Thursday, October 18, 2012
This One is Off the Beaten Path and for Outdoorsy Types
What is it? Excellent question. This is one of the most unusual National Parks in the world, and it sits at the southern tip of Madagascar. This is Tsingy De Bemaraha National Park. It doesn't get much wilder than this.
Can you hike here?
Yes you can. There are 600 square miles of stone spires, slot canyons, unique to the area wildlife, and water features that sometimes fail description in human terminology. There are no roads. There aren't many modern conveniences. The accommodations are rustic camping at best. So why would you go here?
Maybe just for the unique view of the world. This is a Sifaka Lemur. They jump so high and so far that it looks like they're flying. They don't live anywhere else is the world. That slot canyon above is one of hundreds, and it's over 400 feet deep.
The entire area and it's spires are a result of ancient water erosion. The spires used to be caves. The tops eroded away and the canyons are what was left of the caves when the ceilings caved in.
There's nothing quite like it anywhere else on Earth.
This would appear to be a small area, but in reality, this picture is of an area a mile, probably more, square. These spires are hundreds of feet high. It's hard to understand the scale without looking at it first hand. That's why, for the outdoors person, it's a must see. The area is dry and arid, basically it's desert. There are some other strange sights to see in the area just outside the park.
These are Baobab Trees. They are a desert dweller and can hold up to 300 gallons of water in their massive trunks. The things look like they should be on the moon or something, but they are a natural wonder.
The area is full of all kinds of succulents. Most of them only grow here, and no where else.
Tsingy and the surrounding area are a wonderful place to visit, but be sure you like the outdoors. Encountering Lemurs, and other lizards, and insects that survive only in this area is not necessarily for the feint of heart.
If you would like to take a tour rather than risking life and limb on your own, there are several companies that offer half day to three day tours in Tsingy. There are some guided group tours that encompass other areas along with Tsingy that last up to nine days. The guides are experts on the area, they speak several languages and are friendly.
Not far away, along the shore at the mouth of the local river is the town of Morondava. Here the local fisherman shore up their boats along the sandy shores and take their fish to market.
The village is small and sometimes appears to have gotten lost in time. This is the place where you would stay and catch a tour into Tsingy.
The local ancient culture which survives to this day is called the Sakalava. You don't want to rush in and out of this town. The Sakalava culture is a very spiritual culture. They have many different spiritual rituals and they communicate with their dead at certain times of the year. The tradition of Tromba, where the spirit of a deceased relative is invited to possess another person's body is practiced especially during the dry season. You will have to get special permission to be present at a Tromba ceremony, but do it. You'll be glad you had the experience.
So, I know it sounds like a crazy idea. I know you'll have to spend countless hours on many planes to even get to Morondava. It's rugged. It's wild. The southwest Madagascar area of Tsingy and the Baobabs is one of the most memorable places on Earth. Don't miss it. Take the time and effort for a once in a lifetime experience.
The sunsets aren't bad either.