A Hike in the Tsingy of Madagascar?
Closer to Rock Climbing!

When I started planning to travel to Madagascar, I thought of lemurs. I didn't know about Tsingy...

Is that a type of lemur? I mean there are lemurs called Sifakas and Indris and Aye-ayes. So exactly what are we talking about?

Our tour company described it as "fantastic limestone formations," and they suggested a hike in this geologic wonderland.

Ah ha!

It must be a place. OK....

A friend told us that even though he travels to see primates, it was his hike in the Tsingy of Madagascar that amazed him.

Tsingy de Bemaraha  Big Tsingy Madagascar

If you look up the World Heritage Center site, this is what they say...."Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve comprises karstic landscapes and limestone uplands cut into impressive 'tsingy' peaks and a 'forest' of limestone needles, the spectacular canyon of the Manambolo river, rolling hills and high peaks. The undisturbed forests, lakes and mangrove swamps are the habitat for rare and endangered lemurs and birds."

Madagascar Red Ringtailed mongoose Decken's Sifaka - mom and baby Madagascar Giant Coua

OK... limestone pinnacles with lemurs and birds. Sounds good.

We decided it should be included in our itinerary, but even with all of this I still really didn't know what to expect. Another clue came just before departure when the tour operator e-mailed asking our fitness levels so they would know how to schedule the Tsingy hike. Hummmm....

Mark climbing in Big Tsingy Tsingy of Madagascar Good handholds, but Tsingy are sharp

I don't think most tourist brochures will really prepare you for what to expect, so let me tell you what we encountered. There is no easy way to get to this National Park. The best way is to fly to the beach town of Morondava. Air Madagascar flies there, and there are decent hotels to stay in. The Tsingy are about 150 km or 93 miles from Morondava.

Not bad, you're thinking... but let me tell you, the road isn't good. Read this again... the road is not good. And you will have a couple of adventurous ferry crossings. It will take all day to go that 150 km, but more on roads on another page!

The Roads -  Baobab Alley and Zebu Carts Ferry across the Manambolo River Madagascar

You can break your drive at a river town called Beka. To our way of thinking, driving straight though is better than spending the night in Beka. The hotels are better in Morondava. We would, however, recommend having the gambas (big river shrimp) for lunch in Beka.

Next there is the heat. You can only visit the Tsingy in the dry time of year; the roads would be impassible during the rainy season. Dry season translates to HOT! They are promoting eco-tourism, and there are new accommodations are going up, but be advised you may not have air conditioning. There are ceiling fans and cold Three Horse Beer (the local beer).... so it could be worse.

OK now for National Park itself.... Tsingy means pointed peaks in Malagasy... or "where one cannot walk barefoot" depending on who's translating. That last translation is more graphic!

There are 165,000 acres of these pointed peaks.... so many soaring, jagged needles of rock that it looks like a forest of rocks... thus the World Heritage description of a forest of limestone needles. Some needles are 100m high. This vast area was once covered by ocean. You can see fossils in some of the rocks. Over the centuries, rain and wind have carved and etched the rocks into this surreal landscape.

One at a time! Suspension bridge Tsingy  Rest stop Big Tsingy hike

Start your hike as early in the morning as you can. You or your guides must get hiking permits from the National Park Office which state an approximate starting time. Get these as soon as you can after you arrive, especially during the high tourist season.

It took us an hour to get from our lodge to the parking lot where our hike in the Big Tsingy started. That was when our guide pulled out the climbing harnesses.

Whoa..... climbing harnesses?

This could be more than I was counting on. As it turned out it was a strenuous hike and as close to rock climbing as we will ever come... but it was not really climbing, and it was all worth it.

Some narrow ledges in the Tsingy  Tunnels in Big Tsingy  Steep and narrow ladders in Tsingy

There are many areas where you will be climbing up through crevasses and though cave-like tunnels. There are several steep ladders. There are many areas where small rocks have been pounded into small crevasses to provide rock "ladders". There are narrow ledges and very steep ups and downs... and you will feel like you're climbing, but none of it is technical climbing. In many of these areas, the guides want you to hook onto cables for safety.... that's what the climbing harnesses are for.

Rock ladders - almost rock climbing Tsingy   Climbing gear is for safety in the Tsingy

Three of us went for it and loved it... once we were done. One of our group opted out when the guide pulled those climbing harnesses out. If you know what to expect, you can go for it and enjoy the whole experience.

There is a hike closer to the river and the hotels called the Little Tsingy. It is a shorter hike, and from what we heard, it's easier but still gives you a good idea of what this whole geological wonderland is all about. The guide books say there are impressive limestone pinnacles in the northwest of the island, but I can't tell you about that.

Getting back to forest - hike almost done

What we will tell you is that to round out an itinerary to Madagascar, a visit to the Tsingy is well worth the effort.

En route to the Tsingy de Bemahara, you'll see a whole area of Madagascar that you would miss otherwise, spend a night or two in an interesting beach town, drive through Baobab Alley, have some incredible ferry crossings, a great lunch and hike through geologic areas that still defy adequate description as far as I'm concerned.

So we say, go for it.... we just wanted you to know what to expect.

Happy travels... even if you don't travel the world... just remember that life is a journey... embrace and enjoy it!   Judy and Mark

Return to Madagascar
Madagascar Itinerary  Africa Dream List
Go from Tsingy to MouseToursTravels Home Page

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Did it help with your travel planning and preparation? Eager to leave on that next vacation? Please leave your tips or comments in the box below.

Ready For A New Adventure?
How about a website of your own...
... work for yourself ... or...
Exercise your brain in retirement.
Follow Your Passion
Who knows where it will take you?
(Look around at where it's taken us!)
Click below to start your own journey
First Day Of The Rest Of Your Life

Already have a website or blog with WordPress? Make it better!


Search MouseToursTravels
Travel questions or destination info?
Find our answers faster...

Related Searches


We want you to feel comfortable out in the world and on our pages - so surf away in your own language...

Timely Tips

The Holidays are Here!

Time to remind you we have tips on
Surviving Holiday Flights

Remember, if you’re carrying gifts, it’s better not to wrap them… airport security might make you open them!

Have time for a quick trip to prepare for Christmas? We have ideas...
European Christmas Markets
German Christmas Markets
Seiffen Germany Makes Christmas Decorations
Cold Weather Packing List

Christmas  Market Nutcrackers

How about gift Ideas...

Buy travel gear for yourself or a friend…. Shop eBags.com, the leading online retailer of luggage, handbags, backpacks, and accessories They have anything a traveler needs... moneybelts, security purses, TSA approved locks, packing cubes for organization, and more.

…Or just take the holiday time to explore more pages here and get ideas for travel destinations and how to get there.

NOW is the time to start planning for a great trip next year.

Find, Compare & Book It!

We always say shop and compare at several sources. Here are some of our favorites...

25+ Million Users Trust TripAdvisor With Their Travel Plans. Shouldn't You?

Cheap airfare, hotels, car rentals, vacations and cruises at Expedia.com!

All the best hotel sites in one place right here. Hotels Combined...
HotelsCombined logo

We are not travel agents, but we're affiliated with these and other great companies.
Check 'em all out!

Follow Your Passion!

Travel Is Our Passion
What's Yours?

We have lots of fun traveling... and we've had lots of fun creating this website. It earns us money too! No get-rich quick scheme here.... just honest pages about our travels. Is this something you've ever wanted to try?

Are you passionate or knowledgeable about something? An expert even?

Cars ...or... cooking?
Boats ...or... business?
Plants ...or... parenting?

Turn it into a web business. Click on the SBI TV icon below and learn how a new life could be yours...

Learn how to build your own profitable web site like we did

Look at it... Think about it...
Why NOT you?

If you're like me, you like to talk to a real person and get answers to your questions... We get that!

Your Questions Answered Here.

Honest answers... honestly ...Promise!

Two Ways To Like Us!
Like Our Site Top Left
Like Our Fanpage Below
Thank You!