Antananarivo and its surroundings
THE HIGHLANDS :
Antananarivo (for short Tana) is the nation’s capital city. Antananarivo belongs to the Merina ethnic group. Ten per cent of the population of Madagascar is found in Antananarivo, that is to say 1, 7 million inhabitants.
Historically, the city was built on twelve sacred hills including the Royal Palace which is found on the top of the hill such as the Ambohimanga Palace and the famous Queen’s Palace known as the Rova. Upon arrival, trying to glance at the city, it is hard to grasp an overall view of the town since Antananarivo has 12 hills which are combined of low and high areas.
Low cities include Analakely (the town centre with beautiful boulevard and Avenue de l’ independence ending to the railway station), Ambohijatovo, and Mahamasina.
High cities are Antaninarenina where there is the working place of the president, Andohalo (close to the Rova), and Faravohitra. Right upon the hill, you can notice the ruined Queen’s palace known as the Rova.
Antananarivo has two distinct seasons: the dry season and the rainy season.
Dry season is from May to September; the temperatures are very cooler between June and August whereas the rainy season starts from October to April.
WHAT TO SEE AND TO DO?
ROVA (Queen’s Palace)
The capital offers us many interesting places to go to with its old tradition palaces including the Rova where you can enjoy a panoramic view of the whole town.
From 17th till 19th century, the Rova used to be the residence of the Kings and the Queens. Also, the Rova was formerly known as the spiritual centre of the Merina people. It was destroyed by the fire in November 6, 1995 but which is currently under reconstruction.
PRIME MINISTER’S PALACE (the Palace of Andafiavaratra)
It used to be a residential place of the former Prime Minister Rainilaiarivony who married three Queens. It is now a museum that houses few precious items saved from the burnt Rova.
THE ZOO AND THE BOTANICAL GARDEN
It is known as the Tsimbazaza where many of the nation’s fauna and flora are conserved in this zoo with its selected endemics. Also, there is an excellent museum to help better know the island’s natural prehistoric history and traditions as well as the inhabitants’ way of life and cultures. The Botanical Garden has an easy access with great number of birds, skeletons of extinct animals, including several species of giant lemurs and of the famous elephant bird.
THE CROCODILE FARM
The farm is a few miles away from the airport. It is a private-owned park specializing in the breeding crocodile and having crocodile skin products.
THE HANDICRAFT MARKETS.
As far as handicrafts are concerned, the Malagasy people are the most gifted people in the world. Tourists spend their last Ariary before going home at the Marché Artisanal in ‘Route Digue’ where you can grab the nation’s beautiful embroidery, basketry, and woodcarving, minerals, leatherwork and the unique Antehimoro paper. Many shops can be found in city or in the surrounding area. They offer unique and high quality items. Some markets are held in Andravoahangy on Wednesday
2) TO THE NORTH-EAST
EXCURSION TO AMBOHIMANGA (King’s Palace or Ambohimanga Rova)
Ambohimanga means Blue Hill in Malagasy. It is situated 21 km north-east of Antananarivo. All kings and Queens started to reign here trying to unite the nation into one. The remains of a royal city designated as a World Cultural Heritage site by UNESCO. The fist King called Andriambelomasina that settled in 1730 was the grandfather of King Andrianampoinimerina.
Anjozorobe is situated in the northern part of Antananarivo about 90 km away from the town. Anjozorobe has a protected area known as the Anjozorobe-Angavo. It is covered of 52.2 hectares. In the park, there are many species of orchids, medicinal plants, lemurs, birds, reptiles which are all native to Madagascar. It is an ideal place for birders.
3) TO THE EAST
ANGAVOKELY STATION FORESTIERE
Angavokely is 30 km from Tana on the RN2. It takes about 30 minutes drive to get there. The forest station offers hikes to the summit of the mesa, exploration of caves and views of orchids.
4) TO THE WEST
AMPEFY – LAKE ITASY
Ampefy is a small typical borough on the banks of Itasy Lake. For those who prefer relax, resting, fresh air, far from the crowded beaches, discover this small haven of peace nested in the area of Itasy and which offers many treasures of curious forms
Itasy is the third largest lake in Madagascar. The lake offers an excellent view of the Virgin Islet. It is surrounded by many hills. On the West of the road are waterfalls and about 45 minutes drive there are some hot springs with spectacular mineral deposits. The lake gets its water from the Lily River with the beauty of its extraordinary waterfalls which achieved unanimity of all the tourists who already had the occasion to have a glance at it. After the waterfall and the Lake Itasy, the stay with Ampefy also makes it possible to enjoy the spectacle offered by the Analavory Geyser. By a hike or mountain bike ride it possible to reach the geyser. This one is situated from a few kilometer of Ampefy. It offers a gushing spectacle of many sources of a few high meters. With time, the effervescent water rich in minerals (suffers and silica) gave birth to reds and copper colors round form concretions. The Geyser is a spouting spring in a hot water and vapor spray.
WHERE TO STAY?
Hotel Cavita (midrange)
Auberge au belle vue (midrange).
5) NORTH WEST OF ANTANANARIVO
THE FOREST OF AMBOHITANTELY
The Special Reserve of Ambohitantely is located at 140 km Northwest of Antananarivo, in the District of Ankazobe. It covers the South East – ledge of Ankazobe’s Tampoketsa. Ambohitantely is also an area covered with natural forest on 1,800 ha and covered of grassy savanna on 3,800 ha. The Special Reserve of Ambohitantely is the unique protected area in the Region of Analamanga.
The lemur Eulemur fulvus and some endemic birds are the rare species of Ambohitantely. On the 12 recorded mammal species, three are Lemurs. These are Microcebus rufus and Avahi laniger, both nocturnals, and Eulemur fulvus, diurnal. The Reserve contains also rodents and species of the genus Microgale.
Among the birds, 48 species are reckoned. Most of them are endemic to Madagascar but none is endemic to Ambohitantely. Two threatened species are observed such as the Madagascar harrier Circus macroscles (VU), the Henst’s Goshawk Accipiter henstii and the Madagascar crested ibis Lophotibis cristata. Ambohitantely special reserve is the only proteced areas which inhabit Circus macrosceles. 17 species of amphibian and as many reptiles as rodents complete the list of Ambohitantely’s fauna.
TO THE SOUTH
Ambatolampy is 70 km south of Antananarivo.
There is a forest station called the station of Manjakatompo which is an ecotourism site. Also, there is the Palace of Tsinjoarivo with its historic site and waterfall. You can see the third highest mountain of Madagascar called ‘Mount Tsiafajavona’.
This one is a very pretty and very clean city, could be the cleanest in Madagascar. Its broad large avenues are shaded and bordered by jacaranda trees. During the flowering season, these colorful plants make the city even more charming with all the jacaranda trees purple flowers layers associated with rickshaws, dominated especially by the sharp orange color, gives a very particular stereotype and an exceptional key. Here, the air is almost pure contrary to Antananarivo where the exhaust fumes belong to the daily life. In Antsirabe, many of the population privileges the non- motorized means of transport that are the rickshaws. Currently, this city counts nearly 2000 of these two wheels and is regarded even as the Malagasy city which has the strongest density of rickshaw. The two wheels are the most practical and ideal way to pay a visit of the city, with a moderate price and a maximum of assured pleasure. The advantage of this means of travelling is that they are ready to be used any moment of the day and the pullers can be also used sometimes as guide.
It is said that name “rickshaw” comes from the expression formerly used during the French colonial community who were accustomed to borrowing it. Previously, the rickshaws of Antananarivo with its up and down hills were drawn by two people, one pushing and the other one pulling, and during the climbing the quite fatty passengers were accustomed to not only speak but to shout to the person who pushes by using the expression “Push! Push! “.
The town of Antsirabe is the city of water because of the presence of its many medicinal springs and thermal sources of warm water like the Vichy water. There are seven of them knowing both Ranomafana (I and II) which literally means “warm water” in Malagasy language, Ranovisy which is the translation of Vichy water, Antsirakely, and the hospital and Sahatsiho. These sources are already exploited since nearly one century. One of the products of these sources is bottled and sold under the name “Visy gasy” which is very appreciated because of its therapeutic virtue. The city is thus baptized “Malagasy Vichy”.
The lakes should not be missed, the two most known tourist lakes will be quoted and which make the wonders of Antsirabe are Andrikiba and the extraordinary and mysterious Tritriva lakes.