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Madagascar

Main attractions

Baobabs in Madagascar
Baobabs in Madagascar / , / CC BY-SA 2.0

Madagascar is very rich with surprising natural landmarks - created both by geological processes and living nature.

Wondermondo does not list large natural complexes - such as Amazon Rainforest or Great Barrier Reef. Thus here are not described such wonders of Madagascar as the unique rainforests or the otherwordly dry forests of Andrefana. Nevertheless Madagascar is very rich with landmarks with smaller area. Highlights of Madagascar are:

  • Karst features. Unique are tsingy - "forests" of giant limestone blades. Most impressive are Great Tsingy of Bemaraha. Very interesting are also enormous sinkholes and diverse caves - f.e. some isolated patches of primeval forest on the bottoms of giant sinkholes in Ankarana are available only through crocodile infested cave rivers.
  • Unusual ecosystems teeming with endemic animals and plants. Some 75% of Madagascar's animals and plants are found only here and numerous species are found only in certain small patches of forests or mountains. The dry forests of southern Madagascar represent a very unusual ecosystem, visually very different from other ecosystems of the world.
  • Gorgeous and rare gemstones. Almost anywhere in Madagascar can be found gemstones. Here are found some of most beautiful sapphires, beryls and tourmalines in the world. In Madagascar have been found the largest crystals in the world - up to 18 m long beryls. Unsurpassed is the beautiful labradorite from southern Madagascar and nowhere else in the world can be found that large crystals of rhodizite - londonite.

Natural landmarks

Tsingy

Tsingy de Ankarana
Tsingy de Ankarana / , Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Great Tsingy de Bemaraha - Menabe. Unique karst landscape, consisting of thousands of rock blocks dissected by 80 - 120 m deep grikes with vertical walls. Mostly formed by collapse of caves and caverns. Sometimes these grikes are very narrow, less than 1 m and create immense impression to the one walking through them. Countless interesting karst formations, including caves, natural bridges, tufa pseudoroofs. Numerous endemic species of plants and animals - 47% of locally met species of plants and animals are found only in Tsingy de Bemaraha - for example here are 34 endemic species of reptiles.
  • Manambolo River Gorge - Menabe. Spectacular gorge - both banks of the river are formed by giant, steep and often overhanging clifs of Bemaraha Tsingy. Numerous caves, natural bridges and other interesting karst formations.
  • Tsingy de Ankarana - Diana. Spectacular tsingy - a karst formation, where a layer of middle Jurassic limestone is dissolved by water, leaving a "forest" of limestone blades. Separate blades might be up to 20 m high. The gorges and canyons dissecting the Ankarana are up to 140 m deep. In many larger gorges and canyons exist patches of primeval tropical forest with numerous endemic species of plants and animals. Some of these forests are available only through caves - total length of explored caves in the region exceeds 100 km. Up to 6 m long Nile crocodiles live in the caves of Ankarana (mostly in River Styx - 4 km long subterranean passage passable only by a boat). This is one of the few places where crocodiles live in Madagascar (it is seen also in Belomotse Forest and some other places) and a unique case where crocodiles live in caves. Numerous fossils of the extinct Madagascaran fauna are found here.

Caves and sinkholes

A view through the cave to isolated patch of Madagasacaran jungle, Canyon Forestiere in Tsingy de Ankarana
A view through the cave to an isolated patch of Madagasacaran jungle, Canyon Forestiere in Tsingy de Ankarana / , Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Ambatoharanana Cave (Grotte des Crocodiles) - Diana. The longest known cave in Madagascar, 18.1 km long.
  • Andrahomana Cave - Anosy. Scientifically important and visually impressive cave. Starts with two enormous sinkholes with a natural bridge between them and rainforest on the base of sinkholes. In this cave have been found remnants of 27 species of birds, 42 species of mammals, 10 reptiles and 3 amphibians, providing rich knowledge about the fossil fauna of Madagascar.
  • Anjohy Tsilika Cave - Menabe. Complex cave system, formed in Tsingy de Bemaraha.
  • Ankilitelo Cave (Aven des Perroquets, Kintsia'ny Sihothy) - Atsimo-Andrefana. The deepest known cave in Madagascar. This cave starts with more than 145 m deep, narrow pit and the total depth is 230 m. Cave is very rich with fossils of extinct Madagascaran animals.
  • Grotte de Milaintety - Diana. Beautiful cave in Tsingy de Ankarana, adorned with numerous speleothems.
  • Grottes d'Anjohibe (earlier - Grotte de Andranoboka) - Boeny. 5,330 m long cave system with gorgeous speleothems, part of the extensive Andranoboka cave system. Cave has a river and is rich with fauna. Stories about haunting of Vazimbe. Here have been found fossil remnants of extinct fauna of Madagascar including a well preserved skull of Archaeolemur sp. cfa. edwardsi. Found also remnants of the extinct Hippopotamus lemerlei.
  • Mangily sinkhole (Mangihy doline) - Diana. The largest sinkhole in Ankarana karst region, up to 860 m across and up to 140 m deep, with vertical walls around. Volume - 25 million m³. In the centre is located a large heap which may mean that this is collapsed cave chamber.
  • Raulin Zohy - Sofia. A cave near the sea in Anjajavy Forest. This cave has yielded numerous valuable fossils of extinct animals of Madagascar. Here have been found remnants of some 50 kg heavy lemur Palaeopropithecus.
  • Styx 2 sinkhole - Diana. Large and impressive sinkhole in Ankarana karst region, 500 by 400 m wide and 140 m deep.
Liddicoatite - a variety of tourmaline from Anjanabonoina pegmatites
Liddicoatite - a variety of tourmaline from Anjanabonoina pegmatites / , / CC BY-SA 3.0

Waterfalls

  • Cascade d'Antomboka - Diana. 82 m tall waterfall with a single plunge.
  • Cascade de Rianbavy - Ihorombe. Waterfall falling some 250 m high along the nearly vertical granite cliff face in Andringitra Massif.
  • Cascade de Riandahy - Ihorombe. Approximately 300 m tall waterfall in Andringitra Massif, falling along the granite cliff.

Gemstone finds

  • Antsongombato gem mine - Vakinankaratra. Here are found by far the largest and best crystals of extremely rare mineral and gemstone - rhodizite - londonite. This mineral is very hard, transparent, in pale green - yellow color. Here is found also good quality red tourmaline.
  • Ilakaka Sapphire mines - The largest find of sapphire in the world, discovered in 1998. Sapphire is found in diverse colors - blue, violet, green, pink, yellow, orange.
  • Kianjavato Emeralds - Vatovavy-Fitovinany. Here, in tropical forests are found some of the finest emeralds in the world.
  • Mainry Labradorite Mine (Norcross Labradorite Mine) - Atsimo-Andrefana. Here is mined one of the finest labradorite varieties in the world. Labradorite here is found in large blocks and has especially bright labradorescence.
  • Malakialina pegmatites - Amoron'i Mania. Here is (or was?) located the largest crystal in the world. This beryl crystal is 18 m long, with 3.5 m diameter, weighs 380 tons. Here has been mined beryl, columbite-tantalite.
  • Tiramene sapphires - Anosy, near Andranondambo. Find of deep blue sapphires of exceptional quality.
  • Vatomandry Ruby Star mines - Atsinanana. This mine provides the highest quality rubies in Madagascar.

Ecosystems

Avenue of the Baobabs near Morondava
Avenue of the Baobabs near Morondava / Olivier Lejade, / CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Adansonia perrieri stand near Cascade d'Antomboka - Diana. The only sizeable stand of the rarest baobab in the world. Here the trees are up to 25 m tall, with large girth.
  • Avenue of the Baobabs - Menabe, some 15 km north from Morondava. Beautiful alignment of some 100 Madagascaran baobabs Adansonia grandidieri. Stout, majestic, up to 30 metres high baobabs are located around a dirt road, creating a unique landscape. Landscape is not natural - initially the roughly 800 years old trees were growing in a dense forest which has been cleared away.
  • Baobab stands in Mangoki Valley (Mangoky Valley) - Haute Matsiatra, near Morombe, between Mangoky River and Lac Ihotry. Possibly the largest concentration of baobabs in the world, beautiful stands of Grandidier's baobabs (Adansonia grandidieri). Trunks of the largest trees reach 7 metres in diameter.

Giant trees

  • La Grand-Mère Baobab of Tsimanampesotse - Atsimo-Andrefana. Imposing baobab in the dry forests near Tsimanampesotse Lake. This tree has a circumference over 20 metres, it is considered to be 3000 - 4000 years old. The trunk is covered with countless bulges.
  • Mahajanga Baobab - Boeny. Enormous baobab, with circumference 22.5 m. This African baobab (Adansonia digitata) here is brought by Arab traders.
  • Reakaly baobab (Ampanihy baobab) - Atsimo-Andrefana. Stoutest baobab Adansonia za (Baill.), girth 23 m (plaque at the tree says that 27 m). One of the largest trees in Madagascar.
  • Tsitakakoike - Atsimo-Andrefana. Giant baobab with 30 m circumference, located between Mormobe - Andavadoaka.
In the Canyon des Singes
In the Canyon des Singes, Isalo Massif / , Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Other natural landmarks

  • Analavory Geysers - Itasy. Four warm gaseous water "geysers" with colourful cones. The water for these spouting springs reportedly is coming from the pipelines of the nearby mine - on the way the hot water is dissolving the lime and depositing it at the outflow. When the vents of outflow are blocked, the water may rise up to several metres high, but otherwise the water spouts 20 - 30 cm high.
  • Canyon des Makis, Canyon des Singes, Namazaha Canyon and others - Ihorombe. Beautiful, up to 200 m deep canyons through Isalo Massif. One the bottom of canyons grow forests where up to seven species of lemurs can be met. Canyons of Isalo serve as refuges of earlier, more wet climates and here live numerous endemic species of plants and animals.
  • La Fenetre - Ihorombe. Impressive natural bridge in Isalo Massif.
  • Tsaranoro Be monolith - Ihorombe or Haute Matsiatra. One of the largest granite monoliths in the world, with 800 m high, nearly vertical cliff face.

Man made landmarks

Madagascar can be proud of its living traditions. For example, while the true sense of megaliths is forgotten in many places of the world, here megaliths still are a part of living culture.

Royal residences and settlements

Gate of Ambohimanga, Madagascar. The megalithic stone disc - door is visible.
Gate of Ambohimanga. The megalithic stone disc - door is visible / Mauro Didier, / CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Alasora - Anamalanga. Old, fortified village, site of the former capital and royal tomb. Contains vavahady - a fortified gate with stone disc.
  • Ambohimanga - Analamanga. Fortified royal settlement and royal burials on a hilltop. Developed since the early 18th century. Fortifications have seven gates. The largest gate was protected with enormous stone disc, which every morning was pulled aside and in the evening - rolled back. Contains Mahandrihono palace made of rosewood - most valuable example of royal wooden architecture in Madagascar.
  • Antsahadinta - Anamalanga. Very well preserved hilltop village - royal town. Contains numerous wooden aristocratic houses and royal tombs.
  • Rova of Antananarivo - Analamanga. Historical royal quartal of Madagascar rulers. Located on a high hill, towering above the Antantanarivo. Site contains a set of 20 stone and wooden palaces and shrines with intricate, original architecture. Most impressive is Queen's Palace - Manjakamiadana, interesting building is also the wooden palace Tranovola.

Burials

  • Ambohiniazy - Itasy. Island in Lake Itasy with monolithic cliff and a shrine on the top of this cliff - the tomb of Andriambazo, a king.
  • Sakalava tombs in Isalo - Ihorombe. Rock cut tombs in the cliffs of Isalo Massif. Tombs are blocked by large rocks and often are very hard to find. These tombs represent a living burial tradition of local people.
  • Tomb of King Tsiampody - Anosy. One of the most impressive Mahafaly tombs, adorned with horns of more than 700 zebus. Mahafaly people have highly original and interesting architecture of tombs.

Other man made landmarks

  • Antongona - ruins of two fortified settlements on the tops of high granite cliffs. Built in the 16th - 18th century.
  • Ifasina - Atsinanana. Rural village, an example of woodcarving skills of Zafimaniry people. Earlier this art of woodcarving was widespread in Madagascar. The wooden houses can be dismantled and moved elsewhere upon necessity.
  • Lakaton'i Anja - Diana. One of the oldest known human settlements in Madagascar, from the 4th - 8th century AD. Here have been found sherds of earthenware pottery, cooking ash, bones of fish and animals. It is not known with certainty where these people came from.
  • Mahilaka - Menabe. The most ancient urban centre in Madagascar. This abandoned city was inhabited in the 11th - 14th centuries, its area - approximately 60 ha. City most likely was established by Arab traders, it has stone buildings and was protected by a wall. One enormous structure had even an area of 3.8 ha.

List of described attractions by regions

Madagascar is divided into 22 regions.

Alaotra-Mangoro
Amoron'i Mania
Analamanga
Analanjirofo
Androy
Anosy
Atsimo-Andrefana
ArrowReakaly baobabTrees
Atsimo-Atsinanana
Atsinanana
Betsiboka
Boeny
Bongolava
Diana
Haute Matsiatra
Ihorombe
Itasy
ArrowAnalavory GeysersSprings, Cold water geysers
Melaky
Menabe
ArrowAvenue of the BaobabsEcosystems
ArrowBaobab AmoreuxTrees
Sava
Sofia
Vakinankaratra
Vatovavy-Fitovinany

Map of Madagascar

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