Most interesting landmarks of Madagascar

Below are listed the most amazing natural and man made landmarks of Madagascar.

Natural landmarks of Madagascar

Tsingy de Ankarana, Madagascar
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 the collapse of caves and caverns. Sometimes these grikes are very narrow, less than 1 m and create an 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 cliffs 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 primaeval 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 an 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 which is located 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.
  • 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
Liddicoatite - a variety of tourmaline from Anjanabonoina pegmatites, Madagascar
Liddicoatite – a variety of tourmaline from Anjanabonoina pegmatites, Madagascar / , / CC BY-SA 3.0
  • 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 forest 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.
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 meters 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 meters in diameter.
Giant trees
  • La Grand-Mère Baobab of Tsimanampesotse – Atsimo-Andrefana. Imposing baobab in the dry forest near Tsimanampesotse Lake. This tree has a circumference over 20 meters, it is considered to be 3000 – 4000 years old. The trunk is covered with countless bulges.
  • Mahajanga Baobab – Boeny. Enormous baobab with a circumference of 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.
Other natural landmarks
  • Analavory Geysers – Itasy. Four warm gaseous water "geysers" with colorful 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 meters 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 forest 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 of Madagascar

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 in 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 quarter 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.
  • 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 of Madagascar
  • 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 shards 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 center in Madagascar. This abandoned city was inhabited in the 11th – 14th centuries, its area – approximately 60 ha. The 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.

Described landmarks of Madagascar

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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 rainforest or the otherworldly dry forest of Andrefana. Nevertheless, Madagascar is very rich with landmarks with a 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 forest or mountains. The dry forest 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 the 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.

Featured: Analavory Geysers

One of Analavory geysers, Madagascar
One of Analavory geysers / Rakotozafy Harison Sangitiana, / CC BY-SA 2.0

It is weird to see how many tourist Websites and guides are wrong about Analavory Geysers, describing them as boiling, steaming creations of volcanic activity.

In fact Analavory Geysers are man-made and are not true geysers.

Recommended books

The Eighth Continent:: Life, Death, and Discovery in the Lost World of Madagascar

Madagascar, the world’s fourth-largest island, is a land where lizards scream and monkey-like lemurs sing songs of inexpressible beauty. Where animals and plants that went extinct elsewhere millions of years ago — tenrecs, fossa, upside-down trees — thrive in a true Lost World. Where the ancestors of the Malagasy, as the island’s eighteen tribes are collectively known, come alive in rollicking ceremonies known as “turning the bones.”

For the Love of Lemurs: My Life in the Wilds of Madagascar

In 1986, primatologist Patricia Chapple Wright was given a seemingly impossible task: to travel to the rainforest of Madagascar and find the greater bamboo lemur, a species that hadn’t been seen in the wild for thirty years. Not only did Wright discover that the primate still existed but that it lived alongside a completely new species. What followed was a love affair with an animal and a country that continues to this day.

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