Madagascar – September 8th

Today was our tour of Tsingy De Bemaraha National Park. This park is a 200 km area of unique spiky rock formations.

The rock formations were made almost 200 million years ago after Madagascar broke off from the continent of Africa. The area of Tsingy, although now about 80 km inland, was previously under water. This can be seen in the many seashell fossils in the rocks.

The tectonic plates along a nearby fault line in the Mozambique Channel collided forcing the rock upward, thus creating the rock formations. However, they weren’t sharp and spiky at this time. The acid rains slowly eroded the formations into the sharp spiky points we see today. The acid rains erode the formations about 1 mm per year creating sharper and sharper rocks.

The Malagasy word Tsingy actually means to “tiptoe barefoot.” The people who first lived here had to walk along the sharp rocks barefoot, or tiptoe. 

This morning, Rado got up at 5  o’clock am to drive to the ticket office, buy our tickets, find an English speaking guide, and drive back to pick us up by 7:30am.

He picked us up with our guide Richard in tow. Richard is actually from the village of Bekopaka where our hotel is located.

Our guide, Richard

We arrived at the park after about an hour of bumpy dusty roads. Unfortunately, there were also many other tourists there as well. We put on our harnesses which we would use on several steep sections in the park and headed into the forest trying to beat the other groups. 

We spotted a couple of lemur species right off the bat including a Western spotted lemur and a white sifaka lemur. 

3 white sifaka lemurs in the tree

After about an hour of hiking, we started to see the rock formations. They were incredibly interesting to look at. You would never think that rock would form into the spiky wavy formations that we were seeing. 

We crawled through a cave to get further into the park. We were glad to have our headlamps here which we actually turned around to get on the drive over. 

Then, we climbed up a fairly steep area with wires that we could clip into with our harnesses. 

We eventually made it to two viewing platforms that looked out over all the formations. 

My only complaint was that the platforms got clogged up with tourists because we all started the hike at the same time. A caravan was required to drive to the park, so it was almost impossible to stagger the start of the groups, but it was still a little annoying having to wait for tourists to finish taking all their pictures. Anyway, we enjoyed the views and took in the uniqueness of the area. 

The route is an out-and-back on the forrest part and makes a loop in the rock portion. The climb down the rock portion had many more areas which required us to clip in with our harnesses. It was basically a via feratta with ladders, steep sections, bridges, and cliffs. We also went through a couple more caves on the way out. 

Once we made it back to the forrest section, our guide Richard took us along a different route at our request. Most tourists go back along the same route they came in on, but we got to go out an adventure route. It was more climbing and scaling sharp rocks, but it was cool to get to climb around more on the rock formations. We went through a couple more caves and saw some bats. Our path took us along a large fissure in the rocks until we were able to climb out.

We finished our hike explaining to Richard the differences between the words “hot” and “warm” at his request and promising him we would email him some of the pictures we took that morning. He wanted the pictures for his business pamphlets. 

Rado met us at the end of the hike and we climbed in the car to head back to the hotel at around 1:00pm. We had to drive back with the caravan and we timed it perfectly to be back right when it left. 

Along the way, another car in the caravan broke down, so we took in their passengers and drove back to town. 

The rest of the day we spent lounging by the pool and relaxing. Tomorrow we head back toward Morondava. 

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