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Madagascar: Tsingy Bemaraha

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Tsingy Bemaraha | Madagascar | Africa

[Visited: May 2017]

Getting to the tsingy is part of the fun: a ferry crossing of the Manambolo river can be an adventure in itself, as we saw the evening before when a car nearly fell off into the river in an attempt to drive on. Then, there is the drive on a dirt road - it takes the better part of an hour to cover the 17 km. Upon arrival, we put on our harnesses, and get a short briefing by the guide, explaining the history of the tsingy (the word means "where you cannot walk barefoot" in local language), and what is fady (prohibited) in the park. Initially, the hike leads through forest, passes some small tsingy formations, but soon enough, we are instructed to clip our karabiner to the metal line and descend into a narrow chasm in the rocks. There are narrow openings here and there, and a boulder hanging above us at some part, before we get out into the sun again.

Picture of Tsingy Bemaraha (Madagascar): Tsingy seen from below

We work our way up the tsingy, and discover why they cannot be walked on: they are hard and pointy, so you have to tread carefully. There are plants that only exist here, on this seemingly harsh environment, cacti, and trees. We now see more tsingy, descend into the forest again, walk through tunnels and caves where we have to switch on our torches, squeezing ourselves through narrow openings in the limestone rocks, sometimes on our knees. Even down in the darkness, we see roots of trees: impressive to think that high above us, their leaves must be basking in the sun! When we get out of yet another cave and switch off our torches, we have to work our way up a via ferrata: ladders attached to the tsingy. From deep darkness of the inner earth to the bright sunshine in a matter of minutes. When we reach the viewpoint, we are rewarded by a great view: tsingy all around us. A sea of spiky stone trees.

Picture of Tsingy Bemaraha (Madagascar): Heartland of the tsingy

We now have the time to have a closer look at these limestone needles, each one different from the next, all the same grey colour because of the oxidation. There is erosion both vertically and horizontally, and we see patches of tsingy that seem to be floating on air. It is possible to sit under several of them. We walk across a suspension bridge over a deep chasm in the tsingy to reach the next viewpoint. From there, we descend into the earth again over ladders and natural stepping stones. We are back to squeezing ourselves through openings in rocks, and when we reach bottom, we are in the so-called cathedral. With the spires above us, and the big space with its cool atmosphere, it is easy to see where the name comes from. The perfect spot to have lunch. From here, we will descend into the forest again, leaving the curious limestone formations behind us. As a bonus, we see two different kinds of lemurs before we can set off again for the drive back to Bekopaka.

Picture of Tsingy Bemaraha (Madagascar): Limestone pinnacles, also known as tsingy: frontal view
Picture of Tsingy Bemaraha (Madagascar): Inside the tsingy: narrow passage
Picture of Tsingy Bemaraha (Madagascar): Endemic tree flourishing on the limestone rocks
Picture of Tsingy Bemaraha (Madagascar): Close-up of a sharply defined limestone pinnacle
Picture of Tsingy Bemaraha (Madagascar): The tsingy are often very pointy
Picture of Tsingy Bemaraha (Madagascar): Narrow opening in the rocks
Picture of Tsingy Bemaraha (Madagascar): Narrow passage in the tsingy area
Picture of Tsingy Bemaraha (Madagascar): View over one of the areas with tsingy
Picture of Tsingy Bemaraha (Madagascar): Overlooking the tsingy
Picture of Tsingy Bemaraha (Madagascar): Sharply defined limestone formations pointing upwards
Picture of Tsingy Bemaraha (Madagascar): The tsingy pointing towards the sky
Picture of Tsingy Bemaraha (Madagascar): Shaped over the centuries by rain and wind, the limestone formations are remarkable works of art
Picture of Tsingy Bemaraha (Madagascar): Part of the hike lead through caves and a tunnel

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