Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Morondava

alley baobab panorama sunset morondava
Alley of Baobabs sunset 

Morondava is one of the most visited towns in Madagascar due to its proximity to two of Madagascar’s most iconic locations, the Alley of Baobabs and the Tsingy of Bemaraha.  It’s a medium sized beach town nestled on the west coast of Madagascar that is well worth the visit.  Though there isn’t much to do in the town itself, this laid back Malagasy town offers a glimpse into Malagasy life, great white sandy beaches, and access to some of Madagascar’s greatest attractions.




alley baobab sunset morondava
Alley of Baobabs sunset

Morondava is easily accessible by both car and plane, but one of the more popular volunteer trips is by canoe.  This trip takes you down river by canoe for 2.5 days, then a few hours by ox cart where you meet up with your 4x4 car that takes you to the tsingy and then through the baobabs ending in Morondava. 


dugout canoe trip morondava
Dugout canoe ride to Morondava
ox cart morondava
Ox cart ride to Morondava

Tsingy of Bemaraha 


tsingy bemaraha grande morondava
View atop the Grande Tsingy at Bemaraha

The Tsingy of Bemaraha (a word given, by westerners, to the sharp rock formations which is derived from the Malagasy word mitsingy, meaning to tiptoe) lies in the small village of Betopaka, about a days travel through the baobabs from Morondava.  Erosion due to acid rain on the limestone is what originally created the sharp rock formations that make up the National Park.  The park itself is made up of two parts, the Grande Tsingy and the Petite Tsingy.


tsingy bemaraha grande Morondava

The Grande Tsingy, the larger of the two, is a limestone forest with pinnacles reaching hundreds of meters into the sky.  The hike through the tsingy is not all that difficult as you would expect but it is still adventurous, requiring a harness to be worn in a few spots while you climb up and through the rock formations.  A few of the climbs end at the top of an observation point where you can look out over the vast limestone forest.  The hike through the Grande Tsingy takes you through forest and caves, across long suspension bridges hanging over deep gorges, and through and atop the tsingy itself, giving you an experience well worth the time.


tsingy bemaraha grande rock climb
Rock climb in the Grande Tsingy at Bemaraha
tsingy bemaraha grande suspension bridge
Suspension bridge in the Grande Tsingy at Bemaraha
tsingy bemaraha grande sky view
View from below at the Grande Tsingy at Bemaraha

            The Petite Tsingy, the smaller of the two, is a much quicker and easier trek but is well worth the hike (it was my favorite of the two).  The rock formations are not as high here as the other tsingy, nor is the area as big, but the erosion that created it has also created a maze work of paths leading throughout this tsingy forming what I can only equate to a hedge garden maze of tall sharp rock.  The hike in the Petite Tsingy takes you through this maze, up rock and medal stairways, and across the top of the rock formations allowing you to get a view of the tsingy and the landscape around it. 


tsingy bemaraha petite
Pathway in the Petite Tsingy at Bemaraha
tsingy bemaraha petite
Pathway in the Petite Tsingy at Bemaraha

Alley of Baobabs

alley baobab morondava
Alley of Baobabs

            The Alley of Baobabs is a small batch of baobab trees, amongst hundreds of others, on a small stretch of road not far from the city of Morondava.  One of the most photographed places in Madagascar; it is truly a place worth seeing.  Along this short stretch of road stand giant baobabs that look otherworldly against the back drop of the red dirt road and rice fields.  The trees themselves can be hundreds of years old and look as if giants have plucked a normal tree from the ground and stuck it back in upside down.


alley baobab ox cart morondava
Alley of Baobabs

            Further down the road past the Alley you can find two other special baobabs.  The first is the Lover’s Baobab; two baobab trees twisted together to spend eternity together.  The second is the Sacred Baobab.  This baobab is the largest of the baobabs in the area and is said to be the oldest as well.  It is protected as the ‘mother of the forest’, which is the translation of the Malagasy word for baobab: renala.


lovers baobab morondava
Lover's Baobab
sacred baobab morondava
Sacred Baobab