notable alumni include Dr. Carl Braaten, a noted Lutheran Theologian and co-founder of the Center for Catholic and Evangelical Theology and the theological journal Pro Ecclesia, Arndt Braaten, a pastor and professor at Luther College, David Brancaccio of the PBS NOW program, Dr. Peter Dyrud, Minneapolis Cardiologist, Dr. Pier Larson, Professor of African History, Johns Hopkins and Dr. Stan Quanbeck, medical missionary to Madagascar for 40 years.

The Lutheran missionaries also traded land above the original Fort Dauphin harbor for what was then a sand dune, which became Libanona where the cottages on top of the hill were built as a place for R&R and to live while they were visiting their children at the school. There is also a section of the town's cemetery where quite a few American Lutheran missionaries and several others are buried.

Modern era

Since the early 1970s, Fort Dauphin suffered an economic decline due to lack of good road connections to the rest of the country, rendering its port of local importance only. This in spite of significant foreign exchange earned from the export of live lobster (250 to over 350 tonnes per year from 1990 to 2005), sapphires and, up until the hotels in town were all filled by those working on QMM's mining project in 2007, tourism. Tourists have not yet returned in any significant numbers.

The Anosy area around Tolagnaro is currently undergoing a massive transformation associated with the development of a new ilmenite mine by the QIT Madagascar Minerals company (a subsidiary of the Rio Tinto Group) in the area. A new port at Ehoala, just west of Tolagnaro as well as new roads and a variety of mining facilities and housing for mine workers have been built at the cost of almost US$1 billion. These are the first major investments in the region's infrastructure for many decades. (For a history of this project as well as its social and environmental concepts, see). The mine is controversial however due to anticipated social upheaval, creation of a parallel economy and adverse environmental impacts, some of which have begun to manifest. Health officials also fear HIV/AIDS, which to date has been almost unknown in Madagascar, could spread to the island via foreigners working on the mine and its construction projects. Rio Tinto Alcan is also interested in mining an estimated 100 million tons of bauxite located near Manantenina which is approximately 100 km northeast of Tolagnaro.

Today there are a variety of international non-governmental organizations with offices in Tolagnaro including Andrew Lees Trust, Anosy Community Development Trust, AVIA, Azafady, CARE, the Libanona Ecology Centre, and World Wide Fund for Nature. Additionally, the School for International Training (SIT) has a school house located at the Libanona Ecology Centre. Cara is the administrative center of the Anosy region.

The city is the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tôlagnaro.


For more information on the region's ecology, see Ganzhorn, Jörg U.; Goodman, Steven M.; Vincelette, Manon (2007). Smithsonian Institution. ISBN 978-1-893912-00-7. 


French international schools in Tôlanaro:

On Wikipedia see


[no mention of Tolanaro before the 1500s]

Tolanaro bay discovered by the Portuguese

Initial French attempt to set up a Colony in Fort Dauphin, Anosy (1642–1674)

18th century

19th century

Imerina Control of Fort Dauphin & some of the surrounding area (1825–1895)

1897 – Lutheran Boarding School was established in Fort Dauphin for boys (moved to Manantantely in 1921, where there also was a mission printing press).

French Control of Anosy, including Fort Dauphin (1895–1960)

20th century

First Republic

Second Republic

21st Century

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