Tsingy is the Malagasy word for “walking on tiptoes.”
And tiptoe we did, ever so carefully while exploring the spiky labrinth of limestone pillars characteristic to the national park appropriately named Tsingy de Bemaraha.
The fortress of pinnacles makes it difficult to penetrate the reserve located in Western Madagascar. We were equipped with a guide, headlamps, and climbing harness which we attached to metal ropes that had been installed to make exploration of the area possible and to prevent us from slipping into the many narrow cracks in the stone.
Fossils prove limestone pillars use to be underwater before the seabed emerged from underwater some 200 million years ago to create a plateau.
Over time heavy rainfall eroded the limestone creating what you see today, which can best be described as a massive mineral stone forest. The Bemaraha Cliffs rise 300-400m above the Manambolo Rivervalley, the reserve stretching 240 square mile.
Located in a very remote area of western Madagascar, it was an adventure in itself to get to the national park. Nolavy had arranged for a 4WD vehicle to pick us up at the end of our three day adventure canoeing down the Tsiribihina River. Nolavy stayed with us on our journey as did the other four travelers who had been with us since we left Tana. Our 4WD driver turned out to be a bit of a crazy driver, hitting a tree and a dog in the same day.
We spent our first day in the National Park exploring the Big Tsingy. Our guide led us into a forest where we spotted lemurs and birds.
We climbed up through the jagged rocks.
We entered dark caves and caverns switching on our headlamps. We slid through narrow gaps, crawled on our hands and knees hitting our heads on the low bearing stone above and scrambled over mounds of rock. This adventure is most definitely not for the claustrophobic.
We emerged into the light of day and climbed higher.
A hanging bridge connects a large crack in the limestone some 200 feet above the ground. The narrow bridge, made of wooden planks and rope, is just wide enough for one person to cross at a time. Spencer, don’t even think about doing this.
What goes up, must come down.
Our second day in the reserve was spent exploring the Petite Tsingy located next to the gorge of the Manambolo River.
The reserve’s canyons, gorges, and undisturbed forests yield an astonishingly high rate of endemism and diversity. Scientists estimate that 85% of the parks fauna is only found in Madagascar, while 47% of the creatures are only found in the Bemaraha region of the island. Residing in the region are 11 species of lemurs, five families of bats, 103 species of birds and 34 reptiles and amphibians that are endemic.
This area of Madagascar did not become a tourist trek until 1998, when it was declared a National Park. The Tsingy is fun to explore and a unique Malagasy experience only to be attempted by adventurous spirits who are not afraid of heights, the dark, or small confined spaces.
Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park is only open during the dry season from April to November, as it is inaccessible during the rainy season. The Grand Tsingy are only accessible between June and the beginning of November.
To enter the park you must hire a guide. I have an excellent guide to recommend:
Facebook: Naina Tsingy
You will need a driver and guide to reach the reserve. I recommend Nolavy to get you to the reserve and also he can hire you a guide into the park.
Phone: 00 261 33 01 970 93 / 00 261 34 03 186 29
To see more photos of Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park CLICK HERE