Friday, April 7, 2017

Ankarana National Park

trail in ankarana national park
             Ankarana is a national park in northern Madagascar near the small village of Mahamasina.  It is known mainly for its tsingy, bat caves, and for being the home of the only known cave dwelling crocodiles, but the park is also steeped in the history of the Antankarana people that live in this area and has many taboos for those that should want to visit.  

Tsingy in Ankarana National Park
Top of the tsingy
sharp rocks in tsingy in Ankarana National Park
            The main attraction to the park is of course the tisngy (a word given to the sharp rock formations by westerners that is derived from the Malagasy word mitsingy, meaning to tiptoe). 
suspension bridge over a canyon in the tsingy in ankarana national park
Suspension bridge across one of the canyons
suspension bridge in the tsingy in Ankarana National Park
Erosion due to acid rain on the limestone is what originally created the sharp rock formations that make up the majority of the park area.  This erosion has also created deep caves, canyons, and underground river passages that come together to create the largest underground network in Africa.  The canyons and surrounding areas also have lush forests containing many different species of birds, reptiles, and lemurs (boasting one of the highest density populations of primates in the world). 
lizard in ankarana national park
leaf-tailed gecko in ankarana national park
Leaf-tailed gecko
snake in ankarana national park
centipede in ankarana national park

  Lemurs

lemur ankarana national park
lemur in ankarana national park
lemurs cleaning each other in ankarana national park

nocternal lemur in ankarana national park

            Although the area has played a role throughout the history of the Antankarana people it is most well known for what happened during the mid-nineteenth century.  During this time the Imerina Kingdom (what would become the ruling tribe in Antananarivo) invade the area and the Antankarana people took refuge in the cave system under the tsingy.  While taking shelter in the caves many of the people died establishing the caves as a sacred place for the people.  Due to this there are many taboos pertaining to the caves.  The most prominent of these is that you can not enter the caves if you are Merina (the invading tribe responsible for the large loss of lives, have eaten pork that day, or are a women that is menstruating (these last two are due to the fact that they are seen as dirty).   
Caves 
entrance to underground river in ankarana national park
One of the entrances to the underground river.

entrance underground river in ankarana national park
ankarana cave
outside of ankarana bat cave
ankarana national park bat cave
Entrance to the bat caves
spider in ankarana caves
Spider in the bat caves
tarantula in ankarana caves
Tarantula in Ankarana bat caves
bat cave in ankarana national park
bat cave in ankarana national park
treding through water in ankarana bat cave
We had to wade through waist deep water at times when walking through the bat cave.