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.
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.
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....
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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