Exploring the Otherworldly Tsingy National Park of Madagascar

Nestled within the heart of Madagascar lies a geological masterpiece that defies imagination – the Tsingy de Bemaraha, otherwise known as the Tsingy National Park. Translating to “where one cannot walk barefoot” in the Malagasy language, this otherworldly landscape of limestone formations has been sculpted over millions of years by the forces of nature. Join us on a virtual journey as we uncover the allure and mystery of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

How to get to the Tsingy National Park

As the Tsingy national park is located on the western side of the island, the quickest way to get there is via Morondava airport, from where it is around a 7-hour drive to the Tsingy de Bemaraha. There are no international flights to Morondava, but there are regular flights from Ivato international airport in the capital.

Black and white ruffed lemur

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In Madagascar though, taking the quickest route often means you will miss out a lot of the interesting parts in between. Instead, we recommend travelling overland from Antananarivo, taking in the culture along the route, and a stunning river cruise along the Tsiribihina river. The journey from Antananarivo to the river cruise start is about 400km, so it is best enjoyed in two shorter days of driving, with an overnight stop in the city of Antsirabe. This will also give you plenty of time to enjoy the beautiful highland landscape.

The Tsiribihina river in western Madagascar

Starting from the village of Masiakampy, the river cruise takes around three days, with overnight camping on the riverside under a billion stars (for those new to Madagascar, you will see far more stars at night than at home in densely populated cities!). The Tsiribihina river winds through the breathtaking gorge of Beramaha, and along the route there is a lot of wildlife to be seen. Keep your eyes peeled for bird species like heron, couas and ducks during the day, and at the campsites there are usually brown lemurs and Verreaux’s sifaka to be seen as well. Bathe in natural pools and waterfalls, visit remote villages, and discover the culture of the Sakalava people.

After the adventure of the Tsiribihina riverboat cruise there is more to come with a 4-hour 4WD journey through baobab forests, rugged terrain and memorable river crossing on a local ferry, before you reach Bekopaka, the starting point for excursions in the Tsingy National Park.

Exploring the Tsingy of Madagascar

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. The site also has an incredible biodiversity that is found nowhere else.

Visit the Tsingy with a Dadamanga group tour in 2024…

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 Tsingy de Bemaraha were classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1990.

Most visitors to the Tsingy national park will need just one full day to explore the national park, but you do need to start early for the best experience. We recommend the Andamozavaky trail (4 – 6 hours): This provides a spectacular view of the Tsingy’s stony pinnacles. The trail winds through the woods, a suspension bridge, and emerges in the heart of the numerous pinnacles.

A tourist crosses the suspension bridge in the Tsingy national park

The flora has a high local endemism rate. The western part is mainly covered by deciduous dry forests, which are particularly well adapted to the extreme changing climate conditions of the area. The eastern section is marked by grassy savannahs and lowland bushes. Inside the canyons we find small areas of dense tropical forests and lianas, since it is very humid among the tall tsingy formations.

Visitors can spot 11 lemur species, including Von der Decken’s sifaka, red-fronted brown lemurs, fat-tailed dwarf lemurs, grey mouse lemurs, as well as Cleese’s woolly lemur, and the Sambirano lesser bamboo lemur, both of which only occur here. Other resident mammals are the small carnivorous falanouc and ring-tailed mongoose, and several bats.

More than 100 bird species have been catalogued at present inside the tsingy national Park, including the critically endangered Madagascar fish eagle and crested ibis, Madagascar wood-rail, giant coua or Coquerel´s coua.

Other places to visit nearby

Near the Tsingy de Bemaraha, there are several other captivating destinations worth exploring, each offering its own unique blend of natural wonders and cultural experiences. Here are some notable places to visit:

  1. Avenue of the Baobabs: Located approximately 150 kilometers south of the Tsingy de Bemaraha, the Avenue of the Baobabs is one of Madagascar’s most iconic sites. Here, a stretch of dirt road is flanked by towering baobab trees, creating a surreal and enchanting landscape, especially during sunrise or sunset.
  2. Kirindy Forest: Situated southeast of the Tsingy de Bemaraha, Kirindy Forest is a biodiversity hotspot renowned for its population of lemurs, including the elusive fossa, Madagascar’s largest carnivore. Visitors can embark on guided night walks to spot nocturnal creatures or explore the forest’s trails during the day.
  3. Morondava: The largest city in the region, Morondava serves as a hub for travelers visiting the Tsingy de Bemaraha and the Avenue of the Baobabs. With its lively markets, colonial architecture, and proximity to stunning natural attractions, Morondava offers a perfect blend of culture and adventure.

Exploring these nearby destinations will enrich your experience of Madagascar’s diverse landscapes and cultural heritage, offering a deeper understanding of this enchanting island nation.

The Tsingy national park is more than just a destination – it is a testament to the power and beauty of geological processes that have shaped our planet over millennia. For those willing to venture off the beaten path, this UNESCO World Heritage Site offers an unforgettable adventure into the heart of Madagascar’s wild landscapes. So, lace up your boots, pack your sense of wonder, and prepare to be captivated by the enigmatic allure of the Tsingy de Bemaraha.

Picture of Brett Massoud

Brett Massoud

Our founder, Brett Massoud, first set foot on this magical island in 1987 and has spent countless months exploring its diverse landscapes, rich wildlife, and fascinating culture. Based in Fort Dauphin, he has easy access to national parks, beautiful beaches, and a wealth of other attractions.

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Tsingy de Bemaraha national park in Madagascar

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