THE DOOR TO THE SOUTH AND THE BIG SOUTH
The south is the most visited area in Madagascar. Nearly forty per cent of tourists coming to the country spend their days in the south. The road has been improved. Isalo is one of the most attractive places in the big south since it receives 20000 tourists per year. The majority of nation’s national parks are found in the southern part of Madagascar including the Ranomafana national park, the Isalo national park, Berenty reserve, and so on…
All along the way of the day, it has a delightful journey that provides an excellent view of the high plateaux culture and beautiful spectacular scenery as well. There is a grand canyon in Isalo with a superb landscape especially the natural window ‘fenêtre’, where you can enjoy watching the sun setting down in the early evening; the natural swimming pool called ‘La Piscine naturelle’ provides an imaginable exotic place where tourists spends their day relaxing in the water after a nice but tiring long walk in the park.
Fianarantsoa is the capital of the Betsileo ethnic group. It is situated approximately 410km from Antananarivo. It takes 8 hours drive. It is translated as the ‘place of good learning’ in English.
Ethnic group: the Betsileo
The regional specialty is cultivation, tea processing and wine. The Sahambavy Tea Estate is situated on one side of a very pretty valley beside Lake Sahambavy, 25 km by road from Fianarantsoa on the way to Manakara. Fianarantsoa is also famous for the wineries (Soavita, Lazan’ny Betsileo), on the way to Ambalavao.
There are lots of churches in the city which have been influenced by the missionaries and the Norwegian missions between 1860 and 1870.
Fianarantsoa is composed of three different levels including the old or high city, the Middle city modern, and the Low city.
Tolon’Omby (Savika), the so-called bull fighting is the famous sport practised by the Betsileos during important events such as circumcision, big festival, holidays, etc. Savika is practised by the young Betsileo men fighting the zebus with their bare hands.
WHERE TO STAY?
Hotel Tsara Guest House (Top)
Zoom Hotel (top)
Hotel Sofia (midrange, top)
Lac Hotel (midrange, top)
Ambositra lies 90 km south of Antsirabe; it is the capital of handicraft best known for its woodcarving including sculpture, inlays, and engravings. The Zafimaniry villages, named for the living tribe have achieved a wide international acclaim. On November 3, 2003, this woodcarving skill was proclaimed by the UNESCO as masterpiece of human oral heritage. They also produce articles from raffia and other materials. There is an abundant choice of carving figures and marquetry in several shops. The best woodcarving shop (and workshop) is chez Victor, opposite to the Grand Hotel.
Where to stay ?
Ranomafana is located 70 km east of Fianarantsoa on the way back to Antananarivo. The Park possesses lots of fauna and flora species endemic in the island. Ranomafana means the ‘Hot Spring Water’ in English. Its thermal springs and mineral baths for curative treatment explain the name itself. It is very famous for its rare endemic lemurs ‘the Great Bamboo lemur, Golden Bamboo lemur, Diademed sifaka, Red-bellied, Brown lemur, Red-fronted lemur, Black and white ruffed lemur, Wolly lemur (avahi), Greater dwarf lemur, Aye-aye, and Milne Edwards Sifaka (black crowned sifaka).
There are also many waterfalls. Namorona River, often called the biggest waterfall in Madagascar and dense thick forests which make it difficult to spot bird and other wildlife, but the visit is very rewarding due to its birding sighting such as the Henst Goshawk, and other fauna species including the frogs, chameleons too.WHERE TO STAY?
Setam Lodge (top)
Hotel Centr’est (midrange , top)
Hotel Cristo (midrange)
MANAKARA AND MANANJARY
Manakara is the area of the Antaimoro ethnic group. It is the biggest city in the south-eastern part of Madagascar.
There are couple possible access to go to Manakara whether by train from Fianarantsoa or by car as well.
On the other hand, Mananjary is the home town of the Antaimbahoaka ethnic group having an Arabic origin. Mananjary is not yet developed for tourists but the city provides lots of crops such as coffee, pepper, and cloves which are meant to be exported. Dugout canoe or boat trip across the Pangalan Channel are very rewarding. People in the region have their unique tradition called the ‘Practice of Sambatra’ which is the collective circumcision ceremony held every seven years for boys less than ten years. The southeast is much similar to the east coast for its landscape and vegetation, but the best place to learn about the custom and the traditions which highly respected in these regions. In Mananjary, it is forbidden to have twin children; they have to get rid of one of them because that is a taboo.
WHERE TO STAY?
Hotel Ampilao Beach Hotel (midrange)
Parthenay Club Bunglow (midrange)
Hotel Jardin de la Mer (midrange)
Sorafa Hotel (midrange)
Vohipeno is located about 45 km in the southern part of Manakara; this small town is the centre of the Antemoro tribe who came from Arabia about 600 years ago, bringing the first script to Madagascar. Their Islamic history is shown by their clothing. It is worth to visit the “Tranobe” where you can meet their king. “Tranobe” is the famous house where the Antemoro used to make ceremony, meeting and traditional celebration; you have to take off your shoes when you enter in the “Tranobe” because it is a holy place.
There are not good hotels in Vohipeno; the best way is to spend the night in Manakara after the visit.
Heading to south, Ambalavao is situated 56 km away from Fianarantsoa; it takes one hour drive. Ambalavao is sometimes called the ‘Southern Gateway’. Ambalavao is the original home of the famous Malagasy “Antemoro Paper”. This papyrus – type paper impregnated with dried flowers is sold throughout the island as wall-hangings and lampshades.
Antemoro paper is traditionally made from the bark of the Avoha tree from the eastern forest, but sisal paste is now sometimes used.
After pounding and softening the bark in water, it is smoothed onto liner trays to be dried in the sun. It is then recommended to having two hours stop at the local industry of Papier Antaimoro. Zebu market is held there on Wednesdays, trying to learn how the local people bargain and do their businesses.
The Anja Reserve
The forest in Anja was designated a protected area reserve by the Government of Madagascar in 1999. The reserve extends over 30 hectares. The space is enriched with an ecological wealth of flora and fauna species, most notable for its dense population of semi-tame ring-tailed lemurs. Anja Park is located 13 km south of the district capital Ambalavao on national route 7 to Tulear in the Haute Matsiatra Region (Fianarantsoa).
The Malagasy government made it a priority to increase the amount of protected land by fivefold. Many community parks and reserves were established to protect natural resources and to empower Malagasy people with rights to their lands and the benefits of ecotourism.
Anja Reserve is the most visited community managed forest and ecotourist site in Madagascar. Anja has become a vital example of how community management of natural resources can both effectively protect the area and benefit the community.
Management of the forest was officially transferred to the local association Anja Miray (A.M.I) on Nov. 23, 2001 in reference to Malagasy Law No. 096-025,31/09/96, pertaining to the local management of renewable natural resources mission to protect and administer local sites.
In Anja, members of the local community have been chosen to independently manage natural resources. The Anja Miray Association also contributes to local development through community projects including: Construction and maintenance of a primary school, construction of a house for a Peace Corps Volunteer, large scale fish farming, environmental restoration with tree nurseries, malaria education, and contribution of funds to enable local people to obtain mosquito nets. All residents of Anja are eligible for membership in the association. Based on their individual skill sets some people work as guides, some work as porters while others perform administrative and management tasks associated with the reserve.
A project initiated in 1999, Anja Park is a small (8ha) community-managed reserve 15km south of Ambalavao, visited on a 1-2 hour walk to see habituated lemurs including plenty of ring tailed lemurs (you may even get the ‘lemur on the shoulder’ experience). The surroundings are beautiful with impressive rock formations and interesting dry-adapted flora. It is a sacred area for the Betsileo people with caves and tombs high up in the cliffs. For the energetic and nimble, a climb up the rocks yields superb views over the landscape. As much as this is not the most natural experience, it offers great photographic opportunities, your entrance fee and tips help the local community and the lemurs tend to be healthier than at e.g. Berenty.
Andringitra is located 47 km in the South of Ambalavao along the National Road No. 7, in the Region of Haute Matsiatra . The Park covers 31,160 ha. Perched on the heights, its altitude varies between 650 and 2658 m.Andringitra counts seven species of crustaceans, 205 species of bugs, 78 species of amphibian, 50 species of reptiles, 54 species of mammals (lemurs, carnivorous, bats…) and 106 species of birds.
– CAMPING –
RANOHIRA AND ITS PARK: ISALO NATIONAL PARK
The Isalo is part of the Commune of Ranohira, in the region of the Ihorombe. It is 279 Km in the South of Fianarantsoa. The park, furrowed of rivers and their affluents, spreads over 81 540 ha. This massive ruiniforme is a plateau of continental sandstone dating from the Jurassic.Very much eroded, only the parceled witnessed by the sandy valleys and the canyons: a really exceptional show.
The animals of the Isalo are typical of the climate with vegetation and the geomorphology of the park. These are for a very strong majority of the endemic species. 77 species of birds live in Isalo among which the Benson rock-thrush Pseudocossyphus bensoni, an endemic species of Madagascar that is well protected. We can also find 14 species of nocturnal lemurs, 8 of which are introduced and seven endemic to Madagascar. Reptilian, amphibian, carnivores, insectivorous and gnawing completes the list. The animals of the Isalo are typical of the climate with vegetation and the geomorphology of the park. These are for a very strong majority of the endemic species. 77 species of birds live in Isalo among which the Benson rock-thrush Pseudocossyphus bensoni, an endemic species of Madagascar that is well protected. We can also find 14 species of nocturnal lemurs, 8 of which are introduced and seven endemic to Madagascar. Reptilian, amphibians, carnivores, insectivorous and gnawing complete the list.
WHERE TO STAY
Hotel Satrana Lodge (top)
Hotel Relais de la Reine (Top)
Hotel Jardin de Roy (top).
Hotel Orchidée (Midrange)
Motel de l’Isalo (midrange)
Isalo Ranch (midrange)
ZOMBITSE AND VOHIBASIA NATIONAL PARK
The complex forest Zombitse Vohibasia is composed of the forest of Zombitse and the biological sites of interest of Vohibasia and Isoky. It is a protected area of 36,308 ha split in three parcels. The Zombitse: 16,845 ha, the Vohimena Isoky: 3,293 ha, and Vohibasia: 16,170 ha.
Zombitse Vohibasia shelters 47% of the endemic birds of Madagascar and a local endemic species: the the Appert’s Greenbul Bernieria. It also counts 8 species of lemurs of which some are almost threatened as the case of the Phaner furcifer pallescens.
From Tana till Tuléar, it is 950km. Tuléar is the Capital of the south-western part of Madagascar. There are five different ethnic groups in this last RN7 destination including the Vezo known as the fishing men, the Mahafaly, the Antandroy (people in the spiny desert), Bara, and Antanosy or people from the island.
The climate is very dry and hot with spiny forests in Ifaty. Tuléar attracts many tourists because of its natural wealth having rich marine life with excellent snorkelling and diving; the Mahafaly and Masikoro tombs and the Museum which put it all in context, the remarkable spiny bush in places north and south of town. The beaches have a beautiful fine sand and brilliant coral reefs and bays belonging to the Vezo fishing men who are masters of the colourful pirogues. The coral reefs of the island are distributed mostly of the west coast of Madagascar. There are many wonderful and colourful fish, whales, sharks, dolphins, rays turtles and even sord fish incredibly rare. Coelacanths have been caught in the region of St. Augustine, south of Tuléar.
Traditionally, having zebu is an external sign of wealth of the south-western coast of Madagascar; it is considered to be a sacred animal. Their main activity is cattle breeding. Zebu is very valuable to those people. Zebus are killed during the ceremonial proceedings such as burial, funeral ceremony of major festival. Horns of the zebu are signposted on the tomb to symbolize the wealth of the deceased. Lots of images or pictures are embossed or displayed on the grave wall. Those pictures symbolize his wealth.
WHERE TO STAY?
Hotel Palétuvier (top)
Hotel Capricorne (top)
Hotel la Paille en Queue (top)
Hotel Victory (midrange)
Hotel Dera (midrange)
IFATY (BEACH RESORTS, NORTH OF TULEAR)
Ifaty is 27km north of Tuléar; the road is not very well-maintained. It has beautiful fine sand, beaches, and provides a wonderful snorkelling activities and whale watching. The area is home to many endemic birds species such as the Long-tailed coua, Running coua, Crested coua, Madagascar Harrier Hawk, Chaberts Vanga, Lafresnaye’s Vanga, Sickle-billed Vanga, Subdesert Mesite, etc.
Reniala Private Reserve is a small protected area of only 60 ha, managed by an environmental association called Reniala (which means baobab in Malagasy) that is trying to develop eco-tourism in the area. The reserve is located less than 1km from the Mozambique Channel near the village of Ifaty-Mangily, about 25 km North of Tulear. It shelters an amazing, bizarre and unique ecosystem which only occurs in the south-eastern part of Madagascar: the spiny forest. The towering spiny bushes are home to more than 2000 plants species (many of them local endemic), some spectacular and
Reniala Private Reserve is a small protected area of only 60 ha, managed by an environmental association called Reniala (which means baobab in Malagasy) that is trying to develop eco-tourism in the area. The reserve is located less than 1km from the Mozambique Channel near the village of Ifaty-Mangily, about 25 km North of Tulear. It shelters an amazing, bizarre and unique ecosystem which only occurs in the south-eastern part of Madagascar: the spiny forest. The towering spiny bushes are home to more than 2000 plants species (many of them local endemic), some spectacular and very old baobabs (there is a giant baobab of 12,5 m diameter) and a complete endemic plants family, the Didieraceae. Reniala includes a botanical trail and a bird sanctuary.
Reniala Reserve is a paradise for birders, who can easily observe some very rare endemic species, such as the long-tailed ground roller, the subdesert mesite, the red-capped coua or the blue vanga. There are 65 bird species in total within the reserve.
Visitors can also spot mammals including the grey-mouse lemur, one the smallest primates, and some carnivorous; reptiles, like the threatened radiated and spider tortoises, warty chameleons, lizards and snakes
WHERE TO STAY?
Dune Hotel (top)
Le Paradisier (top)
Ifaty Beach (midrange)
ANAKAO (BEACH RESORTS, SOUTH TOLIARA)
Anakao is located in the Tropic of Capricorn. It is a small village of fishing Vezo people with wide sandy colored beach, beautiful colourful pirogues which are drawn from the sparkling water. It is a marine protected area that ensures a wealth of colourful fish found in the coral reefs including the Humpback whales which await you between July and September on their migration to warm the ocean. Anakao is accessible from Toliara via 300km dust road. Most tourists go by sea, either through Vezo safari or la companie du sud motorized boat taking three hours.
WHERE TO STAY?
Hotel Prince d’Anakao (top)
Hotel Longo Vezo (midrange)
ST AUGUSTINE’S BAY
The village of St. Augustin was traditionally inhabited by the fishermen belonging to the Vezo tribe. St. Augustine was built in a magnificent bay.
GROTTE AND SARONDRANO VILLAGE
Grotte Sarodrano is a 4 km walk south from La Mangrove hotel which is located on the tip of a peninsula. There are incredible dramatic sand dunes, cave swimming pool bottle trees, and where you can find wild ring-tailed lemurs and Southern endemic birds.
WHERE TO STAY?
Hotel Melody beach (midrange)
Chez Andrea (bottom)
National Park Tsimanampesotse covers 43,200 ha. Lake Tsimanampesotse is the first Ramsar site in Madagascar classified by the International Convention on Wetlands. This is also the only protected area within the limestone plateau and the coastal area along the coastline of the South West.
Tsimanampesotse contains among others, 112 species of birds including 5 species of Coua existing on the nine of Madagascar, 42 herpetofauna species including 39 reptiles, 4 species of lemurs of which 2 diurnal lemurs (Lemur catta and Propithecus verreauxii verreauxii and 2 nocturnal (Microcebus griseorufus and Lepilemur) and a species of blind fish living in the underground cave, Typhleotris madagascariensis. 185 plant species grows in Tsimanampesotse.
Beheloka is located at about 35 km from Anakao. The bay of Beheloka has wonderful beaches.
Relais d’Ambola (top)
Chez Bernard (bottom)
Itampolo is about 150 km south of Toliara. It is very famous for its beautiful beaches with pinkish-coloured sand; it is also a good place for surfing.
WHERE TO STAY?
Hotel Sud-Sud (bottom)
Betioky is a half day by 4WD from Toliara. In Betioky, the best hotel is Chez Claudia, 1 km before the town, which is family-run with good food.
Ampanihy is the producer of the famous hand made mohair carpets. The name of the town means “the place of bats”. Spending one day is recommended so that you can visit the “carpet factory” and the biggest Baobab in Madagascar.
WHERE TO STAY?
Hotel ANGORA (midrange)
Hotel Tahio (bottom)
Faux cap lies at the bottom of south-western part of Madagascar. Faux cap is a small isolated community with beautiful beach and coral reef.
WHERE TO STAY?
Hotel Libertalia (midrange)
Hotel Cactus (bottom)
BERENTY PRIVATE RESERVE
Berenty lies about some 86 km west of Fort-dauphin (Taolagnaro).
Berenty is the key visiting place of the tourists due to its wealth of fauna and an amazing dry deciduous plants and spiny forest. There is also a museum at the reserve which displays the cultures of the local ethnic group known as the Antandroy or the people in the spiny forest.
The reserve is famous for its great number of 2000 population of Ring-tailed lemurs and the dancing Sifakas. October is the time for baby lemurs. There are also brown lemurs, red-fronted brown lemurs, lepilemur, white-footed sportive lemur, verreaux Sifaka, and the Grey mouse lemurs.
Bird watching is very rewarding in Berenty. Nearly 100 species have been recorded including the Giant Coua, and the Hook-billed Vanga.
From mid October till late December, you are likely to see the migrant birds from south-east of Africa such as the Broad-billed Roller, Malagasy Lesser Cuckoo and lots of waders (sanderlings, greenshank, sandpiper, white-throated plover).There are lots of reptiles, chameleons, and crocodiles.
ANDOHAHELA NATIONAL PARK
The National Park of Andohahela is located in the Androy Region, halfway between the districts of Taolagnaro and Amboasary-Sud while borrowing the National Road no. 13. It spreads on 76,020 ha, of an altitude of 120 to 1,972 meters
Among others, the landscape, fauna and flora are of an astonishing variety in Andohahela, given the mixture of the South and the East within this park. But as in most National Parks of the island, the rate of endemism is important in there. Andohahela shelters 12 species of lemurs and five among them are lemurs of dry forest; 129 species of birds, 69 species of reptiles and 49 species of amphibian, of which four live in dry forest. The lemurs are the most sought by the tourists. But the Maki know by scientist as Lemur catta takes back the charts. Gray with an arranged tail in ring of white and black, and 50 cm high, the Maki, that lives in large family group (multimale-multifemale social structure with 1 alpha female), can be seen in Ihazofotsy.
More than one thousand of plant species cohabit inside the National Park of Andohahela. It is counted to be six of the eleven species of the endemic Didieraceae family of the South; 207 species and varieties of ferns of which more than 90% in humid forest. And finally, you will not miss the endemic species of palms of Andohahela and its surounding. The bouquet that vegetation forms, the tropical and humid forests, and the spiny encourage the blossoming of Dypsis decaryi or trihedral palm. It is the most endemic palm in this region.
Taolagnaro or Fort-Daphin is situated at the bottom of the south-eastern coast of Madagascar. The city of Tolagnaro nestles between the dramatic mountains and the southern ocean, with couple ethnic groups such as the Antandroy and Antanosy. Antanosy is the dominant ethnic group in the area.
The climate of Taolagnaro is composed of the eastern climate that rains a lot and also the southern climate which is hot and dry.
Taolagnaro has beautiful beaches such as the famous Libanona Beach.
WHERE TO STAY?
Sunny Hotel (top)
Kaleta Hotel (top)
Hotel Croix du Sud and
Hotel Lavasoa (high-midrange)