THE WEST AND SOUTHWEST
Miandrivazo lies on the banks of the Mahajilo, a tributary of the Tsiribihina, 220 km from Antsirabe, and is the starting point for the descent of that river. This town is the hottest place in Madagascar (temperature 25°C at night from October to March, during the daytime might reach 37°C), but often cold in the winter (June, July and August especially in the morning).Miandrivazo is also a starting point for the canoe trip down the Tsiribihina River.
WHERE TO STAY?
Hotel Baobab (midrange)
Hotel Lakana (Midrange)
Hotel chez la Reine Rasalimo (low midrange)
DESCENDING THE TSIRIBIHINA RIVER
This is becoming increasingly popular trip. The river trips can be done only by the tour operator or by a very professional guide to avoid problems with the bogus guides and some of the paddlers in Antsirabe and Miandrivazo. This is a three to four days trip, with the starting point in Miandrivazo. The birdlife viewed from the river is excellent, and there is a good chance of seeing 5 species of Lemurs, chameleons and snakes. There are about 83 species of birds during the river trip. If you want to see the marvellous Tsingy of Bemaraha (the eroded limestone), the river-trip is the best way to go there, because going by car to Morondava and all around the way to Belo Sur Tsiribihina is a waste of time. During the river trip, you will see a primary forest, the Gorge of Bemaraha, the second day is the best part of the trip, passing a lovely landscape, a wonderful waterfall and nice place to relax as the trip is a bit tiring.
It is a also good place to learn the traditions and the custom of the western tribe by passing a few villages during the trip. Using motor boat is fast and less tiring, but expensive.
Most of the tourists like canoe (pirogue) rather than boat. The river trip is a good adventure; so do not miss it if you visit Madagascar.
TSINGY OF BEMARAHA NATIONAL PARK (The eroded-limestone pinnacles)
The park of Bemaraha spreads over 157 710 Ha with 100-km long from the North to the South and 10 to 40km large in West. Its Southern part enjoys the National Park statute with 72.340 ha of surface. Its Northern part that has the statute of Integral Natural reserve covers 85.370 ha. It is in the South that we can find the Tsingy, spectacular pinnacles the access of which is extremely difficult. This Karstic formation spreads is visible from afar, a forest of peaks and ergots of rocks that makes all so impressive.
Bemaraha is a high spot of endemism and diversity. The scientists estimate that the general endemism of this park is 86, 7% and the ecoregional one is 47%. 11 species of lemurs are listed from there, five families of Bats, 103 species of bird’s species. The index of the reptiles and amphibians is as large as Bemaraha possesses 34 species that are all endemic. These are just a first taste of your discoveries.
The park of Bemaraha has a vegetation as original as endemic. It has a caducious dense dry forest essentially tropophile – typical of the ecoregion of the West, interrupted by the savannas in the East. Its vegetation is dry on the calcerous flagstone and humid in the canyons. 86% of the 650 plant species listed in Bemarahaha are endemic. They are adapted to an arid climate. For some, the leaves turned into thorn to keep water, it is the phenomenon of the Spinescence. For the other, the trunks enlarge themselves to store water; the Pachycaulie. Some plants dry their vegetative device and live in slow-motion before the rainy season; it is the reviviscence. Finally, other plants simply chose to reduce their size and became dwarf bushes. How Shrewd! Isn’t it?
The Morondava area was the centre of the Sakalavan’ny Menabe Kingdom and their tombs. It lies in south-east of Madagascar about 700 km from Antananarivo. Today Morondava is the centre of a prosper area, and has successfully introduced ostrich farming to Madagascar. For tourists, it is a good a seaside resort, with a laid back atmosphere. This is the centre for visiting the western deciduous forest, the famous baobabs alley and the Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park.
BELO SUR TSIRIBIHINA
Apart from being the town at the end of the Tsiribihina River, this place has little to offer, but a nice small town for a stop from the Tsingy or after the River-trip. It is worth a night relaxing in Belo sur Tsiribihina when you are a bit tired as both trips are really adventure.
WHERE TO STAY?
NATIONAL PARK OF ANDRANOMENA
The Special Reserve of Andranomena covers 6 420 ha and is located in the Region Menabe, 30 km north of the town of Morondava. The average temperature is around 25°C. The vegetation is composed of dense dry deciduous forest of the West with 3 remarkable species of baobab tree. It shelters a large number of endemic species of local, regional and national fauna. 11 species of reptiles and a species of amphibian have been counted in Andranomena. 48 species of birds, 10 species of mammals and 7 species of lemurs also live in the Reserve. Among these lemurs, 7 species of them are diurnal and five nocturnal. Three (3) of them are classified by the International Union for the Conservation of the Nature (IUCN) as rare species and two (2) as vulnerable species.
BELO SUR MER
Not to be confused with Belo sur Tsiribihina, this Vezo village is at 70 km south of Morondava.
To enjoy it, you need to be there in the coolest time of year (June and July) because it is very hot there; the village itself is a collection of small houses and huts, on the border of a small lagoon, shrouded in palm trees. Belo Sur Mer has a beautiful beach.
WHERE TO STAY?
Hotel Marina de Belo Sur Mer (top)
Ecolodge de Menabe (midrange)
Menabe hotel (bottom)
Nosy Andrano Bungalows (bottom)
Kirindy, 50 km northeast of the town of Morondava, is a privately managed forest by a Swiss company dedicated to a selective and sustainable logging (Centre de Formation Professionelle Forestière). It comprises one of the most outstanding and threatened wildlife habitats in Madagascar: the dry deciduous forest, whose extension has been reduced to 3 per cent of their original extent. Dominated by majestic baobab trees and a forest canopy of even 14 m altitude, this protected area of approximate 100 square kilometres is the only place where the world’s smallest known primate, the giant jumping rat, occurs. This animal can hop like a miniature kangaroo, but is also seen walking on all four limbs. The Sakavala people living here are mainly proud zebu holders.
Kirindy is the best place in the whole island to observe fossas, especially during the mating time between October and December. It also home to seven species of lemur. The most common are the common brown lemurs and the Verreaux’s sifakas. These long-legged, seven-pound lemurs, white with dark patches, leap among tree trunks high in the canopy, propelled by their powerful hind legs but continually maintaining an upright posture. The remaining species are nocturnal: the rare Coquerel’s giant mouse lemur and pygmy mouse-lemur, fork-crowned lemur, Gray mouse lemur, western fat-tailed dwarf lemur and red-tailed sportive lemur. Several bats, tenrecs, mongooses and rodents complete the mammal population.
40 bird, 50 reptile and 15 amphibian species are also found in this magnificent forest.
The flora is also quite unusual and contains several locally endemic plant species. The two species of baobabs of Kirindy reach here simply unbelievable sizes. Baobabs are believed to be sacred by the locals. A local tradition says that baobabs were the first trees that the gods planted. Due to the gods inexperience they planted them upside down, which justifies the bizarre look of these amazing trees.
There is a good network of paths in the reserve and the staff will help you with your explorations. The night-walk is a highlight to every visit to this area. Visitors can spot nocturnal lemurs, fossas, the giant jumping rat, reptiles, frogs and rare insects.
There are two differentiated seasons in this part of the island. The rainy season is very hot (up to 40°) and lasts from December to March. Due to the rain Kirindy is often not accessible during the last part of the rainy season and it can be closed depending on the amount of rain. The best time to visit the Reserve is at the beginning of the rainy season, since the forest is green, all the animals are active and the road is still “Ok”. The bad point is that it can be crowded during this life explosion.
The rest of the year (end of March until the beginning of January) temperatures are milder (25° to 15°) and it rains almost nothing. During this long dry season the forest is leafless and many reptiles and small mammals hibernate.
Kirindy Reserve is only a two-hour drive from Morondava with a jeep. This makes it an ideal one-day- trip, which most visitors actually do. Nevertheless, if you do not stay overnight you miss the very rewarding night walk.
There is a daily taxi-brousse from Morondava to Belo-sur-Tsiribihina which takes around 4 hours and drops you at the main road, a pair of km from the reserve entrance.
In recent years visitor facilities have improved. At the Reserve entrance there are a small office and a restaurant serving local dishes. There are also several bungalows with mosquito nets, shared or private facilities, shower and even electricity during a couple of hours a day (40,000 to 52,000 Ar) and a cheaper dormitory with communal facilities.
Camping is no longer possible since there have been some fossa attacks recently.
Entry fee is 20,000 Ar a day per person. The guide during the walks costs 12,000 Ar per hour, and 20,000 Ar for the night walk.
It is about half way between Tuléar and Morondava. The road is sandy and in very poor condition. The 250 km Journey takes about 12 hours. Morombe rewards those with time to stroll. It is quite a prosperous-looking little town, with some spacious houses in the north and a bustling village of wooden huts to the south. If you continue south along the beach beyond the Baobab hotel, you will come to a rewarding group of mangroves here where you can watch mud–skippers. Behind this area are some local tombs.
WHERE TO STAY?
Hotel Baobab (midrange)
Le Croix du sud (midrange)
Lakana volamena (midrange)
ANDAVADOAKA AND AMPASILAVA
These two villages are adjacent to each other by one of the best beaches in Madagascar, 45 km south of Morombe. Coming south from Morombe, you first reach Andavadoaka, then, 5 km further on. Ampasilava is described as a sweet little village. The drive there is varied and very beautiful. It takes around two hours.
WHERE TO STAY?
Hotel Manga Lodge (moyen)
Valantsaka Resort (top)
ANKARAFANTSIKA INTEGRAL NATURAL RESERVE
Ankarafantsika is 450 km from Antananarivo and 115 km from Mahajanga. The National Road N°4 crosses the Park. Located in the Region of Boina, it is located on Marovoay and Ambato-Boeni Districts. Mahajamba River flows in its east side, and the Betsiboka in the west. Ankarafantsika spreads on 135,000 ha.
Ankarafantsika is a den of birds and lemurs. This particularity makes the conservation of this National Park a real leitmotiv. Eight species of lemurs have been observed in Ankarafantsika: one strict diurnal species, two cathemeral species, five typically nocturnal species of which the famous Microcebus, the smallest primate in the world. 129 species of birds nest in the forest of Ankarafantsika. 75 among them are endemic. Ankarafansika is also home of local endemic reptile species.
A total of 10 amphibian and 44 reptiles’ species are recorded within this Park. Few of these species are rare, threatened or limitide distribution range. Among them are the horned chameleon (Furcifer rhinoceratus), the dwarf chameleon (Brookesia decaryi), the freshwater turtle and Crytically endangered species (Erymnochelys madagascariensis), the two “Vulnerable” boas (Acrantophis madagascariensis and Sanzinia madagascariensis), and the terrestrial and diurnal rare species of snake Liophidium therezieni.
The flora of Ankarafantsika is very varied. There are 823 species. 82% are herbaceous endemic plants, and 92% are woody plants.
Mahajanga is situated in the north-west coast about 600 km from Antananarivo. It is hot but breezy town. The large Indian population and the local interesting excursions make the visit of a few days, well worthwhile. A wide boulevard follows the sea along the west part of the town, terminating by a lighthouse. At its elbow is the Mahajanga baobab, at least 700 years old with a circumference of 14 metres.
WHERE TO STAY?
Hotel La piscine (top)
Mada Hotel (midrange)
Sunny hotel (top)
Anjary hotel (midrange)
Katsepy is a tiny fishing village across the bay from Mahajanga which is reached in 45 minutes by ferry. Recently, there was only one reason to go to Katsepy: to enjoy the landscape in the surrounding of the bay.
The grottes de Anjohibe are 82 km north-east of Mahajanga and accessible only by 4WD vehicle, and then only in the dry season.
There are two places to visit, the caves and the natural swimming pool above the waterfall. The caves are full of stalactites and stalagmites (and bats), and have 2 km of passages. There is a troop of Sifaka here.
LE PARC NATIONAL DE MAROJEJY
The national park of Marojejy is very mountainous, full of granite. It has a very sloppy massif with high peak. Marojejy is composed of different kinds of vegetations: in low altitiude, thick forest and high trees, tree ferns, palms, etc. You need to be in good shape to climb the mountain but the visit highly rewarded. Marojejy is a very awesome park and has the feeling of ultimate wilderness. You will meet silky sifaka and helmet vanga , panther chameleons , leaf tailed geckos, white footed brown lemurs, ,white headed vanga , iconic birds species.
The National Park of Marojejy spreads on 60 050 Ha, in the region of the Sava, a new demarcation of this protected area is in progress to bring it back to 55 500 ha. It is an altitude park that can reach up to 2132m. Marojejy is dominated by an immense mountain and much damaged forest reliefs. It is a very complex shape landscape where crests and stiff slopes follow each other.
Marojejy conceals numerous interesting species: 115 species of birds, 11 species of lemurs. We can also meet 148 species of reptiles and amphibians, 16 of which are endemic to the giant mountain. Marojejy contains only 33% 305 species of Ptéridophytes of which six endemic have been inventoried on the massif of Marojejy. What puts the park in the first rank of the Malagasy protected areas for its specific wealth in Ptéridophytes. More than 50 species of palms have also been harvested. They are especially abundant in the forests of low altitude but remain present until the summit. of the species of reptiles and amphibians known in Madagascar.
Anjajavy is located on the west coast of Madagascar. An Anjajavy, the sun is almost permanent, because there is an hour longer than normal, which adds your time to enjoy the serenity, you can relax on the beach where nobody will disturb your well-being for miles around. Ideal for a nice honeymoon, with nothing but the total package, you really feel that time has stopped. The 450-hectare nature reserve is home to thousands of plant space for the most part, endemic and many medicinal plants. Tsingy, a famous ancient coral remains, throughout the forest and overlooking the bay. The famous Verreau of Dryopithecus (coquereli Sifaka), the bird of paradise, the chameleon, the oplure Cuvier’s (sort of iguana) take refuge in the forest sheltering rosewood and baobabs. We also see the Eagle Madagascar. Its coral reef provides a magic shapes and colors of this pristine world of silence. No road connects Anjajavy. A private plane Air Hotel Company serving the place that allows you to look at low altitude varied landscape of the Red Island. A large variety of aquatic plants, papyrus, ferns, tree, all sorts of climbing plants, palms, where hummingbirds come to take refuge, lemurs, malachite kingfishers, the burst of the Rongo or Madagascar. The walks are accessible to all and require no special physical ability. There are marked trails departing from the hotel to explore the forest, creeks and surrounding fishing villages. This is one of the most modern beaches and cleanest of Madagascar
WHERE TO STAY?
Air Hotel (top)