This set has three components, each with a strong “personality”: The Menabe Region, the land of baobab, of which Madagascar boasts 7 varieties; the majestic Manambolo and Tsiribihina Rivers, which are more than just . The experience of sailing on them remains equally engraved in cameras and memories; The Bemaraha Tsingy in the neighbouringMelaky region, were extracted from the sea million years ago and will be erased by the same erosion that created them, in a few million years to come. The Malagasy West is a huge area to be protected…
CAPITAL OF THE MENABE – SEA– ECOTOURISM - PLAQUE TOURNANTE TURNATABLE FOR DISCOVERY
Air Madagascar flies to the town several times a week. By road, the National Highway 7 RN 7 links it with the capital until Antsirabe, the RN 34 and 35 via Miandrivazo and Malaimbandy. For a combination of land and river acces, the Manambolo and the Tsiribihina are available.
Morondava faces a major problem: it twas built on sand dunes and is exposed to sea erosion. But its love and hate story with the sea has been long-lasting and will not end soon. At low tide, dhows offer an unusual sight: tied to a pole, they slowly “lie down” on their side, as if to rest before pursuing a long trip! Betania, a small fishermen’s village out of so many others close to Morondava, lives for and by the sea. The return of pirogues has endlessly been captured by all photographers. It probably is the emblematic image of Morondava, along with the Alley of Baobabs.
ECOTOURISM – DISCOVERY - HANDICRAFT
CULTURE AND TRADITIONS
THE ALLEY OF BAOBABS
Called the « Central Menabe Gate », the majestic Alley of Baobabs, 19 km from Morondava, is a natural avenue lined with Adansonia Grandidieri. It is impossible to pass by Morondava without taking a photo of it! The baobabs have been facing a problem for some time: the humidity pouring down from the plain. This is why a protected area was established around the site. It was classified First Natural Momument in Madagascar in 2007.
The AndranomenaSpecial Reserve, 7 km from there, stretches its forests all the way up to the roads; they contain an important number of species that are either endemic or at the edge of their distribution area. Some baobabs play tricks, embrassing each other lovingly, rubbing various parts of their “bodies” or asserting themselves as being male or female! This is where the most beautiful sunsets on the Alley of Baobabs can be watched.
20 km from the Alley of Baobabs, the village of Marofandilia was converted by the NGO Fanamby and the Peace Corps to a sculpting “factory”, using dead wood exclusively. A community-based shop is available and is rather prosperous. A must-see!! Moreover, the villagers Marofandilia raise awareness in neighbouring villages about the disastrous impacts of logging, and manage reforestation tree nurseries.
THE KIRINDY FOREST
Sixty kilometers from Morondava, the dry forest of Kirindy is the habitat of several endemic or highly threatened species. It is the home of the only feline on the island, the Fosa, as well as the world’s smallest primate, Berthe’s Microcebus and the giant jumping rat’s (Vositse). The forest of Kirindy is also feeding granary during lean periods.
The Bedo Lake site, 85 km from Morondava, stretches over 1962 ha and the lake itself over 747 ha. Ornithologists love it because in addition to sheltering the island’s species, it is the refuge for migratory species on their annual trip towards the Mozambique Channel. The Bedo Lake is part of the Ramsar list of humid sites to be protected.
Belo-sur-Tsiribihina is a peaceful small town established on the river’s estuary, at the end of the unforgettable shopper sail. This is where the region’s agricultural production is sent out from; it is also a tourism turntable, linked to a dirt road at Bekopaka, at the entrance of the Bemaraha Tsingy. Its name is strongly associated with the Fitampoha, as this is the place where the Royal Relics are preserved.
- The Fitampoha. It is in the Menabe that the Maroseranana established one of the largest Sakalava kingdoms. The Relics of the founding Royals are preciously preserved in their sanctuary in Belo-sur-Tsiribihina. At the opening of each Fitampoha, they are carried by officials wearing a loincloth and a red hair band, to Ampasy where they will remain for a week in a white cloth « rivotse ». During the Bathing of the Relics, poignant moment of the ritual, wearing shoes and crossing the Tsiribihina is forbidden.
- The Jama Festival which usually takes place in July, gathers the natural and cultural diversity of the region. The agenda includes artistic shows, handicrafts, pirogue races, as well as a marathon which attracts several foreign runners. Departing from the forest of Kirindy; it passes through the Andranomena Special Reserve and the Alley of Baobabs. Beyond its sportive aspect, Jama is an awareness-raising event on the conservation of endemic species, among which the Vosiste, the giant jumping rat.
FROM MORONDAVA TO THE SUD
SEA – ECOTOURISM – ADVENTURE - CULTURE
A fishermen’s village resting 80 km to the south of Morondava, Belo-sur-Mer is the homeland of the Western Coast’s schooners. In 1861, the king Radama 2 called on Napoléon 3 to send sea-specialised carpenters; the latter entrusted the mission to the Breton Joachim and his 3 sons, who settled in Belo-sur- Mer. The family and its offsprings did not return to France and opened a carpentry school in 1913 in Morondava. Forest trekking, sea cruises through islets, diving can all be performed in Belo-sur-Mer.
The KirindyMitea National Park, close to Belo-sur- Mer is a transition zone between the dry tropical climate and the sub arid one of the South. Its particularities probably stem from such a transition, in terms of landscapes and flora. Kirindy Mitea is one of those double-component (sea and land) protected areas. Dirt road access from Morondava is relatively easy in the dry season. All year-long, it is accessible by speed boat, within 2 hours.
THE MAKAY MASSIF
Towards the hinterland, the Makay Massif is still not well known but advertised by tourism operators. It is accessible only from May to November, except by helicopter, it starts at 130 km South of Malaimbandy. Contrary to Isalo, which has a central plateau, Makay is a succession of deep valleys and mountains that are difficult to access. On the lower levels, pure and transparent water winds up between high cliffs. On the high level, on the other hand, a scorching heat. Inside some caves, ancient drawings add to the mystery of the place. For those wanting to be the first ones, the Makay!!!
SAILING – ECOTOURISM - ADVENTURE – DISCOVERY
All the barges on the Tsiribihina were originally used to open up the tobacco plantations. Many have been rehabilitated for the transport of passengers and include a kitchen in the back and a solarium on the roof. It is an excellent location to observe the deciduous vegetation, the important variety of birds lying on the sand banks, or the colonies of fruit bats hanging on to the rocks.
The sailing of 150 km usually lasts 3 days and 2 bivouac nights. The steersmen are true tourist guides, sailing up a tributary up to a clear water rainfall, stopping on the way at tiny villages shaded by mango and giant silk-cotton trees; they also offer to go on little walks within a virgin environment. Each evening, sunsets constitute magical moments of this cruise which ends at Belo-sur-Tsiribihina. From there, one has the choice between going to Morondava (106 km of trail in the South), or go up to Bekopaka, the Tsingy threshold, 90 up North. For the sailing of the Tsiribihina, expect coming by road from Antsirabe and Miandrivazo.
Sailing starts off at Ankavandra, after a brief ritual honoring the ancestors. The convoy of frail skiffs lets itself drift by the current and stretches amidst a landscape at times shredded by erosion.
Close to the houses, fishermen offer fish while a group of children attempts to escort the visitors by running along the river bank. They are often the ones singing during bivouac evenings. Houses become scarce as nature takes over. A very exciting moment is when the canoes enter the Gorges. The river flows in-between staggering peaks, sometimes displaying cave openings on their side. Facing such majesty, one is bound to feel hollow.
To sail down the Manambolo, expect coming from Ampefy, Tsiroanomandidy, and Ankavandra.
By road and trail, 196 km from Morondava to Bekopaka via Belo-sur-Tsiribihina. Direct river access via the Manambolo, and through a river-trail combination, with the Tsiribihina. Add to these two possibilities a departure from Antananarivo. Accessible from May to November.
The formation of the Tsingy started several million years ago, when the sea was still covering the region. Corals and sea shells pilled up and hardened, creating thick layers which later rose up. Now in the open air, the limestone cracked to form joints and canyons. Slightly acid rain water then started their eroding activity; the result on the surface: sharpened blades and in the depth concretions-decorated tunnels.
THE LARGEST LABYRINTH IN THE WORLD
The Tsingy are real cathedrals of limestone, set up in a network of faults, splits, sculpted in the shape of blades or shapr spikes. The coolness and humidity of the depths contrast with the dryness of the heights, some of which are called Tsingy may or burnt Tsingy. The lively flora and fauna have adjusted to all conditions of this contrasted environment. Several itineraries have been created, ranging from “test circuits” (dizziness, smooth progression) to the highest possible caves of the Tsingy.
Your equipment should include the following: hiking shoes, a supply of water (2 liters per person per day), light clothing, a hat, some sunscreen, a flashlight and some insect repellent. Official guides are mandatory.
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Private organization acknowledged by State, the Madagascar National Tourism Board was created in 2003. It includes all professions, regions and tourist operators and a representative of…