Mahajanga, also known as Majunga, shows strong Arab and Indian influences, reflecting its importance as a center of maritime trade in Madgascar since the mid-18th century. There are more than a dozen mosques in town and countless Indian- and Pakistani-owned shops. There's also an enormous baobab tree by the sea. Plan two days in the area (240 mi/385 km northwest of Antananarivo) to visit nearby beaches, the grottoes of Androhibe (about 53 mi/85 km from town) and the Ankarafantsika National Park and Ampijoroa Forestry Reserve (both about 60 mi/95 km from town), which offer opportunities to see lemurs, waterbirds and a breeding center for two threatened species of tortoise.

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