The Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park is located about 600 km from Antananarivo, in the west central part of the Big Island. It is home to one of the world’s most important and spectacular geological curiosities. This national park is one of Madagascar's largest protected areas, covering an area of 157,710 ha.
The park was created on August 1, 1997. The Tsingy de Behamara offers one of the most amazing geological curiosities on the planet, and was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1990.
The Tsingy are emblematic rock formations of Madagascar. There are several types of them, but they all consist of limestone deposits, shells and fossils. The Tsingy de Bemaraha are derived from karst limestone deposits that were formed more than 200 million years ago. The runoff from the water gave it that extraordinary look, composed of sharp ridges.
These rocky curiosities have witnessed the spectacular earth's crust transformation. Today, the Tsingy form stone jungles, some of which rise more than 100 metres, revealing spectacular lunar landscapes.
In Malagasy, "Tsingy" means "walking on tiptoe". It can also be interpreted as "going with fear", as required for the exploration of these phantasmagorically shaped rocky pinnacles. The massifs are not easily accessible.
Visiting the park
The Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park is located in the Melaky region. The site has inherited an incredible biodiversity that is found nowhere else. This dense network of faults, crevasses and limestone blocks sculpted into slides is one of Madagascar's most spectacular landscapes. Discover these large and unusual landscapes by canoe and/or on foot, through canyons and stone labyrinths.
Discovering the Tsingy
Classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1990, the Tsingy are divided into two distinct zones: the Small Tsingy and the Great Tsingy. These names have been given because of the tips heights which vary from 30 to 60 meters. Located in the village of Bekopaka, the small Tsingy are considered as the preambles of the Great Tsingy. Your excursion will take place at about 20 metres above ground level, in a narrow corridor that will take you through a humid forest before reaching the natural caves. They are true natural sanctuaries, serving as a refuge for nearly 53 bird species and six rare lemur species. Composed of rocky spurs and dizzying peaks, the Great Tsingy are formed by a gigantic underground cathedral of karst minerals. Enter an impressive network of diaclases to discover a breathtaking green landscape. The Great Tsingy extends over more than 72,000 ha. According to legends, these underground caves were used as shelters by the Vazimba, the Big Island’s first occupants, who sought shelter with their gods.
A beautiful trip on the Manambolo River
A beautiful canoe trip on the Manambolo River awaits you to immerse yourself in the depths of the Tsingy de Bemaraha landform. The landscape, mainly dominated by slopes and sandbanks, will take you through magnificent gorges. The Manambolo River originates in Tsiroanomandidy, and flows through the Bekopaka village and the Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park before flowing into the Mozambique Channel. This site’s countless caves have always served as a refuge for people living nearby. Some are still used as ceremonial and burial sites by the Sakalava.
An extraordinary fauna and flora
The Tsingy de Bemaraha shelter a remarkable and rich flora and fauna. There is a wide diversity of ecosystems, ranging from wet to very dry habitats.
This great biological diversity, resulting from this confinement, makes this biotope a unique place for the conservation of specific endemic species and biological diversity. The park is home to several lemur species such as sifaka, gidro and Aye-Aye. You will also see several varieties of waterbirds and landbirds. During your trek, you will surely meet the Madagascar fish-eagle, a species of raptor endemic to Madagascar. You can also admire the Sakalava rail’s beauty and the Madagascar's eagle’s majesty, as well as the Bernier teal, a rare wild duck species.
Reptiles are also present on the site. They have adapted to the living conditions offered by these rocky galleries and it is no surprise that crocodiles can be seen lounging on the Manambolo and Sahaony rivers’ banks.
The park is covered by a deciduous tropophyllous dry forest. It is home to nearly 650 plant species, most of which are endemic and typical of arid areas. You will see dwarf trees, but also tall trees that try to survive in this dry and arid climate, storing as much water as possible. The plants seem to be living in slow motion until the rain arrives. Life in this limestone maze fascinates botanists coming from all over the world.
The park enjoys a dry tropical climate, with two seasons: a warm and rainy season between November and April and a dry season between May and October. The best moment to visit the park is between June and November, as most of the trails are slippery and muddy during wet weather.