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The tsingy: where one cannot walk barefoot

Madagascar day nine

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Sunrise from our deck

I slept surprisingly well in what proved to be a comfortable bed. There was a cooling breeze blowing through the hut and I slept solidly until an especially loud bird woke us just before 5.00. The sun was just rising so we popped out of bed and onto our decking to take a few photos before retreating to doze a bit more. But we were up properly by six to get ready for a morning visit to the Ankarana Special Reserve.

Breakfast was good, and I was pleased to find myself feeling well enough to eat it! We had a view of the lake as we ate and I enjoyed photographing an egret fishing for some sort of large bug, and a black and white bird Laurent later identified as a hook-billed vanga.

Breakfast view

Hook-billed vanga

Ankarana walk

We left soon after 7.30 for the roughly one hour drive to the Tsingy Est area of the reserve, where there are some relatively easy walks – easy definitely being a relative word, as I was to discover.

Chris and Laurent at the start of the walk

It was already hot when we set out on our walk and the first part was very exposed. Then a few trees started to appear, and some clumps of bamboo. We descended a series of steps to a dry river bed, where we had to negotiate some thankfully mostly flat boulders.

Crossing the dry river bed

On the far side we were properly into the forest and out of the hot sun. The path was now mostly flat and sandy, much easier going.

Among the trees, including an impressive baobab

We made various stops at points where Laurent would detour off the main path (but never far), seemingly always knowing where some creature would be tucked away. We saw a crested drongo, two scops owls and several Ankarana sportive lemurs, one with a baby. This is a nocturnal species so they were all tucked away in holes or in the fork of a tree trunk, but most were awake, their big eyes peering down at us.

Crested drongo, and scops owl

Ankarana sportive lemur and green day gecko

Ankarana sportive lemur with baby

Further along the path we saw a magpie-robin (identifying for me one of the birds I photographed yesterday) and the hook-billed vanga.

Tsingy Rary

After about two kilometre we reached the fork to visit the viewing platform for the tsingy. The path descended some steps and then to reach the platform was had to climb up some more boulders I found it tough in the heat but worth it for the views.

Panorama from the Tsingy Rary lookout

The tsingy is a unique landscape in parts of Madagascar, alternating sharp shards of rock and deep canyons. The name comes from a Malagasy word meaning ‘where one cannot walk barefoot’. It is formed from limestone plateaus, the remains of ancient coral reefs when this area lay under the sea. The plateaus have been weathered by acidic water, which seeps into cracks and widens them. As time goes by, the surface cracks can widen so much that the surface appears like a forest of knives. And below, caves and canyons form.

It looked at first glance to be a solid mass of rock, like a cliff face, but no. We were looking at around two kilometres of row after row of these dramatic rocky outcrops, separated by canyons. In better light (less flat) it would have been more obvious. However the trees that grow between the rows really help the eye to separate them out.




Tsingy views and trees

In the dry season, Laurent told us, these trees would be bare and grey, hard to distinguish against the rocks, but visiting just as the rainy season was starting (though we had no rain) meant that these bright green leaves had begun to appear.

We stayed for quite some time enjoying the views and the slightly cooler air up here. Laurent showed us some seeds that fall like little helicopters and also demonstrated his balancing skills with a water bottle!

Chris and Laurent at the lookout

But eventually we had to leave and to tackle those boulders and steps in what was by now even hotter weather (Laurent checked when we got back to the car; it was by then 37 degrees).

I found the first climb up from the platform very tough in that heat and had to rest for a while before starting the walk back. I was glad it was mainly flat as the heat was really taking its toll on me. But there was still the challenge of the dry river crossing in full sun and the long run of steps up from there. As I said at the start, easy is a relative term and I found this anything but!

The path through the trees, and Laurent waiting patiently while I tackled the climb!

Back to the bush camp

We reached the car eventually and Said turned up the a/c for the drive back. At Laurent’s suggestion we stopped at a little local shop near the park entrance to buy cold drinks. Chris got the round of four soft drinks for us all at the sum of about £2.30! My pomegranate drink was just what I needed to restore my energy levels, being nicely chilled and probably full of sugar.

On the way back we stopped a couple of times, to photograph an unusual tsingy formation and later an Oustalet's chameleon spotted by the ever-vigilant Laurent.

Tsingy formation

Oustalet's chameleon

By the time we got back to the bush camp it was around 2.00 and too late for lunch, especially as we felt we needed cold showers first. But we were happy with a refreshing juice (a local fruit we didn’t recognise but which tasted a bit like lychee and which we later learned was soursop). After our drinks we had a look in the hotel shop but didn’t find anything we wanted to buy.

We went back to our hut where I washed my hair, and we then spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing on our deck and enjoying the view.

Tsingy view from our deck

Our deck

Green day gecko on our deck

Madagascar Pond Heron in the lake

When wifi became available at 5.30 we went to the office to take advantage of it. I found it working so well I was even able to post a blog entry.

Madagascar magpie-robin drinking from the pool

We had a good dinner, with me celebrating the fact I was able to eat normally again – vegetable soup, chicken cooked in coconut sauce, excellent chocolate mousse. We then returned to the office for a bit more online time, but it was still rather hot in the office, so we retired to our bungalow to sit outside for a while to cool off before bed.

Posted by ToonSarah 11:38 Archived in Madagascar Tagged landscapes birds lizards views africa forest geology lemurs

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hooray for feeling well!

by Ils1976

Yes I agree it is really tough to try and walk in the heat even a short walk becomes an epic task.

by irenevt

What a day!!! Sounds exhausting but, I am sure, looking back on it, you must have been so rewarded with what you experienced and what you saw. Everything you shared with us was so other-worldly but I just loved the way those trees could survive in those extreme environments. Nature is amazing. Thankyou for sharing with us.

by Yvonne Dumsday

Yes, that's true Yvonne - it was very tiring but I was glad I'd done it and seen those views! Thank you all for your comments :)

by ToonSarah

I love your deck! Such a tranquil spot :)

by hennaonthetrek

It was a lovely spot. The accommodation was a bit basic but worth it on balance for this deck and view

by ToonSarah

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