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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?
madagascar313: Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park, Mahajanga province, Madagascar: suspension bridge - karst limestone formation - UNESCO World Heritage Site - photo by M.Torres - (c) Travel-Images.com - Stock Photography agency - Image Bank  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?
 madagascar299: Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park, Mahajanga province, Madagascar: narrow canyon - trees reach for light - UNESCO World Heritage Site - photo by M.Torres - (c) Travel-Images.com - Stock Photography agency - Image Bank madagascar21: Berenty reserve, near Fort-Dauphin, Toliara province, Madagascar: Verreaux's Sifakamoves comically across open ground - Propithecus verreauxi verreauxi - photo by R.Eime - (c) Travel-Images.com - Stock Photography agency - Image Bank 
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.  

madagascar308: Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park, Mahajanga province, Madagascar: sharp limestone pinnacles - karst formation - UNESCO World Heritage Site - photo by M.Torres - (c) Travel-Images.com - Stock Photography agency - Image Bank  There's nothing quite like it anywhere else on Earth.  
 madagascar325: Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park, Mahajanga province, Madagascar: karst limestone formation - Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve, the largest reserve in Madagascar - UNESCO World Heritage Site - photo by M.Torres - (c) Travel-Images.com - Stock Photography agency - Image Bank  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.
 Baobabs alley 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.
 madagascar327: Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park, Mahajanga province, Madagascar: hand shaped pachypodium - pachycaul, spinescence - xeric plant - UNESCO World Heritage Site - photo by M.Torres - (c) Travel-Images.com - Stock Photography agency - Image Bank madagascar322: Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park, Mahajanga province, Madagascar: Pachypodium lamerei with leaves and spines - succulent plant - UNESCO World Heritage Site - photo by M.Torres - (c) Travel-Images.com - Stock Photography agency - Image Bank
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.
 madagascar117: Morondava - Menabe, Toliara province, Madagascar: fishing boats rest in the harbour - Nosy Kely peninsula - photo by M.Torres - (c) Travel-Images.com - Stock Photography agency - Image Bank 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.
 madagascar108: Morondava - Menabe, Toliara province, Madagascar: shop and water tower - photo by M.Torres - (c) Travel-Images.com - Stock Photography agency - Image Bank  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.
 madagascar5: Morondava, Region of Menabe, province of Toliara, western Madagascar: Vezo woman and child - Sakalava Woman with Masonjoany cosmetic mask - photo by R.Eime - (c) Travel-Images.com - Stock Photography agency - Image Bank  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.
 Baobabs alley
The sunsets aren't bad either.
Enjoy! 

 http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2009/11/stone-forest/shea-text/2
http://www.earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=41407
http://travelmadagascar.org/index.html/
soilsci.wordpress.com/2009/11/01/madagascars-tsingy-de-bermaraha-national-park/
 http://www.travel-images.com/madagascar.html
 http://www.wildernesstravel.com/trips/search?terms=madagascar
 http://www.madagascar-tour.com/
 http://www.ecotours.com/dest_madagascar.html
 http://madagascar-tour-guide.com/madagascar_west_tours_guide.html
http://www.cafepress.com/artisticcreationsbyninakindred1
http://www.zazzle.com/imagings
http://pixels.com/profiles/terri-dixon.html

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